The Trenton R-9 Board of Education on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, heard a report on the mentoring program for new teachers in the district. District Instructional Coach Doctor Jill Watkins reported she developed the Trenton program based on what she has implemented in the past.
She said teachers have to complete first and second-year tutoring. She noted one challenge is a teacher shortage.
Watkins wants to grow strong teachers for Trenton. She said any teacher can ask for her support. She has been in at least 12 different Trenton R-9 teachers’ classrooms.
She commented that she tries to identify all the positives she can to go with what a teacher could improve.
Superintendent Mike Stegman reported a school district COVID-19 response team is working directly with the county. The response team includes four building administrators, two school nurses, two county health department representatives, two board of education members, and two central office staff.
He said the COVID-19 response team reviews the current numbers for quarantine and isolation and reviews procedures used when dealing with contact tracing and other COVID-19-related matters. The response team was scheduled to meet via Google Meet on September 15th.
Stegman reported there were two incidents at Rissler Elementary School last week regarding COVID-19. He said one involved a whole class being put on quarantine because of carpet activities. Another incident involved part of a class. It was noted there were about 30 Rissler students in quarantine.
Stegman gave a demonstration of the updated camera system for the district. Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels reported there were about 100 cameras across campus. The administration can see camera footage, and footage can be zoomed in.
Stegman reported the SafeDefend project has a projected completion date of November. It is anticipated chips will be in that month due to the chip shortage. The wiring portion of the project is complete.
Stegman also reported dyslexia training has to be done each year. He said dyslexia continues to be a struggle for many students.
The district is considering the Barton Reading program to help. Stegman noted Barton is not necessarily a dyslexia program, but it could help with reading and dyslexia. He said some students have reading issues from kindergarten through 12th grade. If one or two students are helped, he believes the program will have been successful.
Trenton R-9 would need to hire a paraprofessional to focus on the program district-wide to properly implement helpful strategies for students. Stegman said the district is talking about hiring a full-time paraprofessional through the school year.
The Trenton R-9 Board of Education on September 14th voted to continue the COVID leave policy like last school year. The leave involves 80 hours retroactive to the beginning of this school year and includes an employee caring for a family member in quarantine. This motion was made by Board Vice President Brandon Gibler and was passed six to zero after another vote regarding COVID leave failed.
The failed motion was to have 80 hours of COVID leave for employees with a stipulation that starting September 14th employees would have to be on the county quarantine list or provide a doctor’s note. That motion also included caring for a child in quarantine. The motion was made by Board Member Marcie Cutsinger and received a vote of two to four. Cutsinger and Board President Dorothy Taul were the two yes votes. The no votes were from Gibler and other board members Andy Burress, Bill Miller, and Jason Hostetler. Board Member Melissa King was absent.
Superintendent Mike Stegman began the discussion of COVID leave by saying one year ago in the fall, the government came out with COVID leave up to 80 hours, and that went through December 31st. The board decided to extend that in the spring, but the policy was no longer in place for this school year.
Stegman noted things that changed since a year ago included testing for COVID-19 can now be done at home. He suggested the board vote to require employees be on the county’s quarantine list or have a doctor’s note to qualify for the leave. He also suggested the policy be retroactive.
Stegman thought there might be problems with employees taking advantage of the leave if they just used a home test. He also noted just because someone takes a home test does not mean he or she will report it.
Gibler said he believed the majority of school employees wanted to be in school. He also thought the policy should include taking care of children put in quarantine.
Cutsinger said she would hate to put a stipulation on retroactive, but she suggested the board put a stipulation in place going forward.
Stegman reported there were opportunities to add COVID-19 testing at Trenton R-9. He noted the district had chosen not to get involved with that so far. He said the school nurses are busy already, and there is not a separate room for the testing.
Stegman commented not getting involved with COVID-19 testing would remain the district’s stance unless the board wanted him to look into it in more detail. Board members said they were not interested. An official vote was not taken.
The board approved bus routes. Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels reported there is one less route this year than last year. The rural and town routes went from 10 last year to nine this year. Overall, there are five rural routes, four town routes, three preschool routes, one special education route, and one vocational-technical route. He said one-half route was added to help with afternoon preschool. Trenton R-9 is paying $1,500 per month less overall.
Ockenfels noted that, because of driver shortages, changes are made daily on routes. Changes can include the combining of routes. He explained there is a national driver shortage. Hiring and firing of bus drivers is up to the Apple Bus Company.
Two parents shared concerns about bus routes: Andrew Paulus and Jeff Smith. They were concerned about the safety of their children walking along Highway 6 to bus stops at Lake Trenton and Lake Manor drives. They wanted a bus to stop at their driveways.
Bus Barn Manager Steve Liechti said he believes it is safer for children to walk to the stops than have a bus stop at the driveways. He commented it would be possible for stops to be put at the driveways, but stops would have to be put on the other side of the highway, too.
Taul reported Apple Bus makes decisions on concerns, and the company would look at the concerns.
The board approved a quarantine tutoring program. The program provides students with additional support and/or a place to get help when on COVID-19 quarantine. Trenton R-9 has teachers and paraprofessionals available Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 3:20 to 5 o’clock to provide additional help with school assignments.
Stegman reported tutors will be compensated $30 per hour for their service.
Quarantined students will fall under the district’s alternative methods of instruction teaching program. Attendance will be counted dependent on the amount of work turned in at the end of the quarantine.
Stegman thinks the program is helpful. He said students can contact tutors in multiple ways.
The board approved relinquishing a Jewett Norris Library account to the library. The account involved a certificate of deposit with a value of $15,000 from Citizens Bank and Trust at 3.35% and a maturity date of August 17th, 2023.
Early graduation requests were approved for students who requested to graduate after the fall semester. Those students are Braxton Borders, Owen Bland, Emma St. Clair-Farris, Randy Bowden, Riley Walker, Adria Willey, Maci Lynch, Sommer Batdorf, Riley Jones, Faith Baker, Wyatt Preston, and Ash Chappell.
Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey reported those students’ credits have been audited, and they are on target for graduation. The students have permission to participate in prom and the spring graduation ceremony.
The board approved GEC Grant application requests for Eighth Grade Social Studies Teacher Joel Hultman and Middle School Special Education Teacher Jessica Golden. Hultman’s request was for $650 to use “The Week” magazine to foster classroom conversations and build students’ capacities for critical thinking, emotional engagement, ethical reflection, and civic agency. Golden’s request was for $862 to purchase books to create a library for special education students at Trenton Middle School.
The board went into a closed session for personnel.