By Mike Bowman, Fremont County School District 1 Superintendent
(Lander) – Superintendent of Schools Mike Bowman reported to the Fremont County School District #1 Board of Trustees that the district’s health insurance carrier, Wyoming Educators’ Benefit Trust (WEBT), had provided information indicating that the rates would only be increased by 3% for next year. The district had factored in a 10% renewal rate in projecting next year’s budget. Superintendent Bowman said, “With the other savings that we have achieved in reducing expenditures, the renewal coming in at $245,000 less than we expected allows us to hit the target that we had set in order to balance the budget for next year, assuming we don’t get any surprises.” He went on to add that the target that was achieved will allow the Trustees to consider allowing employees step-increases on the salary schedule.
Dr. Bowman provided the Trustees with a preliminary staffing report for the 2013-14 school year. At the elementary-level, the number of sections will be reduced from 35 to 32 in grades K-3 with the move to the new Gannett Peak Elementary School. In addition, moving from two schools to one school and from 35 sections to 32 sections will allow the reduction of a library position and a music position. There will be two art, two music, and two PE teachers to serve the elementary schools, and there will be a library aide to assist in the Gannett Peak library. The current Lander Middle School assistant principal will also serve as half-time principal at Pathfinder and half-time assistant principal at the middle school. At Pathfinder, in addition to the principal’s position being reduced to half-time, the math position will be reduced to half-time, also. Through attrition, several positions are being reduced at Lander Valley High School to bring it closer to 21 students to one teacher ratio, which is how the state’s funding model generates revenue at the high school level. Reductions of staff will occur in physical education/health, English, math, art, and music. The reductions in English and math will result in class size averages to 20.2 and 20.7, respectively. A quarter of a staffing unit will be reduced in art leaving two full-time teachers, which is how the school had been staffed for many years prior to 2012-13. The level of staffing in music reverts to what it had been in 2011-12.
At the March 1 Board meeting, questions had been raised about the possibility of moving Baldwin Creek Elementary School to the former Starrett facility rather than having Pathfinder and the administration office being moved there. Dr. Bowman recommended that the decision on the use of the Starrett facility be postponed until the task force studying alternative high school education makes its recommendation to the Board next fall regarding the program and location for Pathfinder. The Board concurred with the recommendation. In the meantime, Pathfinder will move to North for 2013-14, and the administration office will remain in its current location.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Kirk Schmidt, reported to the Board on two laws passed by the Wyoming legislature that will have an impact on the school district. The first is a law that provides a one-time retention bonus to personnel in all state agencies, including school districts. If an employee does not receive a pay increase, the state will provide a 1% bonus to be provided in the October paycheck. If the employee receives a pay increase greater than or equal to 1%, then the employee will receive a 0.4% bonus. The details of implementation of the law are still being determined at the state-level. The other law that will affect the school district provides for an increase in retirement system contributions. The law increases the employee contribution by 0.5% next year, with half of that being reimbursed to the district by the state; the district’s contribution increases to 0.5% the following year. Details of implementation of this law are still being developed at the state-level.
Other items from last night’s Board meeting included:
- Recognized Millie Abernathy, first grade teacher at North Elementary, as the FCSD#1 American Legion Teacher of the Year.
- Recognized the Lander Middle School and Lander Valley High School math teams. At the county competition, the LMS 7th grade team took places 1st through 5th and 7th, and 8th graders finished 1st through 4th and 6th and 7th. The LVHS team captured first in both the A Division (11th and 12th graders) and the B Division (9th and 10th graders). Both teams swept the top three places.
- Heard a report that several people not associated with FCSD#1 had commended LMS teachers supervising students at various competitions recently due to the excellent behavior of the students.
- Heard a commendation from Dr. Bowman to Special Services Director Ken Nielsen and Special Services personnel for receiving a positive report from the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) team that recently reviewed district special education practices.
- Heard that the WDE has determined that the district’s K-3 student to teacher ratio met the state requirement of 16:1 and was actually 15.1:1.
- Heard that the first Safety & Security Committee meeting had gone very well and that a tabletop exercise is scheduled for early June to involve school district personnel and emergency first responders in our community.
- Heard Trustee Teresa Nirider, who serves as a member of the CWC Board of Cooperative Higher Education Services (BOCHES), say that Lander Valley High School has far more students enrolled in CWC concurrent enrollment classes (those offered at LVHS for both high school and CWC credit) than any other high school in the county. There are 173 students taking an average of three concurrent enrollment classes each at the high school.