GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County School District (GCSD) board members, including student board members, community members and district staff spoke on issues concerning standards-based grading, district spending and board operations, such as roll-call voting at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 13. The district also introduced its new employees and approved a number of special education, social/emotional learning agenda items.
Southeast Schools Student Board Member Alex McIntyre, Lingle-Fort Laramie (LFL) High School Student Board Member Kamryn Rafferty and Torrington High School Student Board Member Klacie Groene each presented separate reports to GCSD board members relating to goals – which also mentioned their disapproval of standards-based grading and request to provide academic agendas, calendars for students like other districts near to Goshen County.
At least one community member spoke after the student board members against standards-based grading, in fact, this grading system has been a topic of discussion all summer along in addition to the lack of roll-call voting, consent agenda items and district spending as it relates to new curriculum.
McIntyre told board members he surveyed teachers at Southeast Schools and received 35 responses back. He asked teachers and administrators if they set goals, of which he said most teachers responded by saying yes and some said no. He also surveyed his peers “and what I found was the students who set goals have better grades and are able to keep grades up along with other school activities.”
He also told board members some teachers elaborated more by saying they set both professional and personal goals in life and that he would like to see himself and his peers do more goal-setting practice and activities.
Groene spoke heavily to the academic side of goal setting before the board, where she expressed her concerns with standards-based testing because it hinders a student’s efforts, ambition and ability to drive themselves to do better and achieve higher goals. She questioned the board as to whether or not it would be an appropriate time to reexamine how grading is done in the district to better accommodate goal-setting and higher achievements among all students.
“I have set goals for many programs I am involved in outside of school,” Groene explained, “and I set goals by seeing the realistic outcomes of those goals.”
Groene explained to the board that she heard from peers and teachers who agree they don’t know how to properly set measurable goals that are attainable and in which an individual can build upon for future success and goal-making. She asked the board if it would be possible to have a dedicated teacher or staff member teach all individuals within the district better goal-making practices.
Groene said she might sound like a “broken record” when expressing her frustration, along with several of her peers, but she believes tools like school agendas and calendars aid in goal setting and can also answer the question about the standards-based grading system used in GCSD.
She asked the board to view her requests as an “investment options for careers, colleges, trade schools that help students get their future goals.”
Rafferty echoed much of the same findings as McIntyre but added a more in-depth analysis of what a goal is, what goals look like and what they can do for a student and person in life.
“I thought to myself – what exactly is a goal – it’s a common word, but once you think about it, what exactly does it mean?” Rafferty questioned the board and attendees. She determined that the basis of a goal is rooted in a person’s ambition, effort, aim or desires and spent much of her discussion to the board examining how that looks for the Goshen County student body population.
Rafferty explained to board members how she has been putting goal-making into practice with her volleyball teammates and in her own personal life to set the example for her peers. She also explained how her father is open to hearing about her goals and her achieving those goals, but noted, “and I know I am very privileged to have a father that is interested in my goals and wants to talk about them with me – not all kids have that and I am wondering how we can make that a reality within our schools as well, because it makes sense to me that we have teachers and administrators who use goals, practice goal-making to teach those to us at our schools.”
Like McIntyre, Rafferty also interviewed some of her teachers about how to make goals, why goals are important and most importantly, how to ensure goals are sustainable, practicable and achievable.
Then, Rafferty questioned the board members as to why GCSD doesn’t have school provided agendas and calendars like other nearby districts that provide a place for students to make daily, weekly, monthly, short-term and long-term personal, academic, extracurricular and future career goals.
The board listened to this but did not respond because the school board meeting is set up to hear from community members but not to engage with various members of the community.
GCSD Superintendent Ryan Kramer responded to the student board members and said, “one of the interesting pieces with goals coincide with ‘hope.’ And a piece that we came across working through (goals) with students was a quote from one of the superintendents that ‘hope’ is a more robust predictor of future success than the ACT, LSAT and a student’s GPA – let that sink in.”
Standards-based grading has been a topic of discussion and concern from various community members, from students, to parents, to teachers and administrators as well as other stakeholders and community members for GCSD over the summer. During a number of school board meetings and district round-table discussions, standards-based grading continues to be a countywide concern in terms of not giving students the tools they will need for future success.
One parent said, during the first round-table discussion with board members over the summer, the standards-based grading system “lacks ingenuity, passion, drive, focus and prevents our kids from being able to set goals for themselves and their future careers.” This parent told board members in attendance during the first round-table discussion that she pulled her students from the district because the standards-based grading system was “making my child lazy and doing only the minimally required to pass with an ‘A’ like grade.”
Community member Joshua Krueger spoke before the board about standards-based grading and questioned the board about “who is (standards-based grading) protecting? The education system? Or the students?” He also said the grading system is a “kick the can” attempt in passing the buck by not holding students accountable and to higher standards, of which he said, “all students are capable of achieving with motivation and support.”
