Bremen School Board Meeting - 9-16-14by Amy Wenger on September 22, 2014
Sometimes, it's just all about the details.
A smattering of items on the agenda of the Bremen Public Schools Board of Trustees led to a number of thoughtfully executed discussions on matters ranging from USDA guidelines to fair wages to bus usage. The board exacted a methodical approach to these topics, and others, during their session held on Tuesday evening, September 16.
Bremen Elementary-Middle School principal Larry Yelaska presented his report to the board, in which he talked about finalizing plans for the school's upcoming Book Fair, set to begin on September 29 and continue until October 3. A special Parent's Night has also been scheduled for September 30.
Yelaska further shared some encouraging numbers in terms of enrollment figures. At present, the student body of BEMS has been calculated at 972, versus a count of 971 in the spring. While that sounds like a virtually unchanged statistic, Yelaska pointed out that the kindergarten student population has dropped significantly, with 110 students in the close of the 2013-14 school year, and just 86 in the kindergarten classes currently, which means that other grades have added students.
The addition of a new "Flex Advisory Period" to the middle school schedule has been a resounding success, Yelaska also told the board. Generally once a month, a window of time is incorporated into the school day, near the lunch period, during which students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades can use the opportunity to partake of enrichment activities, remediation assistance, or club participation. The students have expressed appreciation for the offering, Yelaska said, in that it gives kids a chance to be involved in interests that they may not otherwise have time for during after school hours.
In waiting for the arrival of BHS principal Bruce Jennings, who arrived a little late, some mention was made of the newest updates to the USDA requirements and how they pertain to the meals and other edible items served at school. Because Bremen Public Schools is among the countless districts that receives funding from this federally sponsored organization, the schools have to work with the regulations as they are set forth, which means that healthful food choices are now considered the norm. Yelaska noted that the latest stipulations could have a tremendous impact on various school functions, such as pizza parties, ice cream or other similarly themed incentive programs, and the 5th grade economy unit, where treats are typically sold.
Superintendent Dr. Jim White even offered an explanation as to how school lunch menus are now compiled, in that the cafeteria supervisors have a calculation matrix that they must utilize to ensure a proper nutritional balance ratio as they assemble each daily selection.
While no one from the board, or in the audience, was particularly questioning the notion that children should ideally have access to proper diets, there was some questioning of the statistics gathered on which to base these parameters. Board president Jack Jordan cited recent studies that he had read, indicating that a small amount of healthy fats is critical to the growth of young brains. "To have the federal government telling us information and recommendations that is antithetical to the latest research on brain development is unacceptable," Jordan said.
No action was taken on this subject, as it was simply presented in an informative nature.
It's been nearly 20 years since the salaries for the classified and food service employees have been significantly modified. Members of the board opted to spend some time in work sessions, researching the issue.
While delving further into a recently submitted review of pay scales in the cafeteria and with instructional assistants, it was noted that the rate of pay for many employees has remained somewhat static since the mid 1990s. Several viewpoints were shared among board members, with everyone unified in the belief that the current pay structure is not particularly commensurate with the tasks and responsibilities entrusted to those employees.
In light of the vast number of changes in education over the past two decades, with a fair amount of regard for the advances in technology, it was thought that the best solution would be to update the rates of pay, with board members making plans to contact one another in the next couple of weeks to establish a work session, in which they will further discuss the subject. The board did, however, approve the proposed salaries offered for the cafeteria cooks.
Another Kind of Bus Stop...
A request from the Bremen Community Bowling Club stirred up a lively discussion on exactly which civic and non-school related organizations should be permitted to use the service.
The club was seeking the board's permission to use the Bremen Public Schools mini bus for transportation purposes. Many on the board took issue with the vaguely worded request, noting that no mention was made as to how often the bus would be needed, nor was it specified where the club would be traveling. There was also a great deal of concern about allowing a club that is not sanctioned by the school to make use of this privilege, observing that it could set a precedent for others to ask likewise.
It was pointed out by Bremen Public Schools treasurer Stephanie Pittman that the likelihood of another group having used the buses prior, under similar conditions, could possibly exist. Therefore, the original motion to accept the request, which had been offered by Todd Stuckman, was withdrawn until the board could have an opportunity to look into previous requests to see what stipulations were set forth.
In other board matters, the members gratefully validated a donation from the Bremen Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) in the amount of $2,790, with an expression of gratitude extended to those who volunteer their time and services.
Pittman also reminded everyone that the next board meeting will also feature a public hearing for the 2015 budget.
A number of staffing changes were also approved upon by the board, including the following:
- Janelle Leeper, Special Needs Assistant
- Dorian Pfefferle, 5th Grade Co-Team Leader
- Lori Kois, Middle School Spell Bowl Coach
- Mike Gallo, Middle School Academic Social Studies Coach
- Mandy McFarland, Full-Time Cook
- Chris Devine, 5th Grade Boys Basketball Coach
- Ted Lantz, Temporary 2nd Grade Teacher (filling in for staff member on maternity leave)
- Joe Hughes, Band Program Volunteer
The next meeting of the Bremen Public Schools Board of Trustees will take place on Tuesday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bremen High School Media Center.