Board of Education Recap: School Board Recognition Month, Flex Time, Last Meeting for Dan Stephens

On Monday evening, the Lowell Area Schools Board of Education met for the first time in 2023, and with some new faces. It was the first meeting for board members Jen Dougherty and Jared Blough, who were elected in November. The meeting started out with Dougherty, Blough and incumbent Pat Nugent being sworn in and taking the oath of office for the board.

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School Board Recognition Month

In acknowledgment of January being School Board Recognition Month, Superintendent Nate Fowler spoke about the dedication and hard work of Lowell’s board. He said that the main goal of any school board is to serve the school district but that Lowell’s Board of Education goes above and beyond that goal. Fowler expressed his gratitude and said that he looked forward to working with the new board in the coming year. The audience gave a round of applause to recognize the board’s service to the district.

Flex Time

Lowell High School principal Steve Gough was in attendance to speak about a new pilot program at the high school called Flex Time. Gough said that the program came out of the need to answer two important questions:

  1. How can educators guarantee that all students get support to achieve excellence in academics, the arts, and/or athletics?
  2. How can the school guarantee that all students are able to participate in the extended school culture (things like clubs and activities)?

Gough said that some students aren’t able to come in after school for extra help and mentoring due to various after school activities or because of transportation issues. Flex Time is thirty minutes every Tuesday and Thursday during the school day in which students can choose from different ways to spend their time. Or a teacher can recommend a student for a particular session if they see that they need help. Gough said that the program is unique because attendance is based on student need rather than a class roster, and teachers may have different students with them each week depending on that need.

The sessions for students include intervention and extra help, extension for students that may need a challenge, general support, and enrichment (things like meeting with college reps or having adults come speak to students about their careers). There are also sessions that would always be available for students to choose, such as homework hall, time at the library and a test center where students could go to make up a missed test in a quiet setting. While implementing the particular sessions, LAS staff took into consideration the following questions:

  • What do we expect students to learn?
  • How will we know they’re learning?
  • How do we respond when a student isn’t learning or needs assistance?
  • How do we respond when a student already knows the subject matter?

Gough said that the high school has been trying out the program for the first and second trimesters, and when surveyed, the majority of staff and students like the program although some feel it needs adjustments to be better. Some high school teachers and students were in the audience to speak about the program.

Danielle Ayala, a math teacher at the high school, said that she appreciated that it gave students who may be in various clubs, sports or activities a way to receive support without disrupting their regular class time. Another high school teacher, Kristine Stedman, said that she liked that the focus of the program was on prioritizing student need, and that it put the ownership on students because they could pick and choose where they thought they needed to spend their time. The students who were present all seemed to agree that they liked the idea of Flex Time but thought that with a few tweaks, it could be even better.

Superintendent’s Report

Fowler wished everyone a happy New Year and welcomed the new board members. He said that he wanted to address a public comment at the December meeting concerning library books. A parent spoke at the last board meeting and said that a list of books which she deemed inappropriate seemed to be “disappearing” from LAS libraries and demanded to know why. Fowler said that he and library staff followed up on the specific books mentioned, and found that most of the “missing” books were checked out by students or staff. A few books were weeded from the system because they hadn’t been checked out for some time.

He said that books would frequently and regularly be pulled from the shelves, but that it was due to disuse, not subject matter. Fowler emphasized that though the board and some district stakeholders may not always agree, all LAS staff work hard to be transparent with the community and to be responsive to their concerns.

Fowler expressed his thanks to board member Dan Stephens, who would be resigning after the meeting. He said that he appreciated Stephens’s ability to challenge the board and ask important questions. Fowler explained the process of filling the vacant board seat and said that a notice had already gone out to the community that the board would be accepting applicants from qualified candidates until 1/18/23. After that time, the board would decide in a timely manner who would be best to fill Stephens’s seat.

Board Comments

All of the board members expressed their thanks and appreciation to Dan Stephens for his service, and existing board members welcomed newcomers Dougherty and Blough.

Stephens said that he had been thinking about resigning for a long time because he felt that he wasn’t able to devote the time he should to the board. He thanked the other board members, Fowler, all LAS staff and the Lowell community for the opportunity to serve and said that he would “always cherish” his time on the board.

Brian Krajewksi expressed gratitude for Emma Sage’s student council report, and her mention of an upcoming assembly in February that would focus on raising awareness for mental health. Krajewski said that he thought that mental health awareness should be a main focus not only for the Lowell community but also for the human race at large. He emphasized the importance of erasing the stigma around mental health and said that his hope was that one day someone’s mental health would be treated with the same importance as their physical health.

Other Meeting Items:

  • The board voted on the 2023 schedule of meetings, which will remain the same: regular board meetings will be on the second Monday of each month at 7 pm and work session meetings will continue to take place on the fourth Monday of each month at 6 pm.
  • Dustin Cichocki, Director of Human Resources at LAS, said that he would meet soon for the second time with district bus drivers for negotiations. The plan is to meet monthly and look at wants/needs from both the district and driver perspectives.
  • Director of Curriculum Dan VanderMeulen mentioned that there is a team working on a threat assessment training at the end of January. The purpose of the training would be to look at best practices across the nation for addressing potential threats and how to implement them at LAS.
  • Election of Officers- Pat Nugent made the motion for Brian Krajewski to serve as board president, Laurie Kuna to serve as vice president, Nugent as secretary and Tom Kaywood as treasurer. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 8:17 pm. The next meeting, a board work session meeting, is scheduled for January 23 at 6 pm.

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