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Superior schools address snow days, handbook

The Superior School Board will consider approval of a new employee handbook, changes aimed at shortening bus route times and proactive options to address district snow days at its Monday, May 13, meeting.

Students are currently spending an extra 28 minutes in class every day to make up snow days that were called after the district had exhausted its two planned snow days for the year.

Minnesota schools got a government pass on making up time lost during extra snow days accumulated this school year, but Wisconsin schools did not.

During the board's May 6 Committee of the Whole meeting, District Administrator Amy Starzecki proposed adding two minutes to the school day at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year and making June 5 a potential school day. The extra two minutes would give the district up to three snow days; June 5 would cover a fourth.

"Everyone has a different idea of what works best, but I think what everybody can agree upon is being proactive instead of reactive is most helpful," Starzecki said.

School schedules for the 2019-20 school year would be tweaked under a new proposal to shorten bus route times, as well. The transportation department proposed shifting elementary school start times between 5 to 30 minutes later to allow more time for buses to travel from Superior high and middle schools to country schools. A number of routes for Four Corners and Lake Superior elementary schools that are currently elementary only would add middle and high school riders.

The board took comments on the new employee handbook, which combines previous support staff, teacher and administrator handbooks into one, for nearly an hour May 6.

Teachers brought up concerns with the wording in sections about personal days and bereavement.

Rachel Holden-Kaufman, a Superior High School teacher, said sick leave, personal time and bereavement leave should not be at the discretion of supervisors.

"We do not take our absences lightly," Holden-Kaufman said, asking that staff be allowed to act as the professionals they are. "There should not be a time when teachers can not use their time."

A number of speakers felt the list of people they could take bereavement time for was too restrictive.

"I don't feel my decisions about how to grieve or who to grieve for should need the approval of my supervisor," said Robin Reckinger, a science teacher at Superior Middle School.

"Your family is who you make and who you create in life," said Northern Lights Elementary School teacher Jenni Wolfe.

Teachers asked for clarification in language about their health reimbursement accounts and text messaging policies; they also questioned why the issue of longevity was not addressed.

While the board moved the handbook forward to its regular May 13 meeting, Vice President Christina Kintop said it could still be tabled at any time.

"There will be a handbook of some sort. We need a working document," Kintop said. "Right now it's still a draft."

Some of the language had already been changed from the draft district employees received prior to the May 6 meeting, Starzecki said, to address errors and employee feedback. Board members took notes during the committee of the whole meeting, as well.

"I think some of the testimony was just confusion," Kintop said, but she expected changes to be made based on what they'd heard.

"Because of Act 10 we can no longer negotiate any of those things. It's illegal," Kintop said. "But we can take feedback."

The newest draft of the proposed handbook will be included in the board agenda packet for the May 13 meeting.

High school clubs

SHS Principal Greg Posewitz gave School Board members an update on student groups at Superior High School. The issue brought a standing-room-only crowd to the administration office last month after student-led club were prohibited from using commons tables for events during lunch.

Based on student ideas, the school will classify student groups in three tiers: co-curricular and extracurricular activities, student-led groups and Lunch and Learn clubs, which are more activity-based.

A formal process would be created for student-led clubs to be officially recognized and they would continue to have the opportunity to set up at tables in the commons during lunch. Only students would be allowed at the lunch room tables and advisors would be present. Administration must pre-approve the event. The students are still discussing what area of the commons events and displays will be set up in.

Posewitz said the school plans to have the process in place within the next week or two.