by Beth Hutchinson
for the Pathfinder
January 7, 1999
Attention centered on "Goal A", the segment of the school board plan geared to upgrading community and school interaction, during the last Seeley Lake Elementary board meeing on December 8th.
Superintendent John Hebnes, reporting on four current projects, reviewed recent efforts to assess and refine the use of space, equipment, volunteers and school personnel for the mutual benefit of the school and townspeople.
Seeing an opportunity to support the newly organized food bank, Hebnes advocated offering it a recently walled-off 9'x20' storage space adjacent to the locker rooms for a three-year period. Indicating that the area has a separate outside door, he emphasized that the arrangement minimized stress on educational functions while maximizing accessibility for food bank services.
He said that the food bank operators did not wish to increase any overhead costs for the school and that they were willing to obtain appropriate insurance and to pick up any additional electrical costs associated with maintaining a temperature of 50 degrees in the storage area.
Such a cooperative venture was "right on target," according to board member Loren Rose. Other board members agreed.
A second project, one to determine why the Seeley Lake community has so much difficulty keeping volunteer programs going over the long run, is being spearheaded by retired college administrator Stan Nicholson.
He will be working with John Hebnes, Sally Johnson, Dennis Schneiter and Mark Williams to identify a volunteer structure that would keep programs functioning without lapses and spurts. The group also intends to determine the need for new services to be run by volunteers.
In addition to assessing this issue within the community, the group plans to consult with Volunteer Montana!, an arm of the AmeriCorps program and to explore grant possibilities.
The group is interested in enlarging its membership to include participants not specifically linked with the school system. Interested individuals can call the school (677-2265) for more information.
The third project, adult computer classes, has been in operation for a while. In the past, seed money from the Claiborne-Ortenberg grant helped to fund the program; now it is self-supporting based on student fees.
The program, instructed by Lisa Pena and Dave Spence, runs two eight-week sessions each with a full roster of twenty students. The last fall class for beginners is just finishing up, while an intermediate class is scheduled to start in February.
In addition to expanding the general instruction on Microsoft Word/Windows 95 introduced at the beginner's level, the instructors are willing to coach people through real life projects in the intermediate class.
The fourth project, school access for senior citizens, was kicked off with an invitation to lunch in November. At that time Hebnes and principal Shirley Johnson chatted with visitors and encouraged them to make use of the school's computer labs mid-day and after school. If any seniors need help with using the computers, students from study halls are willing to provide guidance.
Board member Jim Kyle raised a possible new project... having the school host the state convention for snowmobilers in 2000 or 2001.
He said that the school in Lincoln was used last year. He felt 200 to 250 people could be handled at SLES and that it would be a good opportunity for the town to make some extra money. Hebnes agreed, saying that such an event would work best over the president's holiday period. Kyle will continue to investigate the matter.
Hebnes indicated that he had also begun talking to people at the sheriff's office about having the deputies use the remainder of the available storage space for their local office.
He knows that they are looking for a new local headquarters and feels that the persistent presence of law enforcement during non-school hours would reduce vandalism to SLES.
In other matters, the board met with a parent and child over excessive tardiness. The parent indicated a long-term concern and appreciated the board's support. The child promised to get to school early every day.
Tardiness continued to decline as a disciplinary issue in general. According to the November discipline report, eight new pink slips were issued with most being given out for playground and bus issues. The pattern of K-3 getting the larger number (4) and 4-6 (2) and 7-8 (2) holding the line with just a few continued.
Responding to parental concern about a recent appearance of head lice, Superintendent Hebnes said, "Head lice is something that happens in schools. We have learned to just expect it." Saying that he didn't believe that the number of cases were unusually large this year, Hebnes went on to review the school's policy and procedures which he believed were appropriate and adequate.
Board members explored their perceptions regarding the issue.
Charlee Parker suggested that the rumors and panicky feelings that develop might indicate a need for more information to be made available.
Mark Williams felt that since the lice problem became so visible in the school setting, it needed to be dealt with quite openly before rumors started. He suggested sending a note home with all students.
Jim Kyle recommended using the newspaper to alert parents of the need to check their children's hair and having the board ask the county health office to evaluate the school's policy. Board members also suggested that Beth Hutchinson write an article on lice and related issues for the Pathfinder.
Superintendent Hebnes reported that he received a letter from the local teacher's union saying that the group wanted to open negotiations.
He announced the formation of the financial committee that would help develop the 1999-2000 budget request.
Community members Cheryl Evans, Ken Freseman, Gary Miller and Stan Nicholson will participate.
Hebnes also announced that the work on the $40,000 Claiborne-Ortenberg grant had been completed and that it was well received.
The school will probably receive the funds before the end of the year. He indicated that fund raisers' efforts would refocus on the work being done by George Humphries. While it was still unclear when the grantwriter would come to speak to the board, Hebnes expected that it would be soon.
Principal Johnson reported that she was completing the second round of evaluations for the non-tenured teachers and expected to begin evaluating the tenured teachers in March. Her evaluation format is a blend of components and includes a part new to the staff, self evaluation.
The next regular meeting of the school board is scheduled for 6:00 pm on January 12, 1999. Included on the agenda will be the superintendent's evaluation and the county health department's response to the lice policy.