School Board News
Trustee search, high ACT scores, new hires
A day away from graduation and looking forward to the start of summer on June 8, the Big Sky School District Board of Directors held its monthly meeting on June 1 at Ophir Elementary. With the school year nearly behind them, the board was already discussing the next one to come. Here are some highlights from the hour-long afternoon gathering.
2018/19 enrollment: The latest district enrollment number as of May 31 is 368. “It looks to be leveling off,” said Superintendent Dustin Shipman. “Pretty consistent with what we’ve been the last few years at this particular time.” Shipman anticipates starting the 2018/19 school year closer to 375 students. The incoming kindergarten class is expected to be right around 35 students.
2018/19 hires: Six certified full-time personnel have accepted positions for the 2018/19 school year. “We really feel pretty good that we are nearly there,” said Shipman. He noted there were significantly fewer applicants this year than in years past. Generally, the district would see 30 to 40 applicants for an elementary position, while this year it was less than 10, and did not include recent grads from MSU hoping to work locally. Shipman checked with other districts in the state to see how much interest they’d been receiving, finding the same situation elsewhere. The board discussed the housing shortage dilemma for those relocating to Big Sky, and Shipman said he was pleased to note four of the six educators recently hired already live in Big Sky. Only one more certified full-time educator is needed to round out hiring and Shipman said he’ll be making an offer soon.
Graduation: The day before senior commencement, LPHS Principal Alex Ide said there was a great energy at the school. On the morning of June 1, the seniors and their teachers enjoyed breakfast at the Corral, a tradition started by Jerry House. The seniors nailed graduation rehearsal, followed by a ceremonial walk of fame from the gym through the halls of the school en route to Mrs. Hamblin’s room to pick up their caps and gowns. All the students from K-12 were there, lining the halls and cheering them on.
Testing: Nearly all of the ACT scores were in for the juniors who had taken the test in the spring. Ide noted that the number is not formal yet, but was happy to share that the 13 scores averaged 24.5. That’s almost a full number above last year’s juniors—which at the time happened to be the highest average in the state. “It bodes well for us, but it depends on other schools and how they perform, and the other three students’ scores that have yet to come in,” said Ide, who attributed the three Sylvan Learning sessions the students had to their success. The juniors have the summer to study, and then take one more crack at the test in the fall.
The new and ongoing International Baccalaureate program: Led by Dr. Marlo Mitchum, the juniors in this accelerated learning program just finished their exams. “We are coming to the end of a very successful year,” Mitchem said. “Our trailblazers have been working hard and have matured academically, intellectually and emotionally.” More than half of LPHS juniors are in the full diploma program, and the incoming class for next year is at 66 percent. “It’s a good culture that’s being created, but we are supporting all our students in their paths,” said Mitchem. Shipman expressed his approval of the program, noting that a first year IB class is really like an AP class. “So those 10 kids had six classes that are all IB classes, so that’s like 60 kids participating in an AP class essentially this year.” Board Chair Loren Bough also offered his thoughts: “So next year, when we have graduates, we’re likely to have the same number of IB graduates as an AA school.”
Faculty pay raises: Teacher contracts for next year are complete, with a 1 percent increase on their base pay on top of their annual built-in increase of 2 to 5 percent. Business Manager Corky Miller ran the numbers and found that with the added percent the raises averaged 4.25 percent for current staff members. Administration agreed to no pay increase in their contracts.
Trustee search: Due to the unexpected relocated of former board member Margo Magnant, there’s a vacant trustee position on the board. The board aims to fill it by June 28 and is currently taking applications, due June 22. The new person chosen to serve on the board will only serve until the next election. If they’re interested in continuing to serve, they’ll run for the position. As of the June 1 meeting, the board had not received any applicants. Anyone interested can send a letter of interest and a resume to the board.
The bus situation: The good news is the school has enough drivers for its routes. The bad news is the school now needs more buses. So, the plan is to liquidate a bus that is not large enough to run a route before purchasing a 78-passenger yellow bus that will potentially be able to take on another route with another driver. Miller noted the school’s current backup bus is a 2001, with a 2006 bus in use that’s “doing ok.” So the thought is to get rid of the 2001 bus, buy a new one, and move the 2006 to a backup position. The district currently has four routes—if the new route is added, the 2006 bus will be used. A new bus, paid for via bus depreciation transportation funds rather than general funds, costs $108,000.
The board will meet again on Friday, June 29 at 10 a.m. in the Ophir Elementary conference room.