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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Name Bantes "Honorary Bulldog" For Her Crossing Guard Heroism

Issue Date: April 18, 2019

The Peshtigo School Board meeting on Wednesday, April 10 was the final one for veteran board members Bob Thomas and Tom Fischer, neither of whom had sought re-election. By the time of the next regular board meeting newly elected members Jenni Schwittay and Mariel Carter will have been seated.

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17 to discuss "Initial Planning For Community Conversation."

A highlight of the April 10 meeting was recognition of Crossing Guard Gail Bantes, 82, who became a heroine on the morning of February 15 by putting her own life in danger to push two children out of the path of an oncoming car. She was struck by the vehicle and spent several days in the hospital.

District Administrator Patrick Rau presented Bantes with a special certificate designating her as an an Honorary Bulldog and saluting her "distinguished act of courage" in which she risked her own life to protect the lives of students. Rau said Bantes cares for the safety of students on a daily basis, and has done so for many, many years. Bantes was one of two crossing guards employed by the city. Prior to becoming a crossing guard Bantes had been a school bus driver for 43 years.

Elementary Principal Kelly Collins thanked several elementary staff members for their efforts in serving as data coaches to train other staff members in instruction and intervention, for "making sure everyone has the information they need to be really great teachers," and for making sure the school's educational efforts stay student centered and collaborative.

Middle School Principal Chad Sodini spoke briefly of hard decisions when selecting new classes to offer, and then declared, ""sometimes you strike gold and find the right teacher and the right class." He declared the 8th grade Careers Class taught by Sam Zuehls was one of those times. Sodini jokingly said before introducing Zuehls, "He's kind of goofy sometimes, but he's a fantastic educator, and dedicated to his students."

Zuehls, who has ben teaching at Peshtigo for 22 years, proved the truth of that statement in his enthusiastic report to the board on the value of the class.

He said he had been frustrated at parent conferences with students who were getting D or F grades, and would ask these kids, "Where do you see yourself in the future? What kind of a job do you want? What's your plan?" and they had no answers. He said his career exploration class fits his personality very well, and stressed that the class is about planning. He asks students to determine who they are, what they are interested in. As to the benefit of college, ""it depends on what you went to college for," and added that so many people get a degree for a field in which there are no jobs. At the end of his quarter class he has an individual meeting with each student and their family about what they want to do and how they want to do it. He said in today's world high school is too late to start planning. For example, those wanting to be physical therapists will need to get straight As from freshman on.

He then introduced student Presley Steele and her parents. HE has each student create a slide show about themselves, their future plans and goals. Presley displayed her slide show, and described the decisions that went into it. She said you must set goals, but they must be realistic, with start and end dates, and a plan for achieving them. She evaluated various careers that would be suitable for her, in terms of her abilities and interests, opportunity to get into the field, and that she would like, in terms of earnings an achieving the three things important in her life: happiness, success and values.

Part of the class is analyzing future demand for employees in the various possible fields.

Her plan is to apply at UW-Oshkosh to eventually become a nurse anesthetist, a job that is in high demand, has high earning potential, and gives high personal satisfaction in a field that interests her. That education will cost alot of money, and she knows already what jobs she will get as a student in addition to working toward scholarships to help pay off her tuition.

Zuehls said Steele is a straight A student, but not everyone can do that. He said he personally could not get straight As, because there are some things he's good at and other things he is not. He tells his students, "You are all smart"We just all have different strengths," and also tells them "you make your own luck," and adds that successful people are those who work hard at achieving what they want.

Zuehls thanked Mrs. Matykowski for teaching the personality portion of the class, as well as providing information about tuitions at in-state and out of state schools.

Michelle Peters, owner of Kids R Us University, LLC, spoke at length about their "Connect Care" program would offer parents and their children. She said she started the Kids R Us University, LLC in 2009 and now operates three facilities in Marinette and serves about 200 people. They are planning to open a Connect Care location in Peshtigo and apparently the elementary school is a potential location.

"I feel our proposal would be beneficial to everyone," Peters said. "It's about connectivity." They offer before and after school care for students and all day care for those not yet old enough to be in school.

She said she sees a huge need for the flexible hours and services they offer, and said in return for use of school facilities they would pay the district 10 percent of gross revenue once they have 10 students enrolled.

One of the board members mentioned they already have the YMCA offering child care before and after school.

Rau said before discussing this farther, they would need to determine need for the service, and look at space requirements. He was told they will need space for 20 to 50 kids. Her handout mentioned facility access requirements as gym, cafeteria, outdoor play space and bathrooms.

Board member Mike Finger was concerned about allowing use of the gym, which is already very heavily used and is occupied most of the time. He also asked how she would fill the need for employees. "I am a licensed facility and I need to get certified people," she responded.

Sh was told that before any action could be considered the issue would need to be discussed by a committee, which probably would come back with a recommendation.

Rau said the YMCA has a child care program and there are probably others that would be interested and to be fair to everyone they would need to advertise for proposals.

There was some discussion on possible reduction in the number of board members, which had been placed on the agenda at the request of Finger. He felt they do not need nine board seats, and could save cost by reducing that number. He noted they could have only discussion, and any decision would have to be up to the public at next year's annual meeting. "I'd be more than willing to give up the last year of my term for this reduction," Finger declared.

