Superintendent Kelly McGovern

Superintendent Kelly McGovern speaks during Monday night’s school board meeting, where her contract was extended by an additional two years. It will now last through June 2024.

ROCK SPRINGS – Sweetwater County School District No. 1 Superintendent Kelly McGovern’s contract has been extended two years through June 2024 by a vote of the school board.

Following a nearly three-hour executive session for legal and personnel matters, trustees voted 5-1 to lengthen her time as superintendent. Trustee John Bettolo voted against the motion while Trustees Matthew Jackman, Carol Jelaco, Max Mickelson, Andrea Summers, and Stephanie Thompson voted in favor. Trustee George Reedy did not attend Monday’s meeting.

The school board also approved course changes for 2021-22. Prior to the changes being passed, Trustee Jackman asked to table the motion so the board could get a better understanding of the virtual learning plans. He also voiced concerns about the budget and how future funding decisions in the Wyoming Legislature could impact them.

Before it could vote on tabling the changes, the board had to either vote on the existing motion to pass the changes or withdraw the original motion. Trustee Mickelson declined to withdraw the motion. He said with all the students who have left Sweetwater No. 1, having more virtual classes would be a good opportunity. Mickelson added he did not want to delay something that could benefit the district.

The original motion passed 5-1 with Jackman in opposition.

Jackman challenged the motion on K-12 science curriculum resources, which includes committing to providing laptops to students, for similar reasons.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I just think that we as a district need to know a little more financially with our workshop or our budget workshop deciding where our values lie,” Jackman said.

When asked about the source of the funding, McGovern said the money was already included in the current year’s budget.

After additional discussion about changing standards and the need for a new curriculum, the motion passed unanimously.

FOUR-DAY SCHOOL WEEK UPDATE

Human Resources Director Nicole Bolton provided details about the committee that is preparing the calendar for the next school year when the four-day week for students begins. The calendar committee planned to meet Thursday, submit schedules for feedback, and meet again on Jan. 22. They want to know what calendars teachers prefer. Bolton said they expect to have the calendars ready to vote on in March.

As a point of clarification, she asked trustees for directions on when schools would start classes. An earlier motion by the board said they would follow guidelines based on American Academy of Pediatrics research that concluded that pubescent students have difficulty sleeping and do better if middle school and high school classes do not begin earlier than 8:30 a.m. In making their motion to follow that guideline, Bolton said the board may not have intended to be so limiting, so Bolton asked for flexibility to set 8 a.m. as the earliest starting time.

Mickelson said he didn’t think the board’s intent was to be too restrictive, so he made a motion that they would not begin secondary schools earlier than 8 a.m.

LEGISLATIVE OUTLOOK

Chairwoman Jelaco provided an update on Sweetwater No. 1’s testimony before the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration. She said she, McGovern and Chief Financial Officer Scot Duncan explained the cuts, classroom cramming and closures they anticipated would be necessary to meet proposed budget guts.

Jelaco said the committee made the recommendation to adopt recalibration “and arbitrarily cut the funding by $100 million.” It also made a motion to implement a sales and use tax to support Wyoming education, but no amount was specified.

What does that mean when the Legislature meets? She said they’ll have to wait and see.

Following the one-day virtual session that took place Tuesday, additional legislative sessions will be spread out over multiple months. Bills advanced by committees will be considered during an eight-day virtual session set to begin Jan. 27. That virtual session will adjourn Feb. 5, according to the legislative schedule.

In the week of Feb. 22, lawmakers may then hold up to three additional days of committee meetings for the consideration of other bills leading up to the start of the in-person session. The supplemental budget bill also is scheduled to be available to the public no later than Feb. 22.

If public health conditions allow for the crowded gatherings at the state Capitol, the general session will run from March 1 until April 2.

Under state statute, the school district budget must be settled by April 15. Officials continue to be worried that they may have to make decisions without knowing what money will be provided.

Superintendent McGovern said doing what’s best for students and staff is going to be very difficult.

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