Krueger told the board members and those in attendance he has made several attempts to address this concern of his and many other community members regarding standards-based grading at the district round-table discussions and by sending an email to each school board member back in August. He read, in part, his emails to the district board members asking them to look into reassessing the standards-based grading system, noting that since its implementation two-years ago, the grading system is “affecting our children’s lives and their futures. I’ve been advocating against this system for over a year now and I don’t think our children have the luxury of waiting any longer.”
“I’m officially asking that you request that the way the current standards-based grading system that is being used in Goshen County Schools is put up to the next board meeting for a vote to get rid of it or to make drastic changes to make it work,” Krueger explained. “In my opinion, we should go back to the old way (of grading) and stop experimenting with our children’s lives.”
He also pointed out to the board members that in a year’s time, and since the summer’s round-table discussions, there has been no agenda item specifically discussing or addressing the concern of standards-based grading. When he finished speaking to the board about his, and other community members’ concerns and grievances with standards-based grading, the board room filled with a booming round of applause.
When GCSD Board Chairman Zachary Miller asked members of the board if they had any items to add for consideration at future board meetings, GCSD Board Member Katherine Patrick suggested the board considers restricting public access to address concerns to items strictly on the current monthly agenda. Which would mean, current discussions and grievances from various community members, parents and guardians, students and district employees discussed all summer long would no longer be allowable during public comment times.
“I came here tonight prepared to make this statement, but might we consider making changes to our guidelines to adhere more strictly to what is stated on our monthly agenda,” Patrick requested of the board.
GCSD Board Member Justin Hurley asked board members to consider alternative meeting schedules, times and places of meetings as part of a concentrated effort for board members to get out to the other schools in the county to meet community members to address needs and concerns.
Miller responded, saying, “I feel like our agenda can be done differently to be more efficient – and so I was looking at other school districts that are both in the state and out of the state, many districts that don’t have this amazing meeting space, but they rotate where the board meeting is held. For example, next month, it might be held in LaGrange on a similar schedule,” although he questioned the legality of being able to move GCSD board meetings to such a schedule and said it is something the district can look into because it would be beneficial to have teachers and administrators from around the county be given the opportunity to attend board meetings. One way he said the board can achieve this goal is by rotating board meetings to various locations within the county and district.
In addressing community concerns, Miller also told community members in attendance he saw no need to routinely use roll-call voting at board meetings for items that are not considered to be overly sensationalized.
For several months, at several GCSD board meetings and all three round-table discussions with board members, community members from around the county have asked and pleaded with the district to resume roll-call voting for a number of reasons and concerns. Chief among those concerns is that if they are watching the school board meeting from home, the camera is not on board members who are voting, so residents do not know what their board members are voting for unless the Telegram details those votes in a subsequent story.
Bob Peterson, who is running for one of the three open board positions this fall, said, “I want to go back to roll-call voting again – I talked with a lot of people, and you’ve heard from many more on this topic – many of your constituents have no idea who is voting and who is not voting and there are concerns.”
One of those concerns Peterson has with the district is the bid awarded for the demolition of the Southeast Ag Building, contingent upon insurance acceptance; board members approved $144,000 for demolition and $478,100 for the purchase of a pre-engineered metal building package, both contingent upon insurance acceptance, for a total of $631,100 at a special board meeting on Aug. 2.
The recommendation for clarification regarding how much money would go toward demolition and how much would go toward buying the prefabricated building structure was asked by board member Saucedo.
After some discussion, GCSD business manager Marcy Cates explained to board members there would be future agenda items for the board to consider as it relates to cost in the reconstruction of the Southeast Schools ag building, however, another special school board meeting specifically for the new ag building is expected to take place in September. Cates also said it is possible that the district may not receive materials until as late as February 2023.
Board members also approved the editorial editions from its first reading during its July 12 school board meeting concerning what Kramer called a routine revision of the district’s elementary, middle and high school attendance and truancy policies to ensure each aligned with new state legislations.
After an amendment to breakdown the total price of $631,100, into two separate chunks: one for the demolition of the badly damaged Southeast Agriculture building and one for the purchase of a pre-engineered metal building package; board members Miller, Bullington, Saucedo, Hager, Hurley and Chaires voted to approve both appropriations of funding.
The Southeast ag shop and auto/welding building had caught on fire in the early morning hours on March 30, 2022. It was later determined to be spontaneous and due to an old, faulty electrical outlet. The fire itself did not disrupt the school day or school business; however, it did shift some classes for some students for the remainder of the year.
Peterson contends that state statute requires the board to consider three unopened bids to be presented to and opened before the public. He believes the board did not follow proper protocol in considering the bid for Southeast Schools’ ag building.
