Red Lodge School Board discusses issues

At the Red Lodge School Board meeting, March 19, High School Principal, Rex Ternan presented to the board a recent outline of staff concerns/trends of students, along with possible solutions and school positives. With e-cigarettes increasing popularity, Ternan has started to see a problem with its use on campus and at school sponsored events/activities. Although there is no policy specific to e-cigarettes in the student handbook, Ternan has asked students to respect the tobacco free campus policy. He advised the board to draft a policy for next year to specify e-cigarettes and other tobacco devices. Other concerns seen at the high school are student apathy, which may be tied to substance abuse and cultural shifts, an increasing gap between high achieving and low achieving students, parenting concerns, problems with lecture-type instruction and attendance issues. The document further outlined ideas to help solve various concerns. To address many of the issues, Ternan suggested creating somewhat of a rewards program to celebrate students who are on the right track and allow others to see the benefits, which may encourage them to work harder. Other solutions included: goal setting, engaging DSVS for healthy relationship awareness, more involvement with the student assistance team/mentor program, etc. Not only did the document present topics of concern, it also listed positive items occurring at the high school. Ternan pointed out the high ACT scores of the Juniors, increasing community service involvement, the great technology available at the school and other encouraging achievements. Ternan reported there are potentially seven “solid” students interested in the student trustee position. Continuing the meeting, Roosevelt Middle School Principal, John Fitzgerald said the school is in the process of preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) pilot test. He said the staff is concerned because it takes at least three hours per test, per student. New this year, the SBAC is completely online and designed to assess student mastery aligned with the Common Core standards. Testing will begin in April. Fitzgerald also said the mentoring program has been successful in helping six identified at risk students. In addition, the Science and Social Studies teachers have been discussing implementing a block-schedule to help with project, lab-based learning. Mountain View Elementary Principal, Doug Mann reported the school was successful during “I Love to Read” month and gave away 96 books and other prize items, including six Kindles. He is also concerned with SBAC test and is glad they are field tests. Superintendent Mark Brajcich then provided his administrative report. He recommended the Superintendent candidate fill out the same application as the other candidates and to develop three supplemental questions. Brajcich also discussed with the board tournament bids. Next year, Red Lodge is hosting the Southern Divisional Girls Volleyball tournament, which will be rotated between Huntley, Columbus and Red Lodge each year due to the schools’ central location. Because it is a “zero” bid, Brajcich has approached the lodging association for financial support. The issue over whether to host the combined 6C District tournament was debated due to school scheduling and playing times. Although the tournament would help the community, the schools would have to adjust their schedules accordingly. The board plans to address the issue in further meetings. Additionally, on March 29 at 8:30 a.m. the Beartooth Community Front Forum is hosting a tour and discussion about what to do with the Old Roosevelt. Revitalization specialists who worked on the Emerson building in Bozeman and Livingston’s cultural center will be on site to give a presentation and answer questions. Finally, Brajcich said they are working on finding a new insurance provider. Recently, teachers were asked to fill out their medical history to send to Joint Power Trust health insurance for a quote. If the rates are more affordable than their current provider, the board will discuss how to move further. The meeting adjourned after the board approved various action items including: resignation of Mary Ann Mathes, K-8 Special Education instructor, and hiring of staff and administration.