Bullying, coaches heat up board meeting

42_wood_9474LOADING UP  — Joelyn Fleisher, Low Income Energy Assistance Program coordinator (LIEAP), and Stan Gaines, of Brady, pile in a load of wood to help keep him warm. LIEAP is a program to help participants with their energy bills during the winter. The local program received 10-12 cords of wood that is cut and split by Montana inmates in Deer Lodge. Low income and the elderly are the main focus of the program.  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler




By Deanna Wakkinen, I-O Reporter

A larger than usual crowd lingered at the school board meeting Feb. 1 to present the case of an Utterback Middle School student who had been bullied during the 2009-2010 school year.

The student’s father was present to speak for his daughter and the pain she has endured after another student pulled her desk chair out from underneath her. According to her father, she is now dealing with back pain that requires medication and visits to physical therapy in Kalispell and Great Falls.

According to the father, the student missed two weeks of school after the incident and when they asked for a 504 to keep her grades up, they were never presented one.

Their daughter is now in Conrad High School and they are not impressed with the lack of an anti-bullying campaign. Recently another one of their children was bullied with name calling, a level one part of bullying, and the father was offended that the only action taken was for the two students involved to write down five things they didn’t like about the other person.

The mother and father of the two students mentioned are currently on the committee against bullying and have filed two grievances with the board.

Craig Barringer, UMS and Meadowlark principal, commented that “people want a quick fix to a complex problem.” He mentioned that bullying has been around for a long time and there is “no easy solution.” He went on to comment that “we should recognize that there is a difference between bullying and bad behavior.”

Continued hiring recommendations were given and the tension soared as Todd Truscott was recommended as the head golf coach instead of the previous assistant coach Julie Orcutt. Kim Hofstad, resigning head coach, had worked with Orcutt as the assistant coach for the past three years.

Orcutt felt that she had worked her way up to the head coach position and she and Hofstad had discussed and planned on this possibility.

Truscott comes into the school district with coaching experience from Rocky Mountain College and, in Jim Carroll and Ken Larson’s eyes, more expertise in skill areas. Hofstad also commented that “he’s got skills” but she supported Orcutt in their goal for her to be head coach.

The board was unprepared for this decision and Joe Russell in particular wished that they had known the result of the interview sooner.

Russell has no concerns to Truscott being the coach, necessarily, but felt rather that when one works hard toward a position, they should be allowed to move up. The board approved Truscott as head coach with only one ‘nay’ coming from Russell. Golf begins March 14.

Other recommendations for coaches were the same as last year except that Sam Vidal and Kim Bender will now split the coaching position in softball.

Jan Carter recently made her rounds on her board visitation to the schools and was especially impressed by the CHS band and choir under the direction of Truscott.

Carter was not impressed, however, with a bus ride-a-long she did. This particular bus route first drops students off in town, then makes its way out.

Bus number two has had many issues with students during the year and currently four students have been suspended from riding it, these particular students are all first grade and under.

Carroll said that enforcing the rules on this bus can be determined depending on “how hard of a line you want us to take.” He mentioned adding an aide to ride-a-long or even by adding security cameras. Many buses in the area, including in Power, have already implemented camera use.

Barringer commented that there are “a lot of issues” and one is a “safety issue.” He emphasized that they are “working on different strategies.”

Karla Styren from the Conrad Community Education Foundation was in to show off a sample of their recognition board to be put up outside the CHS Library entrance. The sign will measure six feet by three feet and be made of maple. Dan Brown’s entrepreneurship class will complete the project.

The lighting is bad in the shop area at CHS, in such a way that it may be unsafe for students. The current lights are from the 1970s and replacement parts are predicted to become unavailable. A bid was submitted for 60 new light fixtures for $22,000 and the board is certain that this will be at least partially covered by energy rebates.

With the new lights, the wood and automotive shop will also be painted and a bid was submitted by Nate Sanders for $1,600 plus $1,000 more for each additional coat. The CHS shop students will prepare the area for paint to help reduce costs.

The board did an audit exit report and Kip Judisch commented, “Afton’s not embezzling any money, we’re in good shape.”

The outstanding student of the month for CHS was Bryce Watterud who was presented by Joe Moerkerke, who commented that he is “determined and driven.” Bryce is the son of Krista Keiper and the late Brian Watterud.

Orcutt presented Megan Meuli as the Meadowlark’s outstanding student. She said Meuli is a “magnificent munchkin”, a “quiet, kind leader” and a “dream student”. Megan is the daughter of Patrick and Michelle Meuli.

Matthew Lions was presented as the Prairie View Student of the Month. Hofstad mentioned that Lions is new this year and has a real “sense of responsibility.”Matthew is the son of Matthew and Tiffany Lions.

Terry Will presented Deidra Mecham as the female Student of the Month at UMS. Tara Thielman commented that she is “responsible and polite.” Barringer also commented that she “knows when to stand up for what is right.” Deidra is the daughter of Don and Debra Mecham.

Jackson Grubb was the male Student of the Month and he is the son of Jay and Cynthia Grubb. Christy Kulpas commented that Grubb is a “quiet force that drives others forward.” Barringer commented that “his only real curse is his NFL team choice.”

The Pondera Spelling Bee will be held on Feb. 22 in the CHS auditorium.

The next regular school board meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Russell Building in the Board Conference Room.

The Russell Building is not handicapped accessible. The meeting will be moved to the UMS Library upon the request of any person unable to attend a meeting because of a disability. Requests to move the meeting should be made to the Personnel Office at 278-5521 prior to the time of the meeting.