GCSD board round table meetings productive


GOSHEN COUNTY – The Goshen County School District board (GCSD) and Superintendent Ryan Kramer hosted its first two of three round table meetings Monday night in Yoder at Southeast Schools and Wednesday night at Trail Elementary in Torrington; both produced much dialogue on important school issues and were productive as board members and community members worked together in generating solutions. During its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the board also approved a number of teacher contracts, but still has many positions left to fill.

GCSD Board members in attendance Monday included: Board Vice-Chair Michael Sussex, Board Clerk Kerry Bullington, Board Treasurer Carlos Saucedo, Katherine Patrick, Sarah Chaires and Justin Hurley. Approximately 10 other various community members were in attendance, including school administrators, teachers, principals, parents, students, homeschooling families and other interested community members.

The round-table discussion was at the discretion and direction of Kramer so that community members could have a more intimate conversation and meaningful exchange of ideas with school board members in an effort to allow the community’s concerns, ideas and grievances to be heard. Kramer called it an equitable solution to meet both the school district and community needs to ensure a thriving educational environment for all students and families the district serves.

The idea of the round-table meetings per Kramer was to engage in productive dialogue between board members and community members while providing solutions to grievances, policy issues and district concerns. 

Two questions Kramer asked all attendees to address in the two groups were: What can the district do better, be specific and what are things the district should continue to do, be specific.

After Kramer instructed all attendees of how he envisioned the discussion to go in the groups consisting half of various community members and half board members, he directed each group to designate a note taker and gave each group a large presentation notepad to write down ideas, solutions and grievances.

As the two groups got underway in deep discussions in Yoder on Monday night, several overwhelming themes emerged.

Those concerns, ideas and grievances include:

Expanding community policing programs outside of Torrington into all schools in the county, such as adding additional school resource officers (SRO’s) via grants similar to the one Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson obtained for the city, one community member mentioned bringing the D.A.R.E. program to all GCSD schools;

Arming teachers by opting into Wyoming HB0194, or W.S. 21-3-132, and what additional policies the district could stipulate in addition to the state minimum requirements;

Standards-based grading policy vs the traditional grading policies, including empowering teachers and administrators to pass or fail students as staff moves away from a relaxed attendance policy due to COVID-19;

Better, quicker, more detailed and equitable communication from the district, schools and board to that of parents/guardians, students and community members via a number of improved methods like social media, individual school websites, specialized community oriented public forums or other non-traditional means of communication;

Robust curriculum and academics;

The newly adopted and revised attendance and truancy policies;

Emotional and social well-being of K-12 youth in GCSD following the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s different now in relation to how the district and schools can help parents address lingering concerns as it relates to academics, attendance, sports participation, extracurricular activities, social activities and/or school participation;

Masterization of content instead of memorization as a concern for some parents, including bringing in apprenticeships as a form of credit recovery efforts for older students as the district seeks more ways to adapt to student needs and identify those needs early;

Testing retake and make-up policies as it relates to student motivation to do well on testing, especially district and standardized testing;

How to equitably address the teacher shortage with higher quality education expectations of parents and community members, including looking at mentorship programs and pilot programs;

Student-led conferences to drive motivation and future career success vs doing bare minimum to pass.

Several times Kramer sat down with each group and explained where the district stood on each topic and how the district could go about addressing the concerns, challenges, grievances and ideas presented by both community members and board members.

In the second round-table discussion on Wednesday at Trail Elementary in Torrington, GCSD Board Chairman Zachary Miller, Board Clerk Kerry Bullington, Board Treasurer Carlos Saucedo, Matthew Cushman, Dylan Hager, Katherine Patrick, Justin Hurley and Sarah Chaires were in attendance along with Kramer and roughly 45 attendees made up of homeschooling parents, parents and guardians, students, faculty and staff, principles and other school administrators as well as members of the greater community.

There were three Torrington High School students present who voiced several concerns, mostly centered around better communication between the school and students as well as better activities students would engage in. One such suggestion included classical movie-drive ins and lock-in’s at the schools. One of the 2022-2023 senior students explained to a board member, faculty member and parent at the table she sat at, that she loves hearing her parents speak about such fun activities and wanted to share the experience with her friends before she set off for college next year.

