School board welcomes new trustee

New UCSD No. 1 School Board trustee David Peterson is sworn in by school district attorney Geoff Phillips at the Oct. 1 board meeting. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — New trustee David Peterson was sworn in as the first order of business at the Oct. 1 meeting of the Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees. Peterson, who ran for election to the board in 2018 but lost a seat to Cassie Torres by a single vote, fills the seat vacated by Tammy Walker, who resigned from the board in September. 

Superintendent Ryan Thomas shared some good news on district schools’ accountability scores from the 2018-19 school year, which were recently released in the Wyoming 2018-19 School Performance Report. Based on Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) standards, three local schools are partially meeting expectations, four are meeting expectations and one — Horizon High School (HHS)— is exceeding expectations. 

This is an improvement from 2017-18, when two schools — Aspen Elementary and Evanston High School — were not meeting expectations. Both schools are now partially meeting expectations. 

Results are based on WY-TOPP assessments taken by students in the spring of this year. Schools are assessed on student achievement, based on average WY-TOPP scores, along with measures of growth and equity. Growth is based on student score improvement over time, while equity is a measure of growth of students in the bottom 25th percentile when compared to students throughout the state. Schools are also assessed on English language proficiency (ELP) for English-language learners. 

Both EHS and HHS are also measured on different criteria, including graduation rates and post-secondary readiness, among other measures. Schools are rated as below, meeting or exceeding expectations. 

Along with Aspen and EHS, Clark Elementary is also partially meeting expectations on the most recent report. Aspen is meeting expectations on achievement and exceeding them on ELP, but not meeting on growth and equity. Clark is meeting expectations on achievement, equity and ELP, but not meeting them on growth. 

North Elementary is meeting expectations on all WAEA measures, as is Uinta Meadows Elementary. Davis Middle School and Evanston Middle School are meeting expectations on all measures except ELP, which is below target at both schools. 

Evanston High School is meeting expectations on growth, but not on equity, achievement or ELP. Horizon High School has slightly different measures as an alternative school but is meeting expectations on growth and exceeding them on achievement. 

Thomas said he is very pleased with the results, especially since the scores at the schools only partially meeting expectations are “very, very close” to meeting them. Thomas said he believes the new schedule at EHS will help because it allows for common planning time for teachers. “We believe they’ll make big strides now,” he said. 

During school reports, both DMS Principal Chris Brown and UME Principal Jerrod Dastrup spoke about the work the district is doing on social and emotional components of student education. Brown said DMS staff are conducting need assessments on every student and will then organize groups for weekly meetings to address those needs. “We don’t want to just be reacting to students with high-impact behaviors,” said Brown. “We want to be proactive.” 

Dastrup said UME has put a new social and emotional support program in place, through which all students are receiving a series of about 25 “Second Step” Social and Emotional Learning lessons throughout the school year. The school also has a new support center with dedicated staff to help kids in need of extensive behavioral supports. “We talk about attendance being a goal every year,” said Dastrup, “but if they’re there and they aren’t learning because of behaviors, that’s a challenge.” 

Trustee Christa Barker asked if other schools were adopting similar programs. Thomas said all schools are focusing on social and emotional support, but Dastrup had gone to administration because of the large student population at the school. Uinta Meadows has nearly 500 students, while other elementary schools have 200-300. The district was able to budget for a full-time support center teacher to address the need with behavioral problems in a school of UME’s size. 

Thomas said the steps taken at UME can provide a model for other schools to follow if needed. 

The board also discussed the district procurement policy, or the procedures followed when making purchases. Current practice is that any purchase over $10,000 must be specifically approved by the board through multiple meetings, first as a discussion item and then as an action item for approval. 

Chief financial officer John Williams explained the various legal requirements depending on whether the funds being utilized are federal or state monies. Different expenditure amounts have different requirements that may include notifying the federal government of large purchases, going through a formal bidding announcement and process, ensuring a minimum number of interviews, newspaper publication of requests for proposals and more. 

Williams said purchases less than $10,000, or “micro” purchases, are considered small purchases that do not require specific board approval other than through the regular budget process. Purchases over $25,000 fall under specific legal requirements and approval processes. For purchases between $10,000 and $25,000 the board has discretion as to whether trustees want to continue current procedures and vote on any purchase over $10,000, or whether they would like to increase that threshold. 

Trustees Kay Fackrell and Dave Bennett indicated they would like to increase that threshold and only vote on purchases over $25,000. Trustee Cassie Torres said she would prefer purchases over $10,000 but less than $25,000 be added to the consent agenda, which is currently used to approve meeting minutes and bill payments, so the purchases are listed for the public. 

Board chair Jami Brackin said she too would prefer those purchases be on the consent agenda for purposes of transparency. “We as a board need to be accountable to the taxpayers,” said Brackin, “but I don’t see the need to have it as a specific action item.” Thomas also agreed and said, “I still think it’s important the board puts their stamp on it.” 

The policy change to put purchases between $10,000 and $25,000 on the consent agenda when they occur will be an action item for approval on an upcoming agenda. 

The board will next convene for the regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

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