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School district gains new bus

As part of their regular Monday night meeting, the Chadron Public Schools Board of Education approved the purchase of a Thomas brand bus for $154,850.

Board member Sandy Montague-Roes said options were looked at, including comparisons between leasing a new bus and directly buying it. She further added the research showed if the district could lose up to $30,000 over the course of a lease compared to a direct buy.

Concerns were raised as to where the money for the bus would come from, though Superintendent Ginger Meyer pointed out the bus is still at least nine months out from being delivered to the district, and the expense could fall into next year’s budget.

A second option provided to the district was a Bluebird model for about $152,000. However, the board’s choice offers more seating, and Montague-Roes noted they’ve had good interactions with the Thomas company in the past. Further the proposal listed various safety features, where the Bluebird proposal did not have that information.

In other action, the board approved the 2020-21 audit, expressing appreciation to preparer Vincent Ryan. Though the audit was presented to the Finance Committee, it was suggested there be a presentation to the entire board in future years.

Several policies were approved on third reading with slight changes. Policy 4121, Temporary and Part-Time Personnel, was change to read that the central office will maintain a list of qualified and properly registered substitute teachers who may be called on to replace regular teachers who are absent. Such lists were previously kept by building principals.

Policy 4155, Employment Benefits, had language removed noting benefits are provided for professional personnel serving at least in a half-time capacity. The policy states “Appropriate fringe benefits such as necessary leave (illness, personal business, bereavement and emergency medical reasons) shall be included in the compensation schedule for all professional personnel. Health insurance benefits shall be commensurate with the percent of full-time equivalent, must be at least .50 FTE.”

Policy 4155.4, Salary Deductions, was eliminated. The policy allowed employees to make a single salary deduction through the Chadron Education Association to be distributed by it to cover local, state, and national education dues. It was pointed out school districts no longer pay the dues, so the policy had to be eliminated per law.

Policy 4141.2, Association Rights, was modified to remove redundant language. Policy 4155.3, Reimbursement of Authorized Expenses, now has language added stating meal reimbursement is subject to the federal per-diem.

Earlier in the meeting, board member Boone Huffman spoke to the district finances, pointing out when he first joined the board the district was in a debt crisis. In contrast, this past fiscal year they were able to pay off $187,000 worth of debt, he noted, and still had $35,000 on a cash to cash basis even after completing some large projects.

Also at the meeting, Terri Haines provided an update on the Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE) grant. The grant is in the fourth year of its five-year lifespan.

Most of the grant is spent “behind the scenes,” Haines noted. While there isn’t much in terms of visual things to show, the grant is helping provide services to students, which in turn helps their learning.

A highlight, she said, is the success of the Chadron Middle School Hope Squad. She explained this group is made up of students who help their peers, and has 35 students.

A first, Haines said, was being able to provide a “teen mental health first aid” program. Half of the sophomores have been trained, she said, and the other half will be in January. At the end of each of the sessions, students could fill out tickets if they had feelings about what they discussed or were concerned for a friend. Haines said these tickets gave students the opportunity bring something forward where previously they might not.

Other highlights from the year include the high school student council’s “Stress Less Week,” teacher-led books studies, several classes for the Question Persuade Refer method for suicide prevention and providing schools with sensory items for students who need some movement to help them focus in the classroom.

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