By Mary-Justine Lanyon
(Photos by Sara Green)
Salary increases were on the agenda for the April 20 meeting of the Rim of the World Unified School District’s board of trustees.
The five trustees unanimously approved a 5.5-percent increase, effective July 1, 2022, for the classified employees, members of the California Schools Employees Association. They also approved the same increase for certificated management, classified management and classified confidential employees.
In addition, the trustees approved an 8-percent salary increase for Regional Occupation Program/Career Technical Education teachers, also effective July 1, 2022.
In other action, the trustees voted to continue using COVID relief funds to offset the cost of bus passes. For the 2023-2024 school year, there will continue to be no charge to families for the bus passes. This will be the fourth year of zero-cost passes.
“We will try to keep it at zero,” was the comment from Dr. Kimberly Fricker, the superintendent of schools.
The April 20 meeting began with four members of the public commenting on the reported closing of the Blue Jay Cinema at the end of the month. What they have heard is that the new owner of the former district office will not be renewing the theater’s lease, something that has been confirmed by the theater’s owner.
Speaking on behalf of Rita Nelson, Faith Mattioli expressed a desire to create a space for youth with arcades and a roller rink, in addition to the theater. “We don’t need more grocery stores with Jensen’s (right up the street),” she said, referring to the rumor that the new owners plan to open a Grocery Outlet in the space.
Kristy Baltezore told the trustees that she values “the town’s unique identity and diverse culture.” The area, she said, reminds her of her hometown in Wyoming where citizens raised money to save a building that was to be demolished and created a co-op.
The sale of the former district office, Rex said, “is perceived as a clandestine agreement. I spoke with three potential buyers who would have enjoyed the opportunity to purchase the building and invest in the community. We had the impression there would be an opportunity to keep the theater open. The buyer would have a paying leaseholder from Day 1.”
And Katy Curtis said she was drawn to the mountain “by the access to nature and the small-town charm. I was disheartened to hear of the planned closure of the Blue Jay Cinema. It is one of the only forms of family entertainment – one of the only safe places our kids can go and enjoy themselves regularly.”
The trustees expressed their appreciation for Dr. Fricker and her actions during the storm.
Trustee Jordan Zarate advocated for all the school sites being prepared to be evacuation centers “so we can property handle disasters as we know there will be lag time for outside agencies to come and help.”
Trustee Scott Craft was pleased to see former students driving trucks with food up the mountain and operating snowplows. “I will never move from here. People don’t know how great we have it up here.” At the same time, Craft said “there are improvements we can make. I never saw a storm like this. I commend everyone who helped out – it was amazing.”
“We see the need to improve our facilities,” said Trustee Cindy Gardner. “We have new leaks. If we need to house people, we have to be set up to safely take care of evacuees. The storm highlighted the need to focus on getting the money to start these projects.
“Every school site needs updates to function as evacuation centers and serve the needs of staff and students in a better manner,” Gardner added.
“The community came together so beautifully during the storm,” Trustee Dana Ridland said. “When tragedy hits, strangers come together and do for each other.”
President Bill Mellinger said the calling of Dr. Fricker to the district was “the best decision” the board made. “The work she did during the storm was stellar. All across the mountain people realized the need to take care of neighbors.”
Mellinger added that every site in the district was in use during the blizzard in one way or another.
Dr. Fricker thanked the staff for what they did during the storm. “At the heart of our district is meeting the needs of our students and families.” Referring to the forum she held on April 18, Dr. Fricker said she had stressed that there will be a time during any disaster when “we wait for help to come to us. We don’t have the option to sit still, stay home. The greatest gift and pleasure we have had has been giving back to the community,” she added.
“I feel like a month of my life disappeared but I feel it was the greatest work of my entire life.”
Marina Amador, principal of both Mountain High School and Rim Virtual Academy, reported that three students had graduated from Mountain High this month with 10 more on track to graduate in June. She was pleased to report Mountain now has a counselor, Lisa Mills, three days a week. The school also has a science teacher, LaDonna Guzman, who started work in December. Mills graduated from Mountain High and Guzman from another continuation high school.
Other additions and improvements include the addition of a daily custodian and construction of offices, which will give privacy to meetings with the principal. “It’s starting to feel more like a real school,” Amador said.
Rim Virtual Academy now has an enrollment of 132. The seniors will take part in the Rim High graduation, wearing special stoles.
Chief Business Official Jenny Haberlin reported the current Rim enrollment is 2,876, slightly lower than last month but higher than this time last year. The current average daily attendance (ADA) is just under 2,600 or 89.9 percent. None of the schools, she noted, are hitting the 95-percent attendance rate.
Haberlin told the trustees that the waiver for the 21 days of school missed due to the storms has been approved by the county and expedited to the California Department of Eduation.