Teachers reinstated at special board meeting

By Carol Walker

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By now the grapevine has already made its way to many Hill City residents, but for those who were not “on the vine,” Dave Kelting, industrial technology teacher, and Brady Besco, middle school science teacher, were reinstated by the school board for the next school year.

Parents and teachers packed the meeting room for the special school board meeting last Wednesday evening when the primary items on the agenda were to approve contracts for Besco and Kelting and to approve resignations by Kerry Britton and Hillary Jastorff, special education teachers; Luke Jastorff and Laura Fuegen, elementary teachers and Aimee Peyregne, business manager.

News emerging earlier this year that the shop program would be eliminated and a middle school science teacher would be cut created a firestorm among parents, teachers and community members, who quickly took action in response to the news. Many spoke before the school board expressing their dismay with the cuts, the beginnings of an advisory committee was put into motion and five people, in addition to the two incumbents, decided to run for school board.

Board members explained that by state law the district is required to provide the core subjects of English, math, social studies and science, and with enrollment and funds down they had to make difficult cuts. The middle school science needs would be met by assigning the classes to high school teachers, but the industrial technology program would have to be cut. Administration and board members were considering an option for students to dual-enroll at Hill City High School and Western Dakota Technical School and take industrial technology classes there.

Many patrons of the community believed that as not a good option because there would be a cost to parents, and it would require driving to Rapid City. With what is believed to be a crucial need for technical training for the current job market, many people wanted to see the technical courses offered in house at Hill City High School.

So, with budget constraints, why were the two teachers reinstated now? Supt. Mike Hanson said the recent resignations made a difference in the budget. With enrollment down, they can now hire fewer teachers and reinstate the teachers who were cut.

“The district did not see resignations until after April 15. We had numerous resignations after that date which provided opportunities to offer contracts and required board action to authorize advertising one elementary classroom teacher, one special education teacher, and one custodian. These positions will provide a full educational structure and high-quality educational opportunities for students.” said Hanson.

There were smiles and hugs all around in the audience when the board approved the contracts for the two teachers. A motion was made and approved to advertise for the new open positions.

Hanson issued an apology regarding the upcoming election for three school board members. He just discovered a mistake he made on the Jan. 8 board agenda when he asked the board to approve three board member vacancies, each with a three-year term. However, one of the positions was for the previous board appointment for one year of Mike Welu until the election takes place this year. That opening should have been for two years, to finish out that term.

“…I have contacted the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office, the Pennington County Auditor’s office and district legal counsel regarding my error. The election process is under way, and my recommendation is to move forward with the current ballot as it is written with three school board vacancies, each with a three-year term. I apologize for my mistake and will ensure the central office maintains accurate records regarding the terms of service of its members,” said Hanson.

Other big news came right at the close of the school board meeting. Roxann DuBois announced that she had just heard she was selected as the School Kitchen Manager of the Year for South Dakota.

“I got the email earlier today. I read it over three times because I didn’t really understand if it was for me or someone else. I don’t know who submitted my name, but it is a nice honor for a small school like Hill City,” said DuBois.

When the board went into executive session for personnel evaluation of the superintendent, many people left the meeting. However, a dozen or so remained to see if additional action would be taken after the executive session.

After an hour the board returned to the room and Dennis Krull, board member, spoke to the remaining teachers and parents.

“I apologize that you had to wait for the executive session. Twice we have done this, and we are not trying to get away with something. Sometimes we come out and vote on something and sometimes we don’t,” said Krull.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 14, at 6 p.m.

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