Dust settling a bit at West Platte

District has received nearly 30 applications for superintendent’s post

After officially parting ways with former Superintendent Dr. Jerrod Wheeler (as reported in last week’s Citizen), the West Platte School District this week tried to kick off a long-range planning process at a very sparsely attended meeting Monday evening. 

With Board member Justin Webb and Acting Superintendent Rebecca Henshaw absent, the Board met briefly to approve its vendor list, discuss the long-range plan and hold an executive session with no votes cast. So far, the district has received close to 30 applications for the interim superintendent position and plans to hold an executive session Thursday night to review resumes. A public work session will be held next Monday evening as well. Board President John Collier introduced the subject of long range planning, outlining a process that would include input from the community and other stakeholders. “We do need to begin the long range plan, but we have several short term areas of focus we’ll need to address,” Collier said. At the top of the list is creation of a budget for the 2014-15 school year, which needs to be complete by July. A teacher and staff salary study also needs to be addressed, as do community concerns about the recommendations of the district architects. “There aren’t very many people here for a public meeting,” said Board member Ryan Rotterman. “We need to seek more input, maybe a committee of outside community members to look at the facility needs because I don’t think we can just stop with what the architects think we should do. I would like to see more involvement from the community. We need to reach out to people because this really isn’t working now.” Former West Platte teacher Lennie Medcalf and current teacher Kelly Cogan did speak out about the need to address programming issues. Medcalf, whose work with private student Grace Cogan is featured on page B4 of this issue, said district teachers could incorporate programs such as National History Day into the existing curriculum. Cogan said the district needed to work to assist every member of its student population, including the creation of a life skills program for special needs and at-risk students. “We need to plug in to this community,” Medcalf said. “We have some very educated people here in Weston that we could call upon.” Incorporation of students into the Applefest kids’ activities, allowing them to plan events for the festival for credit, would be one way of uniting the school and community, she said. She also suggested incorporation of a community service requirement. Collier said he appreciates Medcalf and Cogan’s input, and that the district needs a new superintendent to lead the long-range planning process and help institute such changes as the community desires. “And there’s nothing that says that the budget we make has to be a one-year budget,” Collier said. “We could have a two year, a five year, with room to modify the budget as our long range plan evolves. I think there will be more patron input when we get more steam going in the process. This won’t be a quick fix.” Board member Antonio Cutolo-Ring said the administration has to be a part of the process as ultimately they will be the ones to implement programming. “This can’t be another year of waiting, this needs to be now,” Medcalf said. “It took us two years to get into this mess and it will probably take two years to get back out. I’m not expecting miracles, but we really need to get to work putting things together.” Cogan said after working at the district for seven years she is worn out, and that if the district wants to truly serve the special needs and at-risk populations they will get to work now. Rotterman agreed. “I do want to move on some of these things as soon as we can,” he said. “The kids that are here now deserve the services now, not to wait a year or two years for us to get everything together.” Platte County Director of Parks and Recreation Brian Nowotny was in attendance at the meeting as a district patron, and applauded the district’s efforts to create a long range plan. “We do a lot of planning at the County,” he said. “I really encourage you to go through that process of planning.” At the May 6 special meeting, the Board approved the hire of Stacy Fulk as a kindergarten teacher and Steve Feiden as high school Read 180 program instructor. They accepted the resignation of Tonja Kearns, who plans to relocate.