Written by John Plestina
The possibility of altering future school calendars to include some Fridays was discussed by the Wolf Point School board negotiations committee and representatives of the unions representing teachers and other WPSD employees during the second round of collective bargaining negotiations Thursday, Jan. 22.
The committee of the WPSD board and representatives of the Wolf Point Education Association, which represents the teachers, and Wolf Point Educational Support Staff Association are meeting every two weeks until new labor contracts are successfully negotiated.
While discussing an existing memorandum of understanding addressing the four-day school week, superintendent Joe Paine said future school calendars could include some Friday school days. He said that could push the start of the school year past Labor Day.
It was also discussed that teachers who come to work on Fridays for professional development or other non-instructional purposes do so at their own discretion and cannot be mandated to do so.
There were discussions of how many hours constitute full-time employment.
School board chairman Martin DeWitt said he did not feel it would be fair if staff working 20 hours per week were to get the same health insurance benefits as full-time people.
There were also discussions about teachers working after school hours helping students or grading papers at home in the evenings not receiving additional pay while paraprofessional support staff are paid by the hour.
Paraprofessional aides, who are not certified teachers, are sometimes put in classrooms as substitute teachers when other substitutes are not available. There was discussion that under those circumstances, the aides currently receive their hourly compensation and are not paid the $100 substitute teachers receive per day worked.
Also, some paraprofessionals might not feel comfortable being required to be substitutes.
“They are not given a choice. That’s not right,” WPESSA representative Jennifer Zimmerman said.
“They should be able to say, ‘I don’t feel comfortable,’” Paine said.
Written by John Plestina
When people say bullying is not cool, that is so true. It isn’t and it is not acceptable behavior in or outside of schools. I have absolutely no tolerance of people who say it is part of growing up, or worse, those who encourage it.
I sat in on part of the Rachel’s Challenge anti bullying workshop at Frontier Elementary School for teachers and school counselors from throughout eastern Montana on Monday, Jan. 19.
Talking to guest speaker Peter DeAnello of Virginia made me think about two things that happened during my career; first being an editor of a newspaper in a small community that was rocked by a deadly school shooting 18 years ago where one of the victims was the school principal, whom I knew, and second, a multi-part series I wrote seven years ago about school bullying that attracted national media attention.
The 1999 Columbine High School [Colorado] shooting spree by a student that left several students dead, including Rachel Scott who posthumously inspired the Rachel’s Challenge program, was not the first of a long series of school shootings that we only hope and pray has finally ended. There were at least two before Columbine that did not get nearly as much national media attention.
During the 1990s, I was editor of the Tundra Drums in Bethel, Alaska, a remote town of about 5,000 people on the tundra near the Bering Sea that you can only fly in and out of. The biggest problems for the police were alcohol-related and included fights and DUIs until the morning of Feb. 19, 1997, when a 16-year-old student walked into the student commons area inside Bethel Regional High School armed with a shotgun he had managed to hide and sneak onto a school bus. He went to school wanting to kill people and he did. The foster child who hailed from a violent and troubled family, and had been a frequent target of bullies, shot and wounded three students and Principal Ron Edwards. One of the students, the 15-year-old son of a close friend of my girlfriend at the time, and Edwards whom I knew both died later at a hospital.
The shooter was a foster child living in the home of a school administrator [not Edwards] and took the shotgun from the foster parent’s home.
I got to know Edwards almost two years earlier during a flood on the nearby Kuskokwim River that left part of Bethel submerged for about a week during May 1995. The longtime teacher and principal, who was originally from western Montana, was an Alaska National Guard sergeant. He invited me to accompany him on a tracked amphibious SUSV as I witnessed numerous rescues during several hours I sat on top of the vehicle with Edwards, whom I got to know on that tragic day. I talked to him at many basketball games and school board meetings over the next couple of years. That day on the SUSV was the first thing I thought of when I heard he had been shot, even before I knew he died.
Today the street Bethel Regional High School fronts on is named Ron Edwards Memorial Drive, and rightfully so.
The school shooter is paying for what he did. Now 33, Evan Ramsey is serving two consecutive 99-year sentences in an Alaska prison for a total of 198 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2066, when he will be 85 years old.
