School board approves improvement priorities, addresses cyberbullying
On Tuesday, November 14 the Nome Public Schools Board of Education met for a regular meeting in the Nome Elementary School Library. Topics of peak interest included the approval of legislative priorities for fiscal year 2018, the district’s start on a two-year accreditation journey with AdvancED and tackling cyberbulling issues at the schools.
Capital improvement priorities
Legislative priorities for FY18 were addressed and approved by the board. The three main priorities regarding capital improvement projects for the district include the Nome-Beltz school roof replacement, estimated at $2.2 million, Anvil City Science Academy’s restroom renovations at $435,000 and an upgrade of the Nome-Beltz Campus Electrical Service and Generator System, at $1.8 million.
Arnold explained that the priority projects were chosen because if they are left alone, they could cause more damage in the future. “If we don’t fix our roofs, if we don’t fix some of these areas, its just going to be more costly in the future,” said Arnold.
These three capital improvement projects have been submitted to the State of Alaska for funding. Every year, school districts around the state submit various improvement projects they would like to have funded, and then each year those projects continue to move up the state’s list in order of when they were submitted.
This year, the NBHS Roof Replacement project is number 17 on the list, placing it in the scope of projects that could be completed this year, depending on funding. Superintendent Arnold said that last year, Governor Bill Walker requested $30 million for capital improvement projects for school districts, and only $3.5 million were awarded. Arnold said he expects the governor to request around the same amount this year, and if enough funding is awarded, the roof replacement could happen.
District seeking accreditation with AdvancED
During his report, Superintendent Arnold explained the accreditation process with AdvancED that the district is beginning. Nome-Beltz High School has been accredited alone in the past, but now the district is seeking accreditation as a whole. Arnold explained that being an accredited district is like “the blue seal of approval” for school districts. Through a step-by-step process, the district will work to prove that they are committed to systematic, continuous improvement.
“There’s a seven-step process that we walk through during the two years and it’s from the start to the finish,” explained Arnold. “The first step with the application is what we’ve already done. We’re now working into step two, the readiness visit.”
During that step, Arnold explained that Tim Kline from AdvancED Anchorage would be visiting the district in the next couple of weeks. Kline will inspect how the district is functioning and determine if they are on the right track towards earning their accreditation.
Cyberbullying and social media
During the meeting, Board President Dr. Barb Amarok took a moment to thank Superintendent Arnold for his quick response to a report of cyberbullying from a concerned parent.
The incident occurred via the mobile application “After School,” and was quickly addressed by Nome-Beltz Principal Jon Berkeley in an announcement to parents and the community.
On November 9, Berkeley wrote, “I would like to make parents and families aware that there have been several cyberbullying incidents at Nome-Beltz Jr./Sr. High School once again. Students have been targeted by others online with an app called ‘After School’.”
“There are parental controls that can be set and it is always good practice to know what your child is doing online and on his/her phone,” continued Berkeley in the announcement, explaining that students also have the power to delete inappropriate posts via the app.
“Junior high and high school can be very exciting and positive, but social media sites can play a role in diminishing this experience. Adolescents and teenagers may not fully realize the impact that one’s words can have on another, so we are asking for your help in monitoring the apps the students use,” said Berkeley.
During the school board meeting, Arnold thanked Berkeley, Assistant Principal Lucas Frost and Technology Director Jacob Phillips for their help with the issue, and made the public aware of the hope to have a meeting regarding social media, as this is the second year that the district has dealt with this type of situation.
“One of the conversations that we’re kind of exploring, is having a parent meeting here in the coming weeks to talk about social media and just kind of what to look for,” said Arnold. “Two students having a spat on Facebook, or whatever they use, sometimes when they see each other in person the next day might become a blow-up, and that’s something that we want to try to prevent. We care about the kids, even if they’re out of school.”
The cyberbullying incidents that occurred during the 2016-2017 school year included one incident on the social media platform Twitter and two incidents on the “After School” mobile application.
Other board news
In other business, the board approved board policies 4030, Nondiscrimination in Employment, and 5040, Student Nutrition and Physical Activity, both in their second readings.
The last action item on the agenda for the meeting was the final payment for repairs made to the Nome Elementary School roof. The item was not approved. A motion was made and seconded, but failed to pass as it came to the board’s attention that the amount of the final payment was not correct. An amount of around $58,000 was presented as the final payment, while an original estimate for the repairs was closer to $124,000.
The motion was amended to approve the payments to date for the roof repairs, and revisit the approval of final payments later after all invoices have been processed.
During Tuesday’s meeting, students of the month were recognized for Anvil City Science Academy and Nome-Beltz Junior/Senior High School.
ACSA recognized Deacon Callahan as September Student of the Month and Addison Knudsen as October Student of the Month. NBHS recognized Tia Prentice as the Junior High Student of the Month and Kyle Reynolds as the Senior High Student of the Month.
Teacher of the Month was awarded to Kim Erikson of Nome Elementary School and Support Staff Person of the Month was awarded to NBHS Cook Elena Malova.
The board will reconvene for a work session on Tuesday, November 28 followed by their regular meeting on Tuesday, December 12.