By ARIANA R. CHERRY
Members of the ALAH School District #305 School Board met on Wednesday, August 19 in the ALAH School Cafeteria. For public comment, a representative from the Arthur Education Association read a letter in response to negative comments that teachers received from the way they taught remotely back in the months of March through May. The letter explained the hard work and dedication that all of the district’s staff put in at the start of the pandemic, especially at such short notice. Board members listened to the association’s response and thanked them for coming forward to share. During past board meetings, the board and Superintendent has praised and thanked all of its staff and teachers for everyone’s hard work during this difficult time.
After approving the consent agenda, Superintendent Shannon Cheek, spoke about the Tentative Budget for Fiscal Year 2021. It has been on display in the office for the past 30 days and will be voted on at the next board meeting since it must be approved by September 30. Shannon discussed some of the district’s revenues which included property taxes through levy rates, grants and federal aid. He also noted that salaries are one of the district’s largest expenses with transportation coming in at its second most expensive. Shannon stated that tax revenues have decreased in the past three years and that tax collecting for fiscal year 2021 could be negatively impacted. After sharing that information, the board passed the tentative budget for fiscal year 2021.
The board also approved the Psychologist contract for Presence Learning School. Presence learning offers a variety of psych services for students. The district has not hired for the position yet, but they will continue to advertise.
In his Superintendent’s report, Shannon noted that approximately 140 families chose the remote learning option. The platform that the district decided on was in the form of Google Classroom and Moodle (for HS). He also mentioned that some teachers would be trying some live feed and recorded sessions for its students. “I am sure there were a lot of bumps in the road, but I think it will be a nice platform for our students. It does provide us the best options for our kids versus a third-party vendor,” he said. “We need to be ready for remote learning. We won’t be experts, but we are better at it than we were at the beginning if it happens,” Shannon explained.
The first day of classes (both in-person and remote) for the ALAH District was Wednesday, August 19.
“It was great to just see how excited our kids were when they were here today,” Shannon quoted. “It was pretty emotional,” he continued. “When you see and hear the stories, I can’t tell you how proud I am of our district. It was great to see how much the kids just wanted to be here.” A few of the teachers who were present also expressed just how well-behaved the children were and how they complied with the new rules such as mask-wearing and social distancing. One of them even shared a personal struggle she had during the beginning of the stay-at-home-order and the beginning of remote learning days and was very grateful to be back teaching the kids. Teachers noted that the first day was “all about the kids,” and everyone expressed their gratitude for being back.
Shannon also spoke about some of the challenges ahead. Some of those challenges included the new guidelines for contact tracing, six feet distance/15 minutes, quarantined staff/students, subs related to quarantine, changing guidelines and targets, and the need to be ready for remote learning if/when it happens.
The district was also contacted to participate in a study related to increasing social and emotional learning skills and positive attitudes and interest in STEM among middle/junior high school students from Assistant Professor Kevin Tan. Shannon informed the board that he had a relationship with Dr. Tan as they worked together during his tenure at MSHS where he conducted a similar study. While the district is interested in doing this, it will be conducted at a later time due to the present pandemic.
At the end of the board meeting, Shannon gave thanks to the district’s custodians, teachers, administrative staff and the community’s support- especially the self-checks and accepting the change of routines in the morning for families.