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Parents ask school board
to refine emergency procedures


by Beth Hutchinson
For the Pathfinder
May 28, 1998


Discussions addressing emergency procedures and employment matters dominated the May 12th meeting of the Seeley Lake Elementary school board.

Parents Tim and Connie Clark requested a spot on the agenda so that they could address some concerns they had regarding the school's response to a head injury their daughter experienced in a gym class on April 4th.

While stressing that they were not interested in finger pointing or blaming, Tim Clark suggested that he and his wife felt there were some problems with the system's emergency procedures as a whole.

In particular, they were concerned with the potential for delays in treatment for head and other serious injuries. Clark said that he beleived it was important for the entire staff to get more training as well as for written emergency policies to be carried out promptly.

In the case of the Clark's daughter, her medical treatment was delayed for an extended period of time while she was being observed by school personnel and eventually examined by rescue squad personnel. "Kids' head injuries are sneaky," said Clark. He felt that the decision to have his daughter rest on a "plastic couch with an ice bag and no covering" probably contributed to her going into shock.

Neither Clark nor his wife were contacted as promptly as he believes the school's written policy requires. He suggested that when accidents involved head injuries that either 911 or the parents be called immediately. Had that occurred when his daughter was injured, Clark believes that she could have been transported to Missoula via ambulance or private vehicle rather than by air transport.

In addition to extending the threat to his daughter's physical welfare, Clark pointed out that the one and a half hour delay pushed the costs of dealing with the accident to an extraordinary level. Basic charges for the event ended up including $99.65 for the Seeley Swan Medical Center, $119.30 for the ambulance transport to the helicopter, $2,205 for the life flight, $104 for radiology and $506.20 for a cat scan.

Since the Clark's insurance pays only the first $1000, the uncovered charges for the life flight hit hard. Clark believes that "up grading the system on the side of caution" would bring rewards in terms of both child welfare and cost containment.

In response to one of Clark's suggestions, school superintendent John Hebnes said, "Our insurance says to call parents first rather than 911."

Board member Jim Kyle commented, "Insurance aside, we need to get proper attention for injured kids. We need to provide the kids with a safe place regardless of legal issues."

Becky Gerkhe, gym teacher, expressed concern about what the system wanted the teachers to do. She noted that since the Clark child's accident, five other children have been hit in the head. She said she felt uneasy because she wasn't sure anymore what teachers were expected to do.

Board Chair Bart Peterson agreed that the school needed "a real sound guideline," and thought that prompt QRU involvement might be valuable.

Hebnes concluded, "We need to get the SOS people over here and get some better information."

Saying that they were glad to be able to address the board, the Clarks reiterated that they were not here to place blame, but to ask for the system to be improved. The school insurance adjuster, the administration and the Clarks will be meeting in the near future to determine how the final costs of the accident will be covered.

Numerous employment related tasks face the administration and school board. Staff replacement needs range from principal to teacher to secretary to custodial positions. Some concerns were raised about an insufficient number of applicants for the principal and custodial positions as well as an appropriate pay schedule for the potential head of maintenance.

A timeline was roughed out for the secretarial opening, and several classified staff contracts were renewed.

The building project may be finished. Talcott Construction believes that it has completed its responsibilities and the architect was scheduled to do a final walk through on May 13th. Attention is being addressed to the playground. Board member Charlee Parker expressed hopes that at least a "nice, little portion" of the playground work would be completed by the opening of school in the fall.

Principal Dan White shared the newly completed social studies curriculum developed by the Missoula Curriculum Consortium. The document represents a basic scope and sequence for grades K - 12 along with program standards that would provide repeated themes each year. The six standards include:

1. Democratic Ideal- Students will understand the historical development and contemporary impact of the principles of democracy

2. Responsible Citizenship- Students will understand and practice citizenship rights and responsibilities across various communities

3. Cultural Diversity- Students will understand how culture influences and diversity contributes to human development, identity and behavior

4. Global Perspective- Sudents will gain an historical and contemporary perspective of world interconnectedness

5. Economic Connections- Sutdents will understand basic economic principles and the role economics plays in history and society

6. Course Content- Students will understand, apply, synthesize and evaluate courst content.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, teacher's association leader Kris Johnson said the teachers at large hoped that even though the principal's position was only half time and might be challenging to fill that the school board would hold out for more than a "warm body". She added that it is very important for the teachers to have someone they can work with and that in lieu of taking someone who might not have enough commitment, various teachers would be willing to pick up a share of the principal's tasks for some extra pay.

Becky Gehrke expressed the desire that both teachers and community members would be asked to develop questions and to participate in the interviewing process for the principal. Gehrke said, "I want an input to make a good decision."

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held on June 16th to avoid a conflict with activities at the end of the school year.

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