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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo School Board Seeks One New Member

Issue Date: April 19, 2018

At the start of the Peshtigo School Board meeting on Wednesday, April 11, Board Clerk Kelly Jones administered oaths of office for new three year terms to returning veteran board member Steve Coble and newly elected board members Rebecca DeMarce and Joshua Seefeldt, victors in the April 3 elections over incumbents Julie Muenster and Cory Hess. Coble was unopposed in his bid for re-election.

However, the District is now seeking candidates to fill the District 6 seat on the board, which became vacant about three weeks ago due to the resignation of District 6 representative Jenni Schwittay. Anyone interested can submit a letter of interest to District Administrator Kim Eparvier at the school office by Friday, April 27. Anyone who lives in the Peshtigo School District is eligible. Letters may be delivered or mailed to: Office of the District Administrator, 341 N. Emery Avenue, Peshtigo, WI 54157.

The board hopes to select and seat the new board member at its next meeting, on Wednesday, May 9. DeMarce and Seefeldt will also join the board at that time.

Meanwhile, current board members remain in office until the fourth Monday in April, which this year is Monday, April 24. Board members present for the April 11 meeting were Muenster, Jones, Coble, Bob Thomas, Mike Fifarek, Tom Fischer and Board President Gary Larsen.

The meeting agenda included discussion and action on the process for filling a vacant board seat, and the informational packet included copies of board rules that govern the process. Larsen said Schwittay had given him her resignation about three weeks previous, and board member resignations become effective immediately.

According to the rules, the board is to seek qualified and interested and qualified candidates from the community through the news media, word of mouth and contacts with appropriate organizations, and may interview them to ascertain their qualifications. Appointment is by majority vote of the existing board. Secret ballots can be used only when the board is electing board officers - clerk, treasurer and president. If the vacancy is not filled within 60 days the Board President must appoint someone.

Thomas said the appointment is only until the next election, which is in April of 2019, and then it will be for the unexpired portion of the term, which in this case is April of 2020. Larsen said he hopes to appoint at the May board meeting, and asked fellow board members to recruit applicants.

Next came a long discussion on the process to be used to interview and hire the new Associate Principal. Coble said he had asked to have this put on the agenda because he felt the whole board should make this decision. He added that after doing a lot of research he personally does not feel the whole board should be involved in the assistant principal interviews, and advocates following the same process used for hiring teachers - which is by a committee that includes one board member, teachers, a parent, and administrators. "We haven't been giving enough authority to our administrator," Coble declared. He said personnel who report directly to the board - superintendent and principals - should be selected by the board, but those who report to the superintendent or one of the principals should be chosen by them and the committee he suggested.

To a question from Fischer, Larsen said the full board has always done the interviews for administrative positions, including principals and assistant principals.

Jones said she has no problem with having only some board members involved in the interviews, "but I don't feel we should go from nine to one!" Fischer agreed.

"We have a superintendent - let's let him do what we hired him for. This keeps us less involved with day today business of the district and gives us more time for oversight, which is the board's role!" Coble argued.

Muenster was concerned about the timing, since Eparvier"s retirement becomes effective July 1 and new Superintendent Patrick Rau will take over at that time.

"Timing has nothing to do with it!" Coble declared.

Jones felt since Rau is the one who will be working with the new assistant principal he should be involved in the interviews.

Muenster also said she favored having at least three board members on the interview team.

Fifarek said as it had been presented to him, Coble was proposing teachers, parents and one board member on the interview team, and declared, "I don't like that scenario at all!" He agreed they probably didn't need to involve the whole board, but felt at least the three Personnel Committee members should be involved. "Also, we need a whole new job description," Fifarek declared. He described the current one as , "the most generic thing I've ever seen," said said as written, he could qualify, "and I'm a nurse, not at all trained in teaching or administering, student discipline, etc." He felt there should not be a parent involved with hiring the person who will be responsible for disciplining their child, but said he would live with that if he had to.

Larsen also wanted at least three board members, but also felt there should be more administrators involved.

Thomas agreed. He said the interview team should include the principals, the special ed director and the administrator.

Fifarek asked if he meant the new administrator, and Thomas said he did. He had contacted Rau, and he agrees with this plan and will try to attend all the interviews.

"I want to put responsibility with the person who is responsible," Coble argued. "The administrator of the district should make this decision, That's how I feel!"

Eparvier asked what role people on the interview committee would play in selecting candidates to be interviewed. He said there are 45 external candidates and three internal applicants.

Muenster said in the past they had staff members give their input, and she found that helpful. Larsen said the special ed director should be involved because of dealing with disciplinary issues. He too was opposed to having a parent involved in the selection.

Based on the conversation that led up to it, Muenster moved, with a second from Fifarek, to have the committee made up of three board members, the special ed director, high school principal, elementary principal, two elementary staff members and the superintendent, which would be optional.

Eparvier felt it would be better for Rau, rather than himself, to be involved in the hiring.

Jones said she had spoken with Rau and he, as principal in his current job, is involved with all interviews. Larsen again said Rau had told him he will participate in all the interviews if possible.

The board intends to move forward with the interview process as scheduled, and Larsen said that is fine with Rau even though he will not yet officially be a Peshtigo School district employee.

The motion as proposed passed, with Coble and Thomas opposed and Muenster, Jones, Fifarek, Fischer and Larsen in favor.

In more ordinary business the board accepted the resignations of Robin Gilligan as Middle School girls basketball coach and Becky Cording as Junior Varsity volleyball coach.

Donations accepted included $250 from Jeff Orear and $250 from David and Heide Zoll for post prom, plus $270 from Mark Barrette and $750 from Amy Schield for scholarships.

Without dissent the board approved first readings of several policies, including - Bylaws: required student academic standards as an agenda item; Bylaws: officers; Program: English language proficiency; Program: Early College Credit program; Program: school counseling and academic and career planing; Students: part time open enrollment, and Finances: purchasing or credit cards. Adoption of the policy revisions is expected at the board's meeting in May. Most involve wording changes to keep them in compliance with state and federal regulations.

In his president's report, Larsen welcomed the two new board members. He expressed disappointment in defeat of the referendum that would have allowed construction of a new Middle School/High School, and declared there was "a lack of information out there and incorrect information out there"Žnow we'll wait to see what the new administration has to say."

Coble, reporting as chair of the Building and Grounds committee, said they had been unable to complete their look at school facilities at one meeting because of a snow storm, so they scheduled one for the following Monday, but it too was snowed out. (He had scheduled the next Building and Grounds Committee meeting for Monday, April 16, but that too was postponed due to weather conditions, following this weekend's blizzard.)

Student Council Representative Tyler Ries noted this was their first week back in school after Spring Break. He reported on high school activities, including five students who qualified for state in FBLA competition. He said 22 persons have signed up so far for the 2nd Annual Mr. Jim Stillman Memorial Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, April 28, and expressed hope more will join to pay tribute to a beloved teacher and coach. The PHS National Honor Society organized the event to raise funds for the Mr. Jim Stillman Memorial Scholarship to be awarded to a graduating senior. Last year, thanks to the generosity of participants and community members, five $1000 scholarships were awarded.


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