Fine Arts programs are making their way back into schools in the San Juan School District. Superintendant Doug Wright reported at the July 10 school board meeting that the district has allocated full time fine arts teachers at secondary schools.
The legislature set aside funding to expand offerings at necessarily existent small schools. Wright said that in recent years, fine arts education has been sacrificed the most due to budget constraints.
Monticello, Whitehorse, and Monument Valley high schools will have a full time fine arts teacher, while the middle and high school in Blanding will have a shared teacher.
A teaching position that had been taken away at La Sal Elementary has also been restored. The district is looking into using some of the funding to offer online curriculum.
Wright said they will use the Necessarily Existent Small School funding to equalize educational opportunities for students in San Juan School district with students in larger districts.
It was noted that Monticello High has not had a full time fine arts teacher for more than 15 years.
In other business, the board discussed the Monticello Elementary school building project.
Board Member Merri Shumway expressed concern with the proposed entrance to the building and the cost associated with what has been designed. Shumway said that if the entrance remains as it has been planned, she will not vote in favor of the project, as she feels it is too extravagant.
Board Member Bill Boyle asked how a nice entrance for a few thousand dollars is considered extravagant. Business Administrator Clayton Holt said he can provide information on the costs of controversial areas so the board can vote and move forward.
Superintendant Doug Wright asked if the board has to approve every construction question. Holt said they typically don’t, but if board members have specific concerns, that is the best way to resolve it.
Shumway said they need classrooms to educate kids and she does not agree with buildings that cost more than what is required to educate students.
“I would rather have a square box and an excellent academic experience for our kids” said Shumway.
Boyle said that they are working within the constraints of a budget that was set when the process began, but Shumway questioned if they have $10 million to build a school but can do it for less, why not try to do it for less and provide good academic experiences for kids instead of putting them in a beautiful building. “The looks of it doesn’t teach them anything,” said Shumway.
Board Member Debbie Christiansen said that they can still have a school that looks nice and save money. She suggested that they compromise and still have the entrance look that has been designed and make some adjustments to it to save some money.
Shumway also questioned the cost of materials being used for the exterior of the school. Holt stated they don’t want an extravagant building but it needs to be maintainable and stand the test of time. He asked the board to consider what is extravagant and what they feel is standard in order to give them direction as they move forward with the project.
The board received a draft proposal of a new fundraising policy. The draft policy would essentially limit schools to contacting local businesses only once each school year to ask for donations or support. It would also eliminate any door-to-door sales or direct solicitation by students.
Also included is that student participation in fundraising is voluntary, students will not be required to fundraise to participate in an activity, and rewards for fundraising to individual students or groups are prohibited.
Board members discussed the draft and suggested several items including a rule regarding how often programs can purchase new uniforms.
The board will review the policy again in August. The timeline for implementation is unclear, mentioning the possibility of January or the start of the 2013 school year.
The board will begin their monthly meetings later in the day in an attempt to make it easier for the public to attend. Board member Merri Shumway brought the issue to the board.
Shumway made a motion to start the board work session at 3 p.m. and the public session at 6 p.m. The board generally meets on the second Tuesday of the month.
Concern was expressed about the meetings that are held at the other communities in the district and the travel time required.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of starting the meetings at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Boyle opposed the change.
In other business the board received a report from Mary Swafford, Director of Food Service for Aramark.
Swafford reported on the new menu standardization, with a five-week lunch menu cycle and a three-week breakfast cycle. There will be an expanded variety of fresh fruit and vegetables offered daily. Only low fat and skim milk will be offered. Swafford reports that the new menus are part of Federal guidelines and they have no choice but to implement them.
Boyle asked if kids will like the menus. There are concerns that federal guidelines to eliminate sugar, fat, and salt from meals will simply push kids out the door to fast food or candy machines.
Holt said the days where the lunch lady could spice up the food to make it taste good are gone, but added the district will do their best and follow the federal guidelines.