Written by Devon Boen
The Jan. 8 Wolf Point School board meeting was centered on several big decisions that will restructure the makeup of the district.
Each year, the school board evaluates the superintendents’ contracts and makes a decision to either renew or not renew the contracts for the next school year.
Currently, Wolf Point School District has two co-superintendents, high school principal Joe Paine and Southside Elementary School principal Eileen Karge, who have served as co-superintendents since the fall of 2011.
The board went into executive session to discuss the possible renewal of the contracts with both Paine and Karge. After a long deliberation, the board reconvened and voted unanimously to open the position to other applicants and not renew Karge or Paine’s superintendent contracts for the 2013-14 school year.
Board chairman Martin DeWitt expressed his gratitude for Karge and Paine’s service and acknowledged the difficulty of the tasks they took on during their time as co-superintendents and the financial issues they battled.
“Thank you, guys. As far as taking over a much worse situation, I don’t think there was one. I don’t want to imagine one that was worse, but I think the two of you, collectively, handled the situation at hand with a tremendous level of professionalism and I think you worked together very well in order to address what we needed as a district at that time,” DeWitt said, “It’s time for the next chapter. I’m excited to see where we’ll go.”
When asked why the position was opened, DeWitt told The Herald-News the board believed a full-time superintendent was necessary.
DeWitt stated the position would be posted publicly in the near future.
The focus on change did not stop with the superintendent decision. The board then went on to conduct public interviews of two candidates for its vacancy recently left open after Sonny Douglas’ resignation last fall.
The two candidates were Jaronn Boysun and Ron Jackson. Jackson had previously served on the Wolf Point School board and failed in his bid for reelection. The two candidates were asked the same eight questions and given a final minute to summarize their interest in the position.
Boysun was first asked to give three reasons why he wanted to be on the school board.
“I wanted to be involved in decisions that are going to affect the children in our community, including my own children and, second, I’d like to be a positive influence in our community and, thirdly, I’d like to bring fresh and new ideas to the school board,” Boysun said.
Jackson took a different approach to his answers, citing his past history as an indication of his ability to perform the job. He specifically cited his experience in regards to speaking up and voicing his opinion.
“In the past, I’ve never had any problems addressing any issues, addressing any person, no matter where at or when. It goes back to my law enforcement days, my school board days and to my days right now at the Fort Peck Community College,” Jackson said.
After all questions were answered, the board took a minute and then made a motion to appoint Boysun to the board.
The motion passed but was not unanimous. The final vote was 3-1, with board member Glenn Strader casting the dissenting vote.
DeWitt commented on the interview process and thanked the candidates.
“You guys both had very good answers. There were some that I felt were tied and then some went one way and some went the other. I definitely appreciate your guys’ interest,” DeWitt said.
Jackson thanked the board for its time and Boysun took his seat at the front with the rest of the members. Boysun’s run has the potential to be short-lived because his seat is up for election this year in May along with fellow board member Scott Nefzger.
The board discussed the proposed renovations to the high school gymnasium. The gym renovation committee presented information gathered at its Dec. 18 meeting. It estimated the total project cost would be $450,000. The ceiling duct work is estimated at $10,000, the ceiling installation at $86,900, the bleachers at $168,795, the gym floor at $165,000 and contingency at $19,305. It presented two options to the school board to fund $260,000 of the project. The first option would take $179,229.93 from the high school building reserve fund, $47,603.67 from high school flex fund cash and $33,379.16 from elementary flex fund cash.
The second option would take the full $260,000 out of the current $289,080.53 in the high school building reserve. The committee stated the second choice was an option because money in the high school building reserve fund was required to go to projects like the gym renovation whereas the money in the other accounts could be used for a variety of causes.
The board agreed it should start the ceiling renovation first before any other renovations. It unanimously agreed to go with the second option and planned to use money from the high school building reserve fund for the ceiling duct work and the ceiling installation. The board voted unanimously to start collecting official bids on the two projects.
In regards to the other aspects of the renovations, the board stated it would need community support, but feared it would not receive the monetary help the project requires. The board stated it would need to fundraise, collect donations or pass some sort of mill levy to finish the project. Northside School principal Hannah Nieskens said she believed collecting donations would be more effective than a mill levy because taxpayers have expressed a desire to donate and receive a tax write-off rather than have their overall taxes raised.
In Northside’s monthly principal report, Nieskens stated the school was currently without heat in the gymnasium and a few common areas. She said it had caused the whole building to be a lot colder, so the school purchased space heaters to use until the necessary part to fix the heating problem arrived in six to eight weeks.
Junior high principal Kim Hanks said the next few weeks would be filled with training sessions at the school. Some sessions included Xtreme reading training for the junior high and high school on Jan. 16 and LINCS vocabulary training on Feb. 1.
On a final note, the board approved hiring Patrick Beauchamp as the Northside assistant custodian, Kim Cody as the Southside temporary, part-time SPED paraprofessional, George Lash as a Pk-12 substitute teacher and Sarah Azure as a Pk-6 substitute teacher or as a Southside paraprofessional pending paraprofessional test results.