GCSD board votes 5-4 in favor of 4-day school week

A. Marie Hamilton
Posted 2/17/23

GOSHEN COUNTY – The Goshen County School District (GCSD) board of trustees voted 5 to 4 in favor of adopting a new four-day school year to begin in the 2023-2024 school year during its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 14, 2023.

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GCSD board votes 5-4 in favor of 4-day school week


GOSHEN COUNTY – The Goshen County School District (GCSD) board of trustees voted 5 to 4 in favor of adopting a new four-day school year to begin in the 2023-2024 school year during its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 14, 2023.

After nearly a year of presentations from various GCSD administrators on the districts calendar committee during board meetings and two public hearings where board members heard from students, parents and guardians, teachers and administrators, classified staff members such as food service workers, custodians and bus drivers, as well as a number of other community members, the board voted Tuesday in favor of adopting a four-day school schedule.

GCSD Chairman Michael Sussex, Vice Chair Sarah Chaires and Trustees Carlos Saucedo, Wade Phipps and Dylan Hagar voted in favor of adopting the four-day school calendar. GCSD Clerk Chris Alexander, Treasurer Bob Peterson, and Trustees Justin Hurley and Matthew Cushman voted against adopting the four-day calendar schedule. 

Trustee Saucedo began the evening’s conversation by thanking members of the board and community for remaining civil throughout the various discussions revolving around the school calendar decision. He said he has been impressed with how passionately yet civil individuals for and against the four-day schedule have spoken and interacted with each other, so much so, he had the opportunity to have healthy discussions with those who disfavored the four days school calendar and took what they said into consideration.

Three GCSD food service workers spoke before the board Tuesday night, Bobby Whitman, Belinda Alexander and Michelle Tatter all asked board members to consider the financial and economic impact a four-day calendar would have on the lowest paid wage earners in the district.

The food service workers explained how the district hasn’t provided classified employees, such as custodians, janitors, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, health workers or other supporting staff at the schools how they can recoup the hours they will lose by not being able to work on Friday’s. Some of the arguments the food service workers had included a confusing, mixed and competing district policy which would allow them to work additional hours in other departments, provided those departments had a need and opening.

Whitman told board members it was the first year since she had been employed at Trail Elementary where the school had been fully staffed with cooks, and that the decision to go to a four-day school year could potentially cause the cooks to leave due to a loss of pay between roughly $500 and $1,000. 

She further explained how the district previously told her she wouldn’t be able to cross train into another position to maintain her hours because it was against district policy, but said recently, an administrator told her it would now be possible to cross train. Whitman said this further added to her confusion and frustration because it is still unclear if that is possible or not.

Ultimately, Whitman requested members of the board to consider the impact this decision would have on low-income families and the lowest wage earners in the district among concerns of increasing inflation.

Food service cook at Trail Elementary (Belinda) Alexander said she worried about the food insecurity impact a decision like this would have on students. Reminding board members, some students get their meals for free Monday through Friday, receive food supplement bags and other services funded through various programs at the state and federal level, Alexander said she fears those students would face more food insecurity with this decision.

Further explaining, Alexander said she understands the need to remove things from teachers’ plates, however, her concern is for the lowest wage earners in the district, such as food service workers, and for the students who fiscally cannot afford an extra day of food during an economic turndown.

Tatter spoke at the last public hearing earlier this month and again at Tuesday’s meeting where she further explained she felt the board and district was rushing into a decision that would have negative impacts to the community as a whole, especially to classified staff members and single-parent households as it relates to the burden of more childcare.

The board also heard from two of its three student board representatives regarding the four-day school schedule.

Southeast High School (SEHS) Representative Sydney Moeller spoke in favor of a four-day school calendar to lessen the workload for teachers and to make education in GCSD more efficient for both educators and students.

Moeller spoke highly of an unnamed, new teacher to SEHS who had come from a district that had a four-day school schedule, and how that teacher provided students with the pros and benefits of a four day school schedule. Moeller further explained SEHS students were mixed, about 50/50 regarding the balanced schedule that was also presented to the board and said it confused both students and educators.

Lingle Fort Laramie High School (LFLHS) Representative Jordan Napier told board members there were many concerns voiced by Lingle Fort Laramie Elementary staff and teachers, as well as middle school teachers that were not fully addressed.

