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SPS board scheduled summer work session, increases substitute pay

SIDNEY – Sidney Public Schools (SPS) agreed to revisit the districts' teacher reimbursement program at a later time and reviewed a number of other policies, which included an increase to substitute base pay at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, June 12.

SPS Board President Michael Palmer, Vice-President Brenda Smith, Board Members Kevin Challburg, Brad Kennedy, Rusty Gulbranson and Kathy Nienhueser reviewed six district policies which need to be reviewed annually before the start of the next school year. One policy the district wants to discuss after doing some more research is the one regarding tuition reimbursement for teachers seeking higher education.

The topic came up as the board reviewed and revised district policy 4028, substitute pay. Ultimately, after a lengthy discussion the board agreed to increase SPS substitute pay. Short-term or daily substitutes pay was increased to $132 a day from $120 a day and long-term substitute pay increased from $136 a day to $148 a day starting in the 2023 to 2024 school year.

The last time the board increased substitute pay was on Aug. 9, 2021, when short-term sub pay was increased from $120 to $132 a day and long-term pay increased from $120 to $136 a day.

The board did look at 17 nearby and similarly-sized districts as to what they pay their subs from around the state to gauge what a fair and competitive base pay would be.

The district also scheduled its summer work session for July 17, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Administration Building.

Before reviewing the handful of policies required by statutory law to be reviewed annually, the board discussed several updates to the student handbooks.

The board spent a considerable amount of time discussing what proposed changes to the elementary, middle school and high school handbooks the board wished to change, amend or update. One of those updates included the use of personal electronic devices to include tablets, cell phones, smart devices – like watches, and computers/laptops. The minor change in the policies is to include all personal smart devices – whether cell phone, tablet or smart watches, students will be permitted to have them at school for parental safety concerns, however, they will have to remain in a locker or backpack and be turned off during school hours.

The board reviewed district policy 5018 – parental involvement in education practices. This policy dictates the district is to provide parents with access to district-approved textbooks and other curricular materials and tests used by the district.

Essentially, 5018 allows parents to inspect, as federally stipulated, their children's district-approved curriculum, textbooks and other written, visual or audio being used in their classrooms and building.

The policy also allows parents requesting permission to attend counseling sessions in which their child is involved.

The board also reviewed district policy 5057 Title I Parent and Family Engagement. Policy 5057 outlines how parents, school staff and students share responsibility for improved student academic achievement and the means by which the school and parents will build, and develop a partnership to help children achieve the state's high standards. The board made no changes to this policy.

District policy 5045, student fees, was reviewed. The board simply reviewed the policy due to passing the new handbooks or each building which includes an increase in fees. The board agreed to update the fees schedule policy at a later time so it could be within compliance to review the current policy.

Some of the fee changes include:

Pre kindergarten tuition increased from $200 per month to $300 per month;

Reduced lunch increased from $100 to $150;

Free lunch increased from $50 to $75; and Head Start fees remained the same.

Although the board agreed it could do more to address bullying and has plans to do so at a later time, the board simply renewed District Policy 5054 relating to the districts bullying regulations.

The final policy the board reviewed was 5001 Compulsory Attendance and Excessive Absenteeism. The board also agreed this policy could also be expanded upon more in the near future, however, due to statutory requirement to review annually, they board simply reviewed it.

The board also accepted the resignation of fourth grade teacher Karah Babst. In her letter to the superintendent and board, Babst said, "I am writing to formally resign from my position as a fourth-grade teacher at North Elementary, effective June 7, 2023."

Adding, "It is with careful consideration and putting the needs of my family first, that I have decided to take a different teaching position in a different school. This will allow me to be more fully involved with my own children as they finish out their high school years."

Babst also stated, "Working as a fourth-grade teacher in Sidney Public Schools has been a rewarding experience. I am grateful for the opportunities and support I have received during my time here. It has been an honor to contribute to the education and growth of the students, and I am thankful for the collaborative environment among the educators."

Before hearing from the fellow board members regarding some light reports, the principals' reports and superintendent report, the board discussed the adoption of a standards statute.

Nebraska Revised Statute 79-760.01 requires the Nebraska State Board of Education (NSBE) to "adopt measurable academic content standards for at least the grade levels required for statewide assessment." Those standards must cover reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies.

A content area standards revision timeline has been developed and includes a tentative timeline for review. More information regarding this will come at a later time.

In his last report as Superintendent, Ehler reported the accumulative district enrollment numbers, which remained largely unchanged, but the district saw a net gain of eighth students this last school year.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be July 11, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Central Administration.


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