Another detour for new school bus

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCook Public Schools board of education has hashed and rehashed buying a new route bus for almost three years now, and, at its meeting Monday evening, asked for bids on a different set of specs than it advertised for in March.

The board received three bids on a 2009 59-passenger route-type bus after advertising for bids seeking a "new" bus. At Monday's meeting, board member Larry Shields said he now wants bids for a 2008 bus, "new" off the lot with no mileage, feeling that that approach can save the school thousands of dollars.

Board member Diane Lyons asked maintenance supervisor Chris Wallace to provide information on who can service each brand of bus, and whether a service center is close-by, before deciding which bus to purchase.

Board member Mike Gonzales said that bids seeking a 2008 new bus will have to be advertised for again, re-let and open to everyone. Bids on the 2009 buses are good for, depending upon the vendor, 30 or 60 days, Wallace said.

School board members approved the resignations of:

* Jeff Mollring, senior high physical education, advanced strength training and world history, after eight years with the McCook school system. Mollring is retiring, although he will not be eligible for the district's early retirement incentive program, which requires 15 years of service to the district.

* Jeffrey Campbell, seventh grade science, who did not disclose his plans in a letter of resignation to the superintendent and school board.

* Peggy Lambert-Lehr, senior high special education, who indicated in her resignation letter that she is accepting a position with another school district.

The board approved the 2008-09 school calendar as presented Monday evening. Superintendent Dave Schley said that instructional hours was the driving component in what he called "a very, very good calendar." He said that student days will increase from 172 to 177.

The calendar includes 1,064 hours for kindergartners; 1,094 for elementary; and 1,164 for junior-senior high; and 185 contract days and eight staff days for teachers.

Heat days with 1 p.m. dismissals are scheduled from the first day of school for students, Thursday Aug. 21, through Friday, Aug. 29

Graduation will be Sunday, May 10.

Over Diane Lyons' objection, the board kept three 10 a.m. starts for teacher in-service training on Oct. 8, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. Lyons said the late start is difficult for parents who must make arrangements for getting kids to school two hours later than usual. Gonzales wondered if a 1 p.m. dismissal might work better for parents.

The board accepted an anonymous donation of $3,250 earmarked for activities. Board member Tom Bredvick expressed the board's appreciation for support such as this anonymous donation. "I'd like to shake the hand of Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous," he said.

The McCook Daily Gazette made a $500 donation to help fund the NORE (Nebraskans on an Oceanographic Research Education) science club's oceanographic trip to Eleuthera, a remote Out Island of the Bahamas.

The board declared as salvage the high school band's 20-year-old uniforms, which will be replaced with new uniforms purchased with $38,876 in donations.

The band earned the dubious nickname of the "Safety Pin Band" after Band Director Donita Priebe told board members in October that many, many band members have to safety-pin together their uniforms before performances.

During the "Positive Comments" portion of the board meeting, Bredvick hailed the unanimous decision to declare the uniforms as surplus, calling them "great bonfire material."

During committee, administrator and board member reports and comments:

* Diane Lyons reported that the Curriculum Committee listened to a presentation on the A+ Learning System and discussed program changes for 2009 and the reading program at McCook Elementary.

* Tom Bredvick, a member of the Finance Committee, reported that the district will receive an automated timecard/payroll system in May.

* Curriculum Coordinator Gayle Sharkey told board members that the Nebraska Department of Education is developing a schedule, through 2012, of revisions in reading, math and science/social studies standards, assessments and reports with the passage by the Legislature of LB 1157.

* Junior and senior high principals Dennis Berry and Jerry Smith told board members that McCook and many other Nebraska school districts are finding hard and getting harder to find applicants for teaching vacancies. "There's competition from districts in Nebraska, and from out of the state," Berry said.

Smith said they were pursuing "the best," but that it is "really, really difficult to find applicants of any kind."

Berry said that the key component to a good education is "the teacher in the classroom; that McCook is trying to recruit and hire the best teachers and to retain the teaching staff it has.

MHS Student Council members Olivia Walters and Audrey Krepcik reported that StuCo has cleaned up a two-mile stretch of Highway 6&34 west of McCook and is planning to participate in a McCook clean-up.

The group is playing bingo with Hillcrest Nursing Home residents, is planning its annual leadership banquet and will host a hypnotist at a convocation.

During "Positive Comments":

* Schley complimented McCook art students' entries in McCook Community College's high school art show, calling their work "phenomenal."

* Lyons praised the Missoula Children's Theater's production of "The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe," which involved 46 children in grades K-12. "It was an absolutely phenomenal effort in one week," Lyons said.

* Student body board representative Cassie Olson also praised the Missoula Children's Theater, for its members' perspective on Shakespeare, which an MHS class was studying. "It was hilarious," Olson said. "It was also cool," she said, that McCook students could see that jobs in acting are possible.

Olson also recognized the MHS Math Club for its sponsorship of a blood drive.

* Rick Haney recognized donors who made possible the purchase of new band uniforms, and those who support other activities with small and sizable donations. "We're experiencing a great level of support," Haney said. "It's a new trend ... a great trend."

Bredvick wondered about the need for a McCook school foundation.

* President Greg Larson thanked the school district's para-professionals, "who are often un-noticed and un-appreciated."

The McCook Elementary PTO plans its spring track meets, third grade graduation and teacher appreciation day.

The McCook Elementary PTO plans its spring track meets, third grade graduation and teacher appreciation day.

The board cast its vote behind Mike Gonzales as the Western District legislative representative on the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Other candidates are from Waverly and Crete. Bredvick asked, incredulously, "McCook, Crete and Waverly are in the same Western District?"

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