The board of trustees for the Rim of the World Unified School District: Bill Mellinger, president; Cindy Gardner, clerk; Jordana Ridland; Scott Craft; Jordan Zarate.
Anne Marie Van Hulle from the Rim of the World Educational Foundation presented checks for the AVID programs to Brian Willemse (left), principal of Rim High, and MPH Principal Jennifer Whiteside and Richard Peetz, the MPH AVID coordinator.
Molly England is the student representative to the board of trustees from Mountain High School.
(Photos by Mary-Justine Lanyon)
RIM OF THE WORLD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Safety and security top concerns at trustees meeting
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Dr. Bill Mellinger, the newly elected president of the Rim of the World Unified School District board of trustees, reminded the community about some safety concerns at the Dec. 15 meeting.
“When school buses stop and the flashing red lights come on,” he said, “traffic needs to stop. I watched a car go right by – the red lights were on, the stop sign was out on the side of the bus. That car went through, driving over the speed limit.
“There have been other situations where our students and bus drivers are put in danger. As a community, we need to do a better job of protecting our students and staff.”
Mellinger added the bus drivers follow a protocol – they pull up to a stop, turn on the lights, put out the stop sign and then wait to make sure traffic is stopped in both directions.
“Then,” he said, “they get up, open the door, get off the bus, get in the middle of the street with their stop sign and then invite the students to get off the bus and cross the street.”
In addition to Mellinger being elected president of the board, Cindy Gardner was elected clerk and Dr. Kimberly Fricker was elected secretary. Scott Craft was installed as the newest member of the board of trustees. He was warmly welcomed by the rest of the board.
In her superintendent’s report, Dr. Fricker said she thinks “many people don’t know all the things that go on behind the scenes. Calling a snow day was a learning process for me.
“We have a person who gets up at 2 or 3 a.m. and drives the roads to see if our buses can do it. That is sheer dedication on the part of Jennifer Kawell.” That comment drew a round of applause from the trustees and the audience.
Dr. Fricker noted she is in the process of visiting all the schools and walking through the classrooms. “I’m seeing what the students are working on.” She is also meeting with the principals who are giving her feedback on what is working and what is not. “I’m gathering everyone’s voice who wants to participate,” she said.
Student representative Molly England from Mountain High School gave a comprehensive report on the activities at each of the campuses over the past month.
Anne Marie Van Hulle, chair of the AVID committee for the Rim of the World Educational Foundation, presented a check for $36.981.86 to Brian Willemse, principal of Rim High, and a check for $7,698.00 to Jennifer Whiteside, principal of Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School, and Richard Peetz, the MPH AVID coordinator. She noted that, in the past 10 years, Rim Ed has donated nearly $500,000 to the school district.
Following the presentation, Molly England suggested getting an AVID program in place at Mountain High School.
Dr. Fricker – with the help of several staff members – gave a lengthy state of the district report. (Anyone who would like to listen to the report may do so on the school district’s YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrRS9qt0jq8). The report, Dr. Fricker noted, includes the “key elements of what we want teachers to do in the classrooms and administrators in their offices.”
The superintendent also presented a weather protocol report – what to do under certain weather conditions when it is either unusually hot or cold. She noted these are guidelines, not policy. The report will be distributed to the principals.
The trustees held an initial discussion about the possibility of floating a bond measure in the future. “We have gotten pleas from the RTA and parents for air conditioning,” Dr. Fricker said. According to Chief Business Official Jennifer Haberlin, a consultant had estimated the cost of installing air conditioning on the Rim campuses at $22 million a couple of years ago. Today, she said, that estimate has risen to $30 to $35 million.
“I see the need,” said Trustee Jordana Ridland. “But I have a lot of concerns about us putting in the effort to get a bond to pass. I am sensitive to the situation of people on fixed incomes.”
“We need to take care of our staff and students,” Trustee Cindy Gardner noted. “It’s a morale and academic issue. Students can’t learn when it’s 98 degrees in the classroom. The Band-Aid of swamp coolers will only go so far. We have to take care of our kids, our staff. This is a serious health issue.
“We can’t have the front doors or classroom doors propped open,” Gardner added. “We can’t say we have safe and secure facilities if the doors are propped open to get air circulation. We have to have classrooms that foster learning.”
Ridland responded that she agrees the district needs to get the funding. “The challenge is getting the bond to pass.”
“Safety and security are the biggest issue,” said Trustee Scott Craft. “I brought up the issue many times. But when the money’s not there, it’s not there. We need to ensure there’s some accountability.”
Referring back to the maintenance portion of the state of the district report, Craft said “it’s terrible when it’s raining inside the building.”
“We sorely needed a bond in 2020 with Measure A,” said Trustee Jordan Zarate. “And we need it now. We need to pursue it and we have to demonstrate to the community that this isn’t a desire – it’s a need for the district. We have to tell the stories that make us sad. We ought to be keeping our children as safe as possible so they can learn. It’s a desperate need now.”
Gardner added that “we have to get out in front of the story very early.” She noted they need a facilities plan to present to the community. “We have to develop relationships with community organizations. Having their support, telling the story early won’t guarantee success but it will increase the chances (of the bond passing).”
President Bill Mellinger said what is needed is a five-year plan, a 10-year plan. That would include the answer to the question, If it doesn’t pass, how can we address these issues?
“The board needs to go back and assess why Measure A failed. What did we as a board not do that we should have done? There’s no way we can do everything that needs to be done. We need a priority list,” Mellinger said.
During closed session following the regular meeting, the board voted to add a bond study session to a future agenda.