Nome School Board: Conger resigns, Arnold contract renewed, Korenek-Johnson contract approved
On Tuesday, April 11 the Nome Public Schools Board of Education met for an eventful regular session at the Nome Elementary School Library. During the meeting, a resignation letter was read from board member Keith Conger.
“I am writing to the community of Nome to say that I resigned from my position on the Nome School Board as of Monday, April 10,” Conger wrote. “Last week my daughter, as well as three other members of the Nome ski team, qualified for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in the Northwest Territories, Canada. This unique opportunity brings equally unique training and educational challenges.”
Conger said he plans to homeschool his daughter and his resignation from the school board is to “further insure [sic] that her education is the primary focus in our family.”
The board moved to accept Conger’s resignation and to immediately put out an announcement calling for letters of interest from the community. According to board policy, the board has 30 days to elect a new school board member to fill the vacant spot. Board members agreed to keep the application period open until close of business on April 25. Interested applicants will be asked to attend the April 25 board meeting, and the board will decide on the new appointment during a special session immediately following the regular meeting.
During the April 11 meeting, Superintendent Shawn Arnold met with the school board during an executive session for the superintendent evaluation. When the board resumed regular session, they approved Arnold’s renewed contract, to be extended to school year 2020.
Also on the agenda for the meeting was the approval of the administrator contract for Nome Elementary School Principal, Elizabeth Korenek-Johnson. Korenek-Johnson was selected by the principal hiring committee, and recommended to the board by Superintendent Arnold.
The board approved her contract unanimously.
While the action items last Tuesday night involved many anticipated decisions and other unanticipated decisions for leadership roles within the district, the board also had to carve out time to discuss the FY18 school budget during the meeting.
The fourth draft of the FY18 budget was presented to the board by Superintendent Arnold, who was in Juneau the previous week to meet with legislators to discuss the disproportionate representation of rural school districts versus road-system school districts in regards to the budget.
According to Superintendent Arnold, things in Juneau were looking fairly optimistic, with the chatter leaning more towards the budget being flat-funded for the year. Arnold said with flat funding, the district would not necessarily be gaining anything, but may not be losing anything either – or at least not as much as expected. “There are some glimmers of hope, and some things that can be very scary,” said Arnold of the budget.
As the school board would meet with the Nome Common Council the following day in a joint session, and nothing on the state budget level will be decided until mid-April at the earliest, the fate of Nome Public Schools budget was still hanging in the air after the April 11 meeting. The final draft should be presented to the board at their April 18 work session, where hopefully the state’s intentions will be clearer.
Also on the action items list was the approval of the Reduction in Force Plan, which would be enacted in the case of forced staff reductions due to a budget crisis. Arnold informed the board that any staff members that are on the potential chopping block would have to be notified by May 15 that their contracts might not be renewed.
In other business, the board approved a resolution in support of Alaska Native Language Immersion Programs, as well as approved their support for Immersion Dual Language Grants.
Students of the Month were recognized as Reese Bahnke from Anvil City Science Academy, Martin Kimoktoak from Nome-Beltz Junior High and Katherine Scott from Nome-Beltz Senior High. Teachers of the Month are Teriscovkya Smith and Rebekah Albertson.
Smith and Albertson presented to the board, along with Nome-Beltz Principal Jon Berkeley, about the decision to split NBHS graduation into two separate nights. Smith and Albertson read statements from high school students expressing their support for the separation: one night dedicated to the graduation ceremony only, and a separate night dedicated to scholarships.
The scholarship night will be a dessert banquet, honoring scholarship recipients, presenters and the foundations they represent. The scholarship banquet will be held on May 10, and the graduation ceremony will be the original date of May 25. Principal Berkeley announced that they are in the process of notifying all scholarship presenters about the program change.
The school board will reconvene for a work session on April 18, followed by a combined regular meeting and special session on April 25.