Board President Steve Coble said by law they could reduce the number of seats, but the change would require 100 signatures on a petition prior to the annual meeting to even get it on the agenda. Wisconsin law requires school boards to have three, five, seven or nine seats, he said. He added that it had taken them two and a half years to get the rotation of terms established so three members are up for election each year, and with seven members they could end up facing two years with half the board being brand new, inexperienced members.

Tom Fischer preferred staying at nine members so they can have three member committees without having a quorum of the board.

Coble agreed. He said if they went to five members they could not have any committees, and all discussions would need to be by the full board meeting as a committee of the whole. Changing the number of seats would not change the tax levy, he added. Also, now it takes five members to reach a majority decision, and if it were cut to seven, decisions could be made with only four people in favor. He added they have had contentious situations where issues were decided by five to four votes. Also, with nine members they can have a quorum for meetings even if two members cannot make it.

Rau said for the matter to be considered at the annual meeting they would need to have the 100-signature petition turned in at least 30 days prior to the annual meeting.

No action was taken, and discussion turned to designating names and duties of committees.

Rau said there is no written policy regarding committee responsibilities. He noted he is only the fourth superintendent this district has ever had. Former Administrator Kim Eparvier was in that position for 23 years, and several board members have been on for a long, long time so on many issues the rules were done by recollection.

However, he said he needs clarification of what things need to go to committee, and if so, to which committee. If they have three new board members on a committee they too will need some guidelines.

Coble agreed the names of some existing committees are outdated, and agreed they need to have a good discussion on the entire issue, but added, "We can't hash all this out tonight. I think we need a special board meeting to go through all this."

Several board members responded, "Set the date."

Rau said the hiring process has become cumbersome, and needs to be clarified. For example, do we want board members involved in all hiring, or only in hiring of teachers and administrative staff? This too should be discussed at a workshop type meeting, he suggested, and there seemed to be general agreement that they should do that.

Moving on to action items, the board approved hiring of Amy Cook as school psychologist and accepted the resignation of Eric Seyler as a high school social studies teacher effective at the end of the current school term.

Several donations were accepted with thanks, including $3,566 from PTSO for playground equipment at the Elementary Learning Center, $300 from Peshtigo Lions Club for PTSO, $500 from the Bulldog Booster Club , and $500 from Farmer's and Merchant's Bank for Skills USA.

Rau told the board several parents, who were present for the meeting, had asked to have a girls soccer team established. They had held a meeting and have 15 girls signed up. "I'd feel better with $20," he added. One of the mothers present said they now have 19 members confirmed and ready for 2020, and are eager to move forward.

Board members had questions about where they would practice, and where games would be played.

Kelly Jones recalled when boys soccer started they didn't have many home games.

After discussion on size of the field, work to be done on playing facilities, etc., the board gave unanimous approval to recognizing girls soccer as a club team.

Without Mike Fifarek they voted eight to one to renew the cleaning service contact with ABM. Rau said there was a slight price increase that will all be going to ABM worker salaries to help them recruit the needed personnel. "We need to do this so they can keep their employees," Gary Larsen declared.

ABM has had the cleaning contract since 2014 and they are in the second year of a 3-year contract, Rau noted.

"Who oversees the quality of their work"Sometimes I think I'm walking into a urinal!" Fifarek declared before he cast the sole "no" vote.

Next came approval the first reading of a long, long list of policies either being revised or created. Second readings and adoption is expected at the May board meeting. Kelly Jones, who serves on the Policies Committee, said there a few grammatical corrections needed.

As the end of the meeting neared, Coble recognized Fischer for 9 years of service on the board and Thomas for 15 years.

"I first got on the school board by accident, and I wasn't seeking a job," Thomas told the board. The district was advertising for emergency substitute teachers and his wife saw the ad. He applied and was hired as a substitute teacher, after which a group of full time teachers pushed him into running for the board. He said they even circulated nomination papers for him and had them filled before he knew they were doing it. "I did not expect to be elected"I'm a foreigner from Alabama and I got more votes than the mayor did," he recalled. That was 15 years ago, and he has been on ever since. "I can't say I enjoyed every minute of it, but I'll never regret doing it," Thomas added. "If you're doing it for the right reasons, you should be here."

"Mike Fifarek is the reason I'm here," Fischer said, adding, ""unlike Bob, I did enjoy every minute, but like Bob said, you have to come in for the right reasons."

Rau said 27 people attended the senior breakfast, and they tasted Birch Syrup and Box Elder Syrup.

Rau thanked Fischer and Thomas for voting for him as District Administrator, and added, "One of my reasons for wanting to come to Peshtigo was the rapport of the school board, and after nine months on the job, I know I was right."

The board then went into closed executive session "for the purposes of considering or discussing issues pertaining to employment, promotion or compensation or performance evaluation data of specific people with the consideration and approval of preliminary notices of non-renewal of certified contract, and a private conference with building administrators related to their performance" as authorized by Wisconsin statutes.

There was no provision for action after returning to open session for adjournment.


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