District announces Teacher of the Year during May 11 board meeting



The Tea Area school board met by Zoom May 11 for their regular meeting.

The meeting was also live-streamed through the district’s YouTube channel for the public to watch. Public comments were welcome by email to the superintendent prior to the meeting.

During the meeting, Legacy Elementary principal Samantha Walder and curriculum director Tonia Warzecha surprised Legacy fourth grade teacher Kristi Desaulniers with the announcement that she is the Teacher of the Year at her home. Thirty-seven teachers were nominated and the four finalists were Desaulniers, Legacy Elementary kindergarten teacher Tracy Schmidt, high school math teacher John Niesen and eighth grade social studies teacher Sandy DeJong. Superintendent Jennifer Lowery thanked the Teacher of the Year award sponsors.

The board also recognized those retiring this year. Special education director Jody Taylor thanked high school special education teacher Maureen Hybertson for her years of service to the district and her loyalty to the students and the district. High school assistant principal David Preheim recognized industrial arts teacher Tom Nelson for his time in the district. He noted Nelson had to be flexible from working in the shop downtown to transitioning to the new CTE building.

Business manager Chris Esping reminded the board they will meet again May 26 to discuss the fiscal year 2021 preliminary budget.

Lowery updated the board on the changes COVID-19 has had in the district. The virtual graduation ceremony will air on the district’s YouTube channel May 16 at 2 p.m. Honors awards were to be awarded May 11. Seniors will check in their items May 12. All other grades will exchange their items next week. The district will wrap up the year with listening sessions with staff. Lowery is continuing to monitor any change of federal funds for schools. There is no drivers education this summer.

She also said that the school district’s gyms will remain closed until further notice. She does not have a date for opening the gyms and she expects the school board will have more meetings to determine if they will open the gyms. She noted she has more questions than answers at this point.

The board approved the resignations for Laura Bain for middle school math and oral interpretation, Mackenzie Schultz as special education teacher, Jessika Perry as paraprofessional, Natasia Eastman for dance, Katie Smith for assistant drama, Stephanie Farwell for football cheer and Kjerstin Hansen for TASK.

They approved the new hires for Cameron Schroder as high school English teacher, Stephanie Russett for special education teacher, Rachel Risse for special education teacher and Allie Johnson for special education teacher.

With the South Dakota High School Activities Association elections coming up, Lowery recommended the board vote for Marty Weismantel from Groton as the small school group representative, Michael Tolley from Rapid City Central as the Division 1 representative, Kelly Glodt from Pierre as the East River at-large representative and to vote yes to change the practice schedule to reduce the number of practices before being able to compete.

The board approved the bread vendor renewal with Pan-O-Gold for the next school year. They also approved the high school course waiver of administrative rules to meet the unique stimulations for incoming students.

The board approved the surplus equipment of minibus #18, yellow cube van, white Dodge Caravan, white Chevy Venture, small enclosed trailer and blue poly containment tank with the option of the removal of the 1,000-gallon single wall gasoline tank if the administration deems it useful.

The board appointed Courtney Burrack, Wendie Morehead and Amanda Treloar as election workers. The election will be held in the District Education Center gym or board room.

The business office summer hours will be Mondays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. That also includes the custodial staff. Summer hours will run June 1 through July 31.

In her report, Lowery said two families have applied for public school exemptions to be homeschooled.

Warzecha addressed the board about adopting new math curriculum starting with the 2020-21 school year. The board adopted Tara West KinderMath for kindergarten, Envisions Math by Pearson for grades 1-5 and no new purchase for 6-12 at this time because the teachers want this curriculum to continue and their license goes through June 30, 2022.

In board reports, Brett Waltner reported on Sprouts. They had one student unenroll for fall but that spot was filled by a person on the waiting list. Preschool parents received an email from the teacher giving them preschool graduation things to do at home.

For TASK, Kristen Daggett said they have had numerous meetings and are looking at all of the data, studying the COVID-19 numbers coming in for Lincoln County and making sure they can get appropriate staffing. By the end of the week, they should be able to make an announcement.

For library, Tara Johanneson said librarian Gayla Wipf has been doing fun things on the Facebook page. She has brought up the idea of doing curbside service. The board suggested she contact the city to see what she can offer.

For legislative, Conrad Pick deferred to Lowery for an update. She said they are watching federal funding opportunities and encouraged people to fill out the U.S. Census. She said they are working on plans for bussing changes, sanitizing measures, quarantining student and teachers and noted all of those things will cost money. They are creating small groups to figure out instructional plans, school operations, technology, health, etc. to prepare for the pandemic’s continuation.

The board went into executive session at 7:42 p.m.

After executive session, the board approved the 2020-21 negotiated agreement, the 2020-21 classified handbook and the 2020-21 classified job offers. They noted that no staff will receive a raise for the 2020-21 school year.

The meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

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