Napier also explained that although a majority of school sports activities take place on Friday’s, there are other extracurricular and sports activities that take place throughout the week from elementary to middle and high school that were not accounted for in making the decision about a four-day school calendar schedule. 

However, she also concluded some pros of the four-day schedule included a possible improvement of student and teacher mental health. She told board members she was not for or against the four day calendar but was just being a voice for LFL.

Some data GCSD Media Relations Manager Holly Lara shared with board members and those in attendance, which was mostly unchanged from the public hearing meeting last Thursday, indicated a somewhat mixed response to a four-day calendar.

The district used a third-party vendor, which offered a blind survey in which the district had no access to identifying survey participant information and ran from Jan. 27 through Feb. 13.

The data indicated there were 475 student responses, 590 parent or guardian responses and 153 GCSD staff responses, which was broken down to represent 61% of staff responses were from certified staff members, such as teachers, paraprofessionals, 33% were from classified staff members, such as food service workers, custodians and bus drivers, and just 6% were from administration, such as employees in the Central Administration office or various support capacities.

Lara explained how data is highly skewed toward schools inside Torrington city limits, as that’s where the bulk of the district’s students attend school. She also explained a majority of responses came from teachers and students.

According to the data provided from Lara, 66% of students favored a four day school schedule, the most responses came from Torrington Middle School. Roughly 62% of parents favored the four-day calendar, again, the majority of parents who voted were parents of students at Torrington Middle School and Torrington High School. Roughly 73% of GCSD members (of 153 participants) favored a four-day school calendar.

Ultimately, the board of trustees, by a show of hand vote, voted 5 to 4, in adopting a four day calendar to begin in the 2023-2024 school calendar year.

However, the implementation is contingent upon approval by the state. That decision from the state will not be known until closer to the end of the current school year.

The board discussed a number of other agenda items, including appointing members of the board to the Goshen County Recreation Board for 2023.

The board approved the following appointments:

Wade Bruch, serving the first of a five-year term, a term that ends December 2027.

Wade Phipps, serving the second year of a five-year term, a term that ends December 2026.

Carlos Saucedo, serving the third year of a five-year term, a term that ends December 2025.

Dylan Hager, serving the fourth year of a five-year term, a term that ends December 2024.

Steve Feagler, serving the fifth year of a five-year term, a term that ends December 2023.

Board members also voted to approve an incentive pay of $5,000 to hire service-related staff members, such as school psychologists, speech language pathologist and occupational therapists, to be paid via special education Title VI-B funds.

The board also modified the job description for an academic and behavioral specialists’ position to align with specifications of the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) Consolidated Grant the district received.

Another grant, the Project AWARE Grant, which was approved at a prior board meeting in January, required the board’s approval relating to a job description for a community project manager as stipulated by the grant. This position would be responsible to train district staff members about various mental health concerns and industry standards, in addition to increasing mental health literacy in the district. The individual who will be hired for this job will also provide assistance to students and families dealing with behavioral or mental health issues. All nine members of the board unanimously passed this agenda item after GCSD Superintendent Ryan Kramer answered a few questions from Clerk Alexander.

Lastly, the district approved the resignation of 11 staff members, to be effective at the end of the current school calendar year.

Board members approved the resignation of the following staff members: 

Marv Haiman, Torrington Middle School Principal

Bryan Foster, GCSD Technology Director

Jeffry Fuller, GCSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction, also the Title IV co-director

Ryan Bosche, Lincoln and Trail Elementary art teacher

Molly Brown, Southeast Elementary Literacy Interventionist

Brenda Sinks, GCSD Occupational Therapist

Andrea Eisenbarth, Southeast Schools social studies teacher

Rob Flock, Torrington Middle School Special Education teacher

Barb Clark, Lingle Fort Laramie Middle and High School Special Education teacher

Joe Meininger, Trail Elementary fifth grade teacher

Jenna Krul, Torrington Middle School science teacher

In separate Telegram stories relating to the GCSD Board meeting, there will be a story about the presentations given by the district’s early literacy teachers and other related programs. A second story will briefly include the superintendent’s corner and the updates provided by Kramer as well as information relating to the district’s policy change for temporary virtual education.

Due to scheduling and pre-approved board approval, the next GCSD board meeting will be Tuesday, March 7, at 7 p.m., inside the boardroom at Central Administration.