SCHOOL NEWS: French being phased out; retirement incentives; personnel changes

High school to phase out French program

When Brown County High School’s French teacher decided not to return next school year, administrators took that opportunity to discontinue the program to save money.

On June 1, Brown County school board members approved Hannah Newlin’s resignation and the decision to not fill the job.

That means French I will not be offered next school year, and the program will be phased out.

During the meeting, parent Robyn Bowman shared a statement from a French I student who was concerned about not being able to continue if a teacher wasn’t hired.

Superintendent Laura Hammack said the French program will continue for students enrolled in French II, III and IV next school year, but new students won’t be enrolled in French I.

Certified French teacher Allison Crenshaw will teach French III and IV in one class period. She also will be teaching art and technology at Brown County Intermediate School.

Students in French II will have the option to take an online course, but a licensed teacher who filled in for Newlin while she was on maternity leave will lead that class.

The high school is working with eight incoming freshmen who had signed up for French I next school year to place them in Spanish I, Hammack said in follow-up email.

“It’s very much been on our hearts and our mind. We were looking at class sizes of six, seven and nine. We can’t sustain that as a full-time position,” Hammack said.

She said since the high school offers a variety electives from music to theater to art to engineering that students are spread out among the options equaling smaller class sizes in classes like French.

“As we’re looking at the potential for in 10 years this high school being 25 percent lower in population. … These are just major decisions we are going to have to make,” she said.

Brown County Schools leaders have been working to trim at least $1 million from the district’s budget in the face of declining enrollment and tuition support from the state. About $960,000 in projected savings has been identified, much of it through not filling open jobs or eliminating some part-time ones.

Teacher asks board to increase retirement incentives

The school board might get more takers if it raises the amount it’s willing to offer teachers to retire.

That’s an idea that Sprunica Elementary teacher Barbara Young put before the school board June 1.

The district recently offered a $10,000 retirement incentive to several 10 teachers. Young asked the board to consider offering them $20,000 instead. She said to her knowledge, the six-teacher minimum had not been met by the deadline, which was June 2.

“It takes a lot of preparation, years of emotional preparation to tear yourself away from these children. It’s like cutting off your arm — at least for me — and I think people need time,” Young said.

Donna Duff, who retired at the end of this school year, said the district could save money overall if it’s able to shed a few $65,000-a-year salaries, even with offering a higher incentive.

“The comments I’ve heard, I know there are people who want to go, but they’ve checked the surrounding counties and what they offer, and the first comment was, ‘They’re offering more; do you not think we’re worthy?'” Duff said.

No decision was made increase the incentive amounts or extend the acceptance deadline.

President Stephanie Kritzer said the board is open to new ideas. “I think this would be a good time to give us a little time to talk about it and crunch the numbers,” she said.

School board clears up treasurer salary rumor

A local man approached the school board June 1 to clear up a rumor about the salary of the school district’s new treasurer.

John Kennard asked if it was true that the board offered new corporation treasurer Julia Smith an additional $10,000 on her salary so that she could pay for her health insurance.

The board had approved Smith’s appointment as district treasurer with a $65,000 salary earlier in the meeting. At their May 18 meeting, the board approved Smith’s appointment, but the salary was approved at $56,500.

Kritzer said the job responsibilities changed, and paying Smith more than was originally advertised would still save the district about $2,000 versus hiring a private company to do that other work.

Hammack said the new salary is $2,000 less than what former treasurer Susie Owens was making before she retired.

Hammack said even with the higher salary, BCS is paying less than other school districts do for the same job.

School board approves personnel changes, donations

The Brown County School Board of Trustees approved the following June 1:

  • The use of Brown County School buses by the BETA Teen Center for summer field trips June 12, 19 and 26.
  • A $1,000 donation from School Grants for Healthy Kids to Brown County Intermediate School. It will by ADA-accessible scooters that will be used in gym class, Superintendent Laura Hammack said.
  • The extended school year program for this summer. A small number of students qualify due to significant disabilities, and other students will receive extended school year services under a summer school program model, which will allow the district to receive reimbursement for that instruction.
  • A modified Brown County Career Resource Center budget for 2017. It reflects how the additional referendum money will be spent, which the CRC will receive for one year only.
  • Separating Brown County High School head track and field coach Rob Abraham at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. This was not a termination.
  • Separating BCHS freshman volleyball coach Margo Seastrom, effective immediately. This was not a termination.
  • Separating BCHS French teacher Hannah Newlin at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. This was not a termination. This job will not be filled.
  • Separating National History Day adviser Justin Schwenk, effective immediately. This was not a termination.
  • Separating Helmsburg Elementary School paraprofessional Jonathon Sindlinger, effective May 26. This job was eliminated due to budget cuts.
  • Separating BCIS paraprofessional Jennifer Sanders, effective May 26. This job was eliminated due to budget cuts.
  • Separating BCIS paraprofessional Kristi Roush, effective May 26. This job was eliminated due to budget cuts.
  • Appointing BCS corporation treasurer Julia Smith, $65,500 per year (corrected from previous report by district).
  • Transferring BCS transporation administrative assistant Lenora Mathena to general education bus driver.
  • Transferring Sprunica Elementary School second-shift custodian Donna Griffith to Van Buren Elementary School second-shift custodian, effective May 30. She is a replacement for Mary Boicourt.
  • Transferring Sprunica Title I teacher Brenda Krieger to Van Buren science teacher.