BY CARISSA SITKI
An opportunity for public comment was observed in the Altamont High School gym during the Friday, Feb. 19, Altamont Board of Education work weekend meeting. The meeting began at 3 p.m. with the comment section occurring at 5:30 p.m. Several people addressed the Board regarding Dr. David Martin’s withdraw from his contract. The comment section was well-attended, reaching its limit of 50 people in the gymnasium with overflow being sent to the cafeteria.
First to address the Board was Corletta Bowen and Rocky Lewis, Co-Presidents of the Altamont Education Association (AEA), who read a statement responding to an email that they received from Altamont Board President, Shelly Kuhns. “We, members of the teaching staff would like to address some of the concerns brought forth in the email from Mrs. Kuhns,” said Bowen, reading from the AEA’s statement, “Perhaps, Mrs. Kuhns received some disinformation from individuals in the community because we, as educators and Union members, have always maintained a decorum of professionalism and acceptance of all individuals within, and outside of, our district family.”
The letter stressed that Altamont teachers are accepting of all people, regardless of age, race/color, religion, sex, gender, or sexual orientation. “It is our goal and stance to foster a positive, nurturing, and safe learning environment for all,” Bowen read.
Finally, their letter asserts that neither the AEA, or its members, had a role in the superintendent search, interviews, or hiring and that they had no control over the community’s response to the hire of Martin.
Next to speak was Shane Frederking, who addressed the Board on behalf of the concerned citizens of Altamont who wish to work together for the betterment of the school system and community. “We are not here to address the specific concerns that brought us here, but to show our desire and support for what should be the best school district around.”
“The community cares and cares greatly about what lies ahead,” said Frederking, “We want to be the solution, not the problem that some may perceive.”
Frederking cites Board of Education Policies section 2:80, Board member oath and conduct, and section 8:10, Community relations set forth in the Board of Education guidelines. “This community is passionate and does expect character and image throughout the school system,” stated Frederking.
The statement Frederking read, asked the Board what they could do to involve the community more, moving forward. He mentioned that other districts have utilized committees and sub-committees in the superintendent search, interviewing, and hiring processes. The statement concluded by thanking the Board for the countless hours of work they put in for the Altamont District.
The School Board’s attorney, David Braun, then addressed the attendees and Board during the public comments. Braun stressed the importance of selecting a superintendent who will be a qualified, appropriate fit for the district.
Also during the meeting, the Board approved Shelly Kuhn’s resignation from the Board’s presidency. Secretary Alan Kollman read Shelly Kuhns’ letter of resignation, “It has been a great honor to be the first woman to hold this office in our district. These past four years, as president, have been a journey on which I will always look fondly.” Kuhns will remain on the Board as a member. Vice President Kerry Wolff was appointed by the Board as the new CUSD 10 Board President. Kuhns told the News Banner that the Board has been aware that she was going to be taking a step back from the presidency in her final two years on the Board. She has opened up a medical practice that has grown more than she expected over the past year. Given the timing, and recent events, Kuhns said that she wants the community to know that she has been planning to step back and is not “angry” or “quitting.”
Several other items were approved during the meeting. The Board approved the resignation of the newly appointed Superintendent, Dr. David Martin. Also approved, was both the return of all non-tenured certified staff for the grade school and high school for the next school year, and the fast-track tenure of Katrina Bauer because of her 10 plus years of experience outside of the Altamont District. The return of the extracurricular coaches for next year was also approved.
The Board discussed raising the Sport’s Official pay, but that item has been tabled until the March meeting when total cost estimates can be presented. ACHS Assistant Principal/Athletic Director and AGS Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Kris Biggs both relayed the importance of raising the pay so that they can continue to find officials for the district’s games.
ACHS Principal Jerry Tkachuk addressed the Board, during the Old Business section, with the District’s May 15, 2021 graduation planning. As of now, the district is moving forward with holding the event at the Effingham County Fair Grounds. Tkachuk also updated the Board on the summer credit recovery that will be offered to Altamont students and distance-learning students from other districts. He indicated that ACHS is planning to offer a one semester credit in U.S. History, General English, General Mathematics, and Algebra I. The courses would be offered two hours per day, two days per week, for five weeks. Classes would begin June 7 and end July 8.
Additionally, Maintenance Director Alan Whitt addressed the Board on the facilities priority list and reviewed a plan for the possible, free-of-charge replacement of the AGS gm bleachers this summer. This would come at a good time, according to Whitt, as the grade school colors are going to be changing to orange and black to match the high school.
Assistant Transportation Director, Mark Holland, provided the Board with information about the age and mileage of the district’s bus fleet and presented a five-year tentative plan to acquire a new district truck and buses.
Board Member Dale Laue gave the Board a financial update on district bonds that were recently refinanced, providing the district with savings of nearly one million dollars.
The Altamont Board of Education is scheduled to meet again on March 8 at 7 p.m.