The other thing I thought of when I spoke to DeAnello at Frontier School was a three-part series I wrote about seven years ago that was inspired by parents talking to me about the bullying problem at local schools while I was working for a newspaper in Nevada. The school superintendent called bullying part of growing up, some people said that some parents were encouraging bullying by telling boys they had to be tough if they were going to be men and several people acknowledged that the school district was doing little to stop the problem. My stories about the bullying problem went out on the Associated Press newswire and ABC news showed up at the middle school with a camera. That principal was not a happy camper. I rattled several people with the stories I wrote and lost friends over it. That is doing my job. The end result was that school district implementing an anti-bullying policy.
Rachel’s challenge is truly a great program and I hope all the schools in our area adopt it.
Written by John Plestina
A Poplar man on the receiving end of a telemarketing scam spotted it for what it was and called the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Jason Frederick said a telemarketer is claiming to be a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes contractor and told a local man he won $2.5 million. The caveat to becoming a millionaire was that the “winner” must wire a $250 fee via Western Union to collect his winnings.
The caller told the local man he would be wiring the money to Kaibito, Ariz., which is on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
The telemarketer claimed he was calling from Massachusetts, but caller ID showed an 876 area code, which is Jamaica.
The caller also gave a telephone number for verification of his winnings and claimed that was Bank of America. Frederick said the call produced an answering machine with a 2012 date on it and it was not Bank of America.
House reports on its web-
site that there has been
an increase in scams with telephone calls originating from the 876 area code in Jamaica. All prizes above $10,000 are awarded in person.
Publishers Clearing House has been actively working with the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security, Postal Inspection Service, Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement to address these scams.
Anyone receiving these calls should contact the RCSO at 653-6216 or Publisher’s Clearing House at 800-266-0303.
Written by John Plestina
The last fugitive from a 40-member East Coast heroin and cocaine ring was caught following a traffic stop near Bainville Sunday, Jan. 25.
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Sgt. Patrick O’Connor and Deputy Chelbi Brugh became suspicious after they stopped a car with North Dakota license plates about 2 a.m.
Sheriff Jason Frederick said the North Dakota man driving the car was not wanted but the passenger was a high-profile federal fugitive wanted on drug charges in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pa. A warrant had been issued for her in October 2014.
She was identified as Misha Marie Canon, 48, of San Bernardino, Calif.
Frederick said Canon was acting suspicious when O’Connor approached the car.
“He [O’Connor] got her out of the car and started interviewing her. She originally lied about her name,” Frederick said.
He said O’Connor obtained permission from the driver to search his car and found a Social Security card with Canon’s name on it.
O’Connor then conducted a search on his cell phone on an Internet search engine that produced a story about Canon that was published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in October 2014.
Canon was arrested and lodged temporarily in the Roosevelt County Jail.
Frederick said the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted him Sunday, Jan. 25, notifying him that she would be immediately transported to Great Falls.
The majority of the 39 other people involved in the case were arrested on drug and gun charges following a two-year federal investigation of activities that included drug shipments from California to Pittsburgh.
Written by John Plestina
No, it’s not spring yet.
The unseasonably warm January weather has broken records in northeast Montana.
“We did break a record yesterday [Monday, Jan. 26]. It was 51 degrees and broke a record of 43 set in 2006,” Glasgow National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Tanja Fransen said.
Weather recording at the Wolf Point airport began in 1998.
Fransen said the temperature in Wolf Point at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27, was 48 degrees and was expected to rise to 50.
“Basically we had what’s called a ridge of high pressure over the western U.S. that stretches from Texas all the way to Seattle,” she said.
“For Montana, December was the ninth warmest on record for the whole state,” Fransen said.
“In the last seven days we’ve actually averaged 15 degrees about normal,” she said.
“They haven’t officially called it an el nino yet,” Fransen said, explaining that we are experiencing a milder weather pattern.
But how long will the pseudo spring weather last?
“Not long,” said Fransen.
She said the weather will begin cooling down this week with predicted highs at Wolf Point of 37 degrees Friday and 20 degrees Sunday, and lows down to zero by Monday morning.
However, Fransen said there is an extended forecast showing warming in February. She said temperatures Feb. 4 through 10 are predicted to be above normal.
In addition, Fransen said weather patterns indicate warmer than normal weather for February, March and April.
A downside to the warmer weather, she said, could be heightened fire danger.