Another concern from another senior present was an issue of favoritism from some staff members and how to address that from a student perspective. As directed by Kramer, this student did not specifically name staff members, but said in the general sense, it can be frustrating to observe such an occurrence and was at a loss on how to effectively communicate with other school administrators that this is a concern of hers and other students.

An overwhelming common theme in the second meeting among many of the breakout groups included “nonchalant” and “laxadazel” communication between the board to the community and parents; between the district to the community and parents; between the schools to the students, community and parents and between the activities department and the students, community and parents. Some productive suggestions offered included: ensuring a weekly roll-call order of events made it to the local newspaper and radio stations, weekly direct flyers sent home, weekly text message blasts, weekly email blasts, weekly Facebook and other social media push notifications, postings around town in public forums and creating a public forum for the district and schools to better communicate and inform students, parents and guardians, and community members.

A significant portion of discussion for several groups centered around the lack of communication in regards to extracurricular activities and special events hosted by the district and schools. One of the senior students present went as far to say these sorts of communications should be “more inviting” and she would like to see more “school spirit” activity awareness style in regards to such activities and in general.

Other topics discussed among the groups included: the overlapping of FFA and sports and/or high/middle school activities in school sponsored events; master calendars, summer school activities outside of academics and more summer school courses offered; grading policies; teacher planning and planning changes; issues with Powerschool; enrollment being up; roll-call votes at board meetings; standards-based grading and testing as well as the poor implementation of it done differently by teachers in the district; retention of qualified teachers; better communication about the overall direction of the district; accountability and trust between teachers, the district, administration with students and parents; showing daily personal interest in the lives and welfare of students and student body population, building a personal relationship with all students on campus; and building back a better sense of community after a “rough” couple of years.

Kramer said it is his goal to evaluate what these round-table sessions have in common to bring to the board and address in public work sessions, but also to see if future round-table sessions are needed sooner, rather than later. He also noted the round-table sessions so far have been well-received by members of the community and he would like to see if the district and board can find equitable solutions to address as many issues, concerns and ideas as possible to what community members had to say.

The Telegram was unable to attend the third and final GCSD round-table meeting on Thursday due to prior commitments to cover town council meetings in other parts of the county.

At its regularly scheduled monthly board meeting on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved the resignation of Torrington Middle School (TMS) science teacher Joe Wilson. As part of an addendum to the board agenda, the board then unanimously approved the hiring of Kelcy Wiegel for the open TMS science teacher position.

GCSD board members also unanimously approved a teaching contract for Sabrina Juma as the agricultural education teacher for grades 7-12 at Torrington High School (THS) and Lingle-Ft. Laramie Middle/High School.

Lastly, on the heels of approving an administrator contract for LaGrange Elementary teacher, Matt Daily, to be the on-campus part time principal, at its special board meeting on August 2, the board unanimously approved rehiring former GCSD educator Tim Eisenbarth as the elementary teacher one day a week. This rehire fulfilled the 20% requirement that would allow Daily to perform his administrative duties as principal in the 2022-2023 school year.

Kramer mentioned to those in attendance and to board members the district has a number of positions still available that need to be filled for the 2022-2023 school year and are actively seeking to fill the more “tough to fill” positions.

The district is still seeking two individuals to fill bus aide positions for AM and PM duties, which includes special needs students and has a minimum requirement of four hours a day.

In addition to the two open bus aide positions, GCSD is also seeking to fill the following 22 positions; 13 open positions involve various sports positions and one set tech position. 

For Lingle-Ft. Laramie Middle/High School (K-12):

Middle school head boys basketball coach;

Middle school assistant boys basketball coach;

Middle school assistant football coach;

Middle school assistant volleyball coach;

Full-time custodian.

For Torrington High School:

Assistant boys basketball coach;

Head cross country coach;

Assistant indoor track coach;

Assistant track coach;

Family and consumer science teacher.

For Torrington Middle School:

Assistant girls basketball coach;

Assistant football coach;

Head 8th grade boys basketball coach;

Assistant volleyball coach;

Assistant track coach;

Set tech director;

Half-time custodian.

For Southeast Schools:

Full-time cook;

Elementary interventional paraprofessional.

