Board Report: May

Murray, NEB.- The Conestoga school board held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 9. Members Allison Welch, Candace Kelley, Tracy Priefert, Jeremy Stone, Seth Arens, Greg Page and student member Jayden S were in attendance.

Allison Dworak, the journalism advisor and instructor was the first to speak. She told the board about the journalism department’s recent success at the state competition where they brought home nine medals. Then, Jeff Brokaw gave an overview of their upcoming trip to Atlanta, where two students will be competing on the national level after qualifying at the State Leadership Conference. He also gave a request for funds for the trip to be supplied by the board. One of the students attending, Jagger P, thanked the board for their consideration and expressed his excitement to have the opportunity to compete again.

Then, Michelle Zahn gave a presentation on the high abilities learning (HAL) program at the elementary school. In this program, students have gone on excursions such as an “extreme math” trip, an equestrian trip and others. They also have the opportunity to learn about coding and technology as well as having time and resources for them to focus on areas of their choosing. Potential HAL students are identified based on their standardized test scores. These prospects are then administered another test which will determine if the program is right for them. This program, which Superintendent Apple added is funded by federal grants, seeks to provide gifted learners with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and learn skills such as time management and advocating for themselves.

Next, a foundation report was given. In it, they reflected on the new five member board consisting of three school board members and two community members. This includes Allison Welch as the president, Connie Reimers-Hild as the vice president, Gary Todd as the treasurer, Jeremy Stone as the secretary and Tracy Priefert as a member. This foundation is responsible for providing scholarships to many graduating seniors of Conestoga.

The building project committee reported two successful meetings with members of the community regarding interests and potential building projects. Two more meetings will take place on May 22. These are open to the public and community members are encouraged to attend. One will take place at the Beaver Lake Clubhouse at 6 p.m. The other will be at 7: 30 p.m. in the Nehawka Town Hall.

The board then moved onto the consent agenda. Due to a quorum of members being met at the April 30 informational meeting, it qualified as a special board meeting so the consent agenda was amended to include the minutes from that meeting. The consent agenda was then approved.

The meeting then moved on to administrative reports. Notably, high school principal Rob Geise talked more about the installation of vape detectors in the school. These would be placed in restrooms and locker rooms as a deterrent to the increasing vaping issue faced at Conestoga. He stated that he has talked to several companies and narrowed down the options. These detectors would send notifications when they detect vaping or tampering. He also noted that administrators have a smaller burden of proof to search a student than the police. While police need probable cause, Geise said that administrators need reasonable suspicion, which could be provided by a vape detector.

Notably, St. John the Baptist Catholic school in Plattsmouth did not decline Title I services for the 2023-2024 school year. While some students may have opted to attend a private school, if they live inside of Conestoga’s geographic district, the public school is still obligated to provide those services. Typically, St Johns has declined services because those services are only provided inside Conestoga facilities and transportation is not provided. Gross Catholic declined services. It was also reported that the windows for the elementary school are not expected to arrive until the middle of August.

The Board had several action items to attend to. First, they voted to accept the resignations of Dana Gray and Katie Tonkin. They also voted to approve the teacher contract for Aaron Jordan as the choral instructor for K-12 as well as new teaching contracts for Jocelyn Deterding in sixth grade and Audrey Jordan in third grade. The board then voted to approve funds for the FBLA trip to nationals. Finally they previewed upcoming meetings, noting that the June meeting will be on a Monday, and offering a special congratulations to Jayden S. Jayden has served this year as the student board member after pushing to create the position. May was his last meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 6:20.