The USD 398 board of education voted Monday to have the sixth grade class at Peabody-Burns Elementary School return to the elementary school instead of staying at the junior/senior high school as previously planned, but then reversed that decision later in the evening.
The board initially voted to move sixth grade to Peabody-Burns Elementary School, 4-3, with Bruce Burke, Glendon Parks, Shayla Clark, and Tony Zappone for the reversal and Julie Ensminger, Barry Peter, and Terry Eberhardt against it.
The discussion was not on the agenda prepared before the meeting. It was added by Zappone at the beginning of the session. He began the discussion by asking both school principals — Ken Parry for PBES and Tim Robertson for Peabody-Burns junior and senior high schools about the best place for sixth grade.
Both principals fervently supported sixth grade being a part of Peabody-Burns Junior High School next year.
Robertson said the advantage of having the sixth grade at the PBJHS was that they begin working with more specialized teachers. He also said education is advancing quickly — the curriculum taught to seventh graders now will be taught to fifth graders in a couple of years — and that the sixth grade being at the junior high level was advantageous to address education’s continuing progress.
Parry’s reasons for supporting the sixth grade at the PBJHS were more centered around the hardship of reversing the current system. The school would have to hire another teacher because the previous sixth grade teacher replaced a teacher at the high school. PBES would also have to find a spot to put the class and the school schedule would have to be reworked. He also said that he had not heard vociferous complaints from parents — the reaction has been about equal on both sides.
Despite these statements from administrators, the board went ahead with a vote Parry said caught him off guard.
After other items on the agenda were addressed, Parry went back before the council to ask about hiring a new teacher. He said the teacher’s salary would be about $35,000 a year.
“We don’t have that type of money,” Interim Superintendent Demitry Evancho said. “We should have put this off for a month. You need to think about what you just did.”
The board, already reluctant to spend over $30,000 on a capital improvement project — roofs for the Brown cafeteria and vocational agriculture buildings — started to discuss other options.
When Robertson brought up a specific teacher that could be replaced to free up the funds, the board decided to go into a five-minute executive session to discuss personnel.
The five-minute session stretched into 20 minutes. After the session was completed, Peter made the motion to rescind the previous board action, with Clark seconding. Zappone was the only board member to vote against the proposal.
The board approved four resignations.
Project based learning teacher Marc Grout and social worker Sarah Grout resigned. Evancho said Marc Grout is taking a break from education and will work on family farm in the Mankato area. Sarah Grout recently gave birth to the couple’s second child.
Jennifer Hurst was approved as a new social worker.
Brian Lightner resigned as junior high track coach. He will remain the PBHS track coach.
Ty Larue resigned from his agriculture teaching position. Evancho said Larue has accepted another position in Oklahoma where he is from.