For Trail Elementary:

Library media clerk;

Interim Dean of Students (requires eligibility for administrator certification).

For Platte River School:

Special education paraprofessional with transportation aide duties.

And to be shared with Lingle-Ft. Laramie schools, Southeast Schools and Torrington High School, the district’s office of special services, is seeking to hire a qualified speech language pathologist.

GCSD Elementary Summer School Principal Tyler Floerchinger and GCSD Middle/High School Summer School Principal Jacob Martin presented the board with end of summer school reports that were promising and reported a significant gain in academic achievement over the summer. Although Martin did not know exactly how many credits were recovered in the summer session, he knew there were enough to help several students get back on track to being able to graduate on time. He even noted that motivating a few with AJ’s Soda and even participation in an arts course in the fall and spring semesters was enough to motivate some students to get the required summer school course work done to get back on track. Floerchinger said it was one of the best summer school sessions he has been involved in.

Members of the board spent some time discussing item number 3.C., considering approval of continuing a pilot contract with Phoenix, Ariz.-based, Everybody Matters social/emotional learning training for TMS.

According to GCSD Director of Curriculum and District Federal Programs Director Jeffry Fuller, Everybody Matters is a pilot program paid for with an ESSER-II SEL grant and the contract is for two years for the cost of $55,800.

According to Fuller, a certified and trained individual from Everybody Matters would travel from Phoenix, Ariz., to Torrington, Wyo., to work closely with children who are demonstrating a social and/or emotional need that is obstructing their ability to be academically successful. Although there is a focus on children demonstrating social and/or emotional needs, Everybody Matters individuals would also keep data for the district and also work with school counselors, according to Fuller.

“This program is designed to be piloted this spring to make adjustments for this proven model so it aligns with our community’s culture,” Fuller added. “I would be happy to provide some data we have from this last school year.”

In material presented to board members, Fuller wrote, “this is an unprecedented time in that, worldwide, children have been forced to social distance during the developmental stages in which they are traditionally honing their social and interpersonal skills and learning to trust and get along with others.”

“As the world is now ‘opening up’ these children are called upon to re-engage with peers and are experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression and stress due to having been socially isolated,” Fuller stated.

“In our rural area, there is limited access to mental health support for our students and staff with a small number of experienced practitioners, long wait lists, and many parents who simply can’t afford services for their children,” Fuller wrote in his statement of need to the board. “In partnering with Everybody Matters, a program with documented success in improving social, emotional outcomes for students, we intend to pilot the ‘Skills of Success’ program – to align it with our community’s specific social/cultural needs, develop course correction over the summer break based on data collected and then provide the improved programming in a more integrated fashion.”

The Telegram is requesting additional information, data and integration of this pilot program in GCSD from the district; a future story will detail the Everybody Matters ‘Skills of Success’ program.

Board members unanimously voted to approve the consideration to pay for the program and implement it at TMS.

Board members also unanimously voted to approve item D.1, recommended actions on the consent agenda, ‘a’ through ‘k’ which consisted of:

Approving the July 12 meeting regular meeting minutes;

Approving the monthly district bills; naming Jeffry Fuller as the District Federal Programs Director in addition to his current position as director of curriculum;

Approving a contracting with Heartland Payment Systems for district food service point of sale systems;

Approving a purchase exceeding $5,000 for the purchase of district cyber insurance coverage for the upcoming school year;

Approving a contract for six new musical instruments from Hill Music in Casper totalling $5,402.68 out of the District General Fund; 

Approving another $11,040 from ESSER II funds for Edmentum virtual curriculum for K-12 students;

Approving the purchase of $13,600 in new home and away uniforms for both the girls and boys basketball teams at THS, as well as activity fund banner sponsors for both girls and boys basketball.

In the August Superintendent’s report, Kramer said he is hesitant to report current enrollment numbers until after the first day of school only because there is a possibility some students may have moved out of the area. However, Kramer said he is optimistic because the incoming kindergarten class, which finalized its enrollment the day prior, was up 20 students from last year, so he says enrollment for the 2022-2023 is “optimistic” and “encouraging”.

“I can be – so we can be, fairly confident enrollment is up again,” Kramer told members of the board and attendees. The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.

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