Kramer responded at the end of the board meeting during his superintendent’s report to the board and said, “one of the really important pieces of public forum is when there’s an accusation of impropriety against the district in relation to statutes or anything of that nature.”
“Those are very dangerous statements, because I can attest 100% that our duty, in regard to awarding the bill followed state statute – and was followed to the letter,” Kramer explained. “Our doors are always open if anybody would like more clarification – as always, I’ve represented this in the past, but we welcome questions beforehand and encourage board members to come in anytime.”
The Telegram reached out to the district following last week’s school board meeting to get information about when the bids were presented, how they were opened and the process the district takes when considering larger bids such as the Southeast Schools Ag Building bid.
GCSD Public Relations Director and Title IV Coordinator Holly Lara wrote, “Thank you for allowing me time to research your questions regarding the process of bids for district work.”
Lara provided the Telegram with two legal ads that ran on July 20 and 22 in the paper.
“Each of these states that bids will be publicly opened and read aloud and the date and location when that would happen,” Lara wrote. “In each of these cases, the architect, the owner’s rep, Ms. Cates and the bidder(s) were present – no one was denied entry.”
Per the district, the standard bid review process for GCSD is as follows: “the legal advertisement sets forth the parameters of the bid. The architect/engineer provides a recommendation. The following is disclosed in all advertisements for bids.”
“Consideration of bids: Per W.S. 21-3-110 (viii) the owner shall reserve the right to reject any and all bids and to waive irregularities and informalities in the bidding without further obligation and to accept any bid deemed in the best interest of Goshen County School District No. 1. The owner does not bind themselves in any way to accepting the low bid. It is the intent of the owner to consider both the dollar value of the base bid incorporating any combination of selected alternates, as well as the contractor’s qualifications in the determination of the successful bidder.”
Both legal notices read as following on July 20 and 22:
Advertisement for bid
Goshen County School District No. 1
Southeast School Agriculture Shop Demolition
Goshen County School District No. 1 is requesting bid proposals for demolition of a portion of the Southeast School Agriculture Shop at 1 Lacy Street, Yoder, Wyoming 82244. The project consists of demolition of existing fire damaged agriculture shop and classroom, as necessary for preparation for new construction. Bid documents will be available from Tobin & Associates, P.C. A pre-bid meeting, not mandatory, will be held at Southeast School Agriculture Shop located at 1 Lacy Street, Yoder, Wyoming 82244 at 2 p.m. on July 25, 2022. Bids will be accepted until July 28, 2022, 3 p.m. Mail or hand deliver bids to: Goshen County School District No. 1, Attn: Marcy Cates, Business Manager, 626 West 25th Avenue, Torrington, WY 82240. Further information and specifications may be obtained by emailing the design architect Tobin & Associates P.C., attention Keith Forbes at [email protected]
Notice is hereby given that the Board of Trustees, Goshen County School District No. 1, 626 West 25th Avenue, Torrington, Wyoming 82240, hereinafter referred to as “owner”, will receive sealed bid proposals for the Southeast School Agriculture Shop demolition and pre-engineered metal building structure, 1 Lacy Street, Yoder, Wyoming 82244.
The work includes, but is not limited to furnishing all labor, materials, services and equipment required for demolition of portions of the existing agriculture shop and classroom, damaged by fire and removal and termination of mechanical and electrical systems to remain.
Bids will be received as follows:
Bids will be received in paper format until 3 p.m., July 28, 2022 in the district’s office located at, 626 West 25th Avenue, Torrington, WY 82240, then publicly opened and read aloud.
Bids may not be modified, withdrawn or canceled for forty-five (45) days after the bid opening date.
A pre-bid conference will be held as follows:
Not mandatory, but encouraged, to be conducted by Goshen County School District No. 1 staff and the architects at 2 p.m., July 25, 2022 at Southeast School Agriculture Shop located at 1 Lacy Street, Yoder, Wyoming 82244.
Consideration of bids
Per W.S. 21-3-110 (viii) the owner shall reserve the right to reject any and all bids and to waive irregularities and informalities in the bidding without further obligation and to accept any bid deemed in the best interest of Goshen County School District No. 1. The owner does not bind themselves in any way to accepting the low bid.
It is the intent of the owner to consider both the dollar value of the Base Bid incorporating any combination of selected Alternates, as well as the contractor’s qualifications in the determination of the successful bidder.”
As more information and details become available the Telegram will report those updates and is in communication with the district to present this information to Goshen County Residents and interested parties.
Other concerns, of which the Telegram will report on in a future story, is mass voting of consent agenda items with regards to fiscal concerns and curriculum concerns as well as overall concerns about fiscal items and curriculum items approved by the board in recent board meetings, including last week’s meeting.