SCHOOL BOARD UPDATE: West Grand School District receives salary increase. Board works to resolve administrative issues.

photo by Kim Cameron |
photo by Kim Cameron | "The West Grand School Board recognized and congratulated the Spirit Team on their recent 2A Poms State Championship. (Back L to R) School Board members: Shawn Lechman, Rhonda Shearer, Jessica Smiley, Mitch Lockhart, Shorty Lemon and Rebecca Guthrie. (Middle L to R) Spirit Team: Morgan Monk, Ximina Rodriguez-Ramos, Wendy Eller, Ashlyn Eisenman, (Front L to R) Coach Kendra Holmes, Cora Farley, Itzel Rodriguez, Isabella Galindo, Tiffany-Marie Padia-Luttrell, and Eleanore Poindexter

by Marissa Lorenz
The West Grand School Board approved a salary/step increase for all staff for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year at their most recent regular meeting, which was held in-person and live-streamed on Tuesday evening.

District Financial Director Martha Schake explained that the approval will mean a $0.30/hour increase for all certified hourly staff–including para-professionals, food service staff, and maintenance staff–a $500 annual raise for directors, and a $1,000 annual increase for administrators.

Schake reported that teachers would receive a $500 or $800 annual increase in salary, depending on their placement on the salary schedule. She noted that teachers with fewer years of experience would receive a $500 raise and those at step nine and above would receive a $800/year increase in salary.

The few teachers or counselors who are contracted to work more days than other certified staff, such as a high school counselor who works additional days prior to the start of the school year to ensure all students are properly scheduled, would receive an equivalent increase in pay, essentially pro-rated for those extra days.

The approved step increase is anticipated to add $56,077.82 in direct salary costs to the 2021-2022 budget. The recommendation and the expected financial impact were first discussed in a workshop in February.

In a series of subsequent votes, the School Board unanimously approved all recommended administrator, certified, and classified contracts. Brief reports were given for each school, the Early Childhood Center, and on the current financials.

High School Principal Liz Bauer congratulated the West Grand Dance/Pom team on their recent 2A State Championship win. She individually recognized Coach Kendra Holmes and each athlete on the team for their hard work and success.

Bauer presented a list of 32 students to graduate from West Grand in 2021, given complete credit validation. The list included the five students previously approved for early graduation. The Board later approved all presented students.

Bauer touched on other happenings at the school, noting how nice it was to be busy with school activities and seeing full attendance at sporting events. She mentioned the recent State Science Fair and FFA competitions, as well as the FBLA’s blood drive and the first Robotics competition held last weekend.

She also notified the Board that she would be bringing forward a request in May to approve a travel-abroad opportunity for FFA students interested in going to Italy with EF Tours during the 2022 Spring Break to learn more about agriculture and business.
K-8 Assistant Principal Nathan Tedjeske gave a brief overview of the modified CMAS testing schedule currently underway in the district.

Tedjeske then indicated that the school was starting the process of recruiting/interviewing individuals to fill a number of open positions for the 2021-2022 year. “We’re making sure we get the best candidates in the building next year.”

He then expressed excitement over the current volleyball season and a recent parent meeting about a wrestling team. West Grand Early Childhood Center (WGECC) Director Rhonda Ilgner talked about a challenging year for the new center. She stated that, instead of opening the center for child care over the summer as originally planned, the Center would be working with Grand Beginnings and
new staff to better set the school up for success in 2021-2022.

Ilgner addressed the financial challenge posed by this COVID-19 year and the ongoing challenge of funding the center through tuition, grants, and fundraisers. She expressed a hopeful outlook for full enrollment in the fall, but reminded, “We have a business that needs some TLC and support to move forward. (…) I look forward to persevering together.”

Schake presented the third quarter financials, stating that nothing was jumping out as far as revenues at this time. She noted that the General Fund was only 38 percent collected, but explained that most of the District’s revenues come from property taxes, which aren’t due until the end of April.

“We’re all on target for collecting the monies,” Schake stated.

Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard was conspicuously missing after minutes from a March 30 special meeting of the Board recorded a unanimous vote in which they voted to “move Dr. Peppard out of district suspension immediately, pay and benefits included.” The minutes indicate that Peppard was to return on April 13.

Board Chair Shawn Lechman responded to a request for clarification by saying that Peppard is still on leave and that other details about the matter are confidential. However, Schake had indicated at one point in the meeting that Dr. Peppard would be attending a Western Slope superintendent’s meeting this weekend.

There may be other uncertainty around continuity in District leadership as well, as the only administrator contract approved at Tuesday’s meeting was for Principal Bauer. Lechman stated that “We are working on postings and positions for the other administrators currently.”

The Board went into executive session toward the end of the meeting without clarifying the legal reason for the private session. Upon their return and prior to adjourning, they specified that it was for personnel reasons.

The Board added a special meeting to be held at 6 p.m. on May 25. The June meeting was moved to 6:30 p.m. on the 29th. Both meetings will take place in the Kathy Shipley Community Room in the District Office.