BY SHELBY NIEHAUS
The Altamont Board of Education approved three new employees, one new volunteer coach, and a retroactive contract for support staff at their July 9 meeting, the first in Dr. Steve Mayerhofer’s tenure as Unit 10 superintendent.
Board members voted unanimously to hire Lauren Witheim as junior high math teacher, Brian Horath as custodian, and Rodney Redfern as junior high school physical education teacher, eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and junior high boy’s track coach. They also moved to accept Lindsay VanBlaricum as a volunteer assistant junior high softball coach, again in a unanimous vote.
Two resignations, those of current junior high math teacher Casey Bowman and teacher’s aide Heather Began, were accepted as well. One other staff matter was tabled until August.
Additionally, the board approved a proposed contract for AESPA members, putting to rest a year-long debate between the board and school support staff and paraprofessionals. Support staff will see yearly two or three percent increases in pay (depending on their job title) rather than being paid on a pay scale. The newly-approved contract will be in effect until the year 2020, including retropayment covering the 2017-2018 school year.
The board also discussed a revision of the district-supplied cell phone policy. Chair Shelly Kuhns made an argument for the school psychologist, who makes and receives more calls and travels more frequently than many other staff members. Grade school principal Doug Hill added that the school psychologist may need to be available to students around the clock, on weekends, and over holidays due to the nature of her work. While many board members agreed that the psychologist would benefit from a school-supplied or subsidized phone, the matter was ultimately tabled.
Revitalization efforts for the grade school playground and kitchen were also discussed. No final quotes were given and no decisions were proposed for the time being, though both matters were tentatively placed on the August agenda. Mayerhofer announced rough estimates for the playground: $5,200 for concrete and drainage work and $17,000 for the fall protection service.
This meeting was Mayerhofer’s first as acting superintendent. He spoke briefly about his hopes for the coming school year and future board meetings, particularly his interest in learning about the students, staff, and community in Altamont. Mayerhofer plans to meet informally with grade school and high school staff members several times throughout the summer and intends to meet with administrative staff and senior teachers to create professional learning teams for educator growth.
Another of Mayerhofer’s early efforts will be surveys given at registration. These surveys will be for parents, students, and staff members, and will be available in paper and digital formats at registration on August 8 and 9. According to Mayerhofer, student volunteers will also be on hand to help community members fill out these surveys. An online version of the survey will also be available for those who cannot appear at registration in person.
Mayerhofer also stressed positivity and community in board meetings and administrative matters. “It is important… to bring in kids and staff… and to celebrate,” he said of future board meetings.
Due to an early state fair, the next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for August 6.