BY CAYDEN SANDERS
The Hays USD 489 Board of Education meeting Monday had a bit of everything.
BOE President Tammy Wellbrock started the meeting approving the agenda, and board member Allen Park wanted to add a few items to the agenda for the night. Park stressed the importance of adding to the discussion, as he had stated he was wanting to see it in prior meetings. No other board members were willing to add anything to the agenda.
Wellbrock and Park had a discussion about adding his suggestions to Monday night’s agenda, which was approved 5-0.
Wellbrock opened the floor for citizens to speak about their concerns to the board
One resident spoke about her child’s experience with wearing a mask and about forcing mask mandates in the Hays district. She pleaded to not force masks and to have a backup plan. She said her god is not wanting to force children to wear masks in classes as they are supposed to learn freely and not have to worry about anything except being children.
Another resident addressed concerns with recent Hays High musicals showcasing situations that he believed shouldn’t be focused on in a school setting. Last year, the musical was “Rent,” where the plot was centered around an HIV-positive musician. This year, the musical is doing “Urinetown,” a story about a man who is trying to help poor people have ways to free public urination because of a government ban on private toilets and proliferation of paid public toilets in the recent water droughts in their world.
Superintendent Ron Wilson talked about awards. He mentioned the recent award Hays High’s Jag-K program received from its district for being proficient in five career-excelling qualifications. Wilson also noted Roosevelt Elementary School is one of this year’s Blue Ribbon winners. He said only five schools in the state were awarded the prestigious title, and in the last five, the only other school in Hays to win the award was O’loughlin Elementary School.
Wilson said the district is looking to hire a new tech assistant, as tech problems are getting worse within the district — creating a new job needed within the district. Board member Craig Pallister asked Wilson how the nutrition staff is doing, noting that being a former principal in the school district has given him insight into how hard filling those needs are. Willson and others said they are looking for two to three more positions in the district.
Park mentioned grants and asked if they were approving a Pur-O-Zone bid to buy cleaning supplies for the district. Park stressed that the BOE stays as local as they can with purchases. A resident spoke out about the Pur-O-Zone bid not being ready as the school board recently bought only the purifiers and none of the equipment that was put on the agenda. Park asked to have a report of the same equipment they would buy from the state’s bid to Pur-O-Zone vs. the cost of what it would be to get supplies locally.
Wellbrock made a motion to buy equipment from Pur-O-Zone. Lori Hertel seconded the motion, and it passed 5-0.
Park questioned personnel transactions marked with an asterisk on the docket. The positions were added since the district is in need of having more special education teachers. Park asked where all of the special education teachers have gone, and a district employee said the district has seen a lot of special-needs students graduating to the freshman class this year. He noted the district moved staff to fit the needs of where those students need to go but to be able to help all the students. It was noted the district will need to open up the ability to hire more employees for the special education department. The school official mentioned the reason why it wasn’t put on the docket sooner was because the district needed time to understand where and what the job positions would look like this year.
Wellbrock made a motion to approve the personnel transactions, and Pallister seconded the motion. Wellbrock said she would like to see qualifications for the positions before hiring educators. The board approved the motion 5-0.
Windows at O’Loughlin and Wilson elementary schools, along with some at the Rockwell Administration Center, were approved in a 5-0 vote for $652,730 from Paul-Wertenberger Construction. The money comes from ESSER II federal funds.
The open board position ended up remaining open after some discussion and interviews of candidates to fill the spot for the next few months. That seat has been vacant since Nuchelle Chance moved out of the district.
Candidates Cathy Hopkins, Chris McGowne, Curt Vajnar and Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp answered the same questions from board members. Derek Yarmer also answered the same questions via email prior to the meeting since he was unable to attend. Tim Kershner failed to respond to emails about the questions and did not attend Monday night’s meeting.
Following the interviews, Wellbrock nominated Zampieri-Lillpopp, but she failed to get the required votes to fill the seat. Vajnar was then nominated, but failed to get the required number of votes as well.
Board member Lori Hertel nominated Kershner, who failed to get a second to bring it to a vote.
The board eventually decided to leave the position vacant until after the general election in November and fill the spot with the top vote-getter as immediately as possible after being sworn in. That motion carried, 5-0.
The next board meeting is set for Oct. 25.