NEWPORT, VT - The North Country Union High School Board met briefly Thursday and touched on several subjects of interest, notably that negotiations for a new teachers' contract had been concluded with attorneys for both sides reviewing the document.
Superintendent Robert Kern said an earlier agreement had been reached but a last second objection over the interpretation of some language in the contract proposal sent the matter back to the negotiating table.
Dr. Kern said the major issue was language regarding early retirement and insurance benefits.
“The past contract did not have a negotiated agreement for early retirement, and the contract expired in 2012. We resolved the issue by adding language using the pension plan's health care plan,” Dr Kern stated. “The retiree will pay 20% of the monthly premium.”
Both parties are pushing to have the language signed off on as quickly as possible so faculty members can get retroactive increases in their paychecks before Christmas.
Business and Operations Chairman Peter Moskovites reported that an FCC mandate is requiring radios used by school personnel to have a digital format within a few years. To comply with the mandate, the school accepted a bid of $11,605 to purchase 25 mobile radios and 10 portable radios. "We don't have a choice; the FCC requires we switch to digital,” stated Moskovites.
The American Legion has an interest in moving to smaller quarters and approached Moskovites to see if the high school wants to purchase the adjacent property. “It's a good time to talk about it as we consider facilities upgrades,” said Moskovites. The issue is in a very preliminary stage.
Rick Geisel, Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, said his committee is considering expanding the size of the culinary arts space, work with restaurants in the community for hands on work experience, and turning a part-time position into a full-time one. Geisel said enrollment is increasing and space will be needed.
The Career Center had two full-time culinary arts teachers but cut one position to half-time about five years ago due to declining enrollment.
Another area of interest is whether to continue the A/B block schedule, noted for longer blocks of class time and classes that meet every other day rather than every day. The change was made years ago with the idea that it would increase student use of the Career Center's programs. Geisel said there has been generally good feedback, but board member Richard Nelson advised him to talk to students and parents.
“There's a lot of people who aren't happy with block scheduling,” said Nelson. “They aren't vocal about it, but I've heard from parents and students that they don't like the system.”
One advantage of moving back to the traditional format is it would enable more Lake Region Union High School students to take Career Center classes. Currently LRUHS uses the traditional class schedule, which conflicts with the block schedule format.
Dec. 4, the Facilities Committee will meet at the high school at 5 p.m. to discuss plans for a major renovation of the A and B wings. Following the meeting, board members and administrators will meet with area legislators for an “education seminar” to make them aware of the repairs and upgrades necessary to renovate the 45-year-old building. Board members need the area legislative delegation to work together to earmark state funding to develop the project.