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Nome School Board Approves Teacher Contracts, Reproductive Health Curriculum, 2020 Food Service Bid

Pencil sharpener, pencil, and pencil shavings, on top of open, blank notebook
A generic sharpened pencil with paper. Photo from the public domain.

The Nome Public Schools school board meeting on February 14 brought several action items to the table, including the approval of teacher contracts for 2020 as well as approving a reproductive health lesson for next month at the Junior High.

All current certified, tenured teachers will be offered a contract for the coming school year, as well as 28 teachers without tenure. Two of those 28 will be tenured next year: Kathleen Bourdon and Madelyn Alvanna-Stimpfle.

Shannon Sickle, a nurse practitioner at Norton Sound Health Corporation, presented an overview of reproductive health materials to be presented at Nome-Beltz Junior High as a program during an upcoming minimum day.

“…doing a full immersion day that would touch on reproductive health topics: values of knowing oneself, and also extending respect for others. So, touching on topics such as self-esteem, personal hygiene, and then also to discuss reproductive anatomy and, from there, establishing healthy relationships.”

The Board passed the curriculum, but not without some discussion. Board member Nancy Mendenhall was hesitant to approve the material without further information, to which Nome-Beltz principal Jon Berkeley responded:

“The lessons that are presented are pulled heavily from the Fourth R Curriculum, which is the state of Alaska’s adopted Social Emotional Learning Program… the target date is March 6th, so we’ll have plenty of time for review.”

The materials are now available for review in the front office of Nome-Beltz for parents/interested community members to review prior to its presentation to students. Parents are able to inform the school in writing that their child not attend the presentation, but students are not able to exempt out of any portion of the program discussing sexual assaults, abuse, and/or dating violence and abuse, as per Bree’s Law in the state of Alaska.

Also approved by the Board was next school year’s food service bid, which will go to the district’s current provider, NANA Management Services (NMS), at a 5% higher cost for Full Year 2020. In response to recent complaints regarding school lunches from the student body, NMS representative Scott Lewis explained the food provider is formulating a survey to better understand student needs/wants, and, less formally, keeping track of day-to-day interactions of food service staff with students.

“Our chef Wasey Sandoval talks with a number of students every day to find out ‘how does this taste versus how it tasted a year ago?’ or ‘would you like to see this different?’”

After Lewis’ report, Student Representative Devin Otton expressed further discontentment, having traveled to schools around the region and getting a taste of their food. Interim Superintendent Jamie Burgess said feedback from traveling students like Otton is welcome and encouraged.

“Kids probably know better, because they travel to the other school districts and participate in their breakfast and lunch programs… we can take a look at if that’s replicable in our district.”

A revision to this year’s budget was also passed, along with a plan to update the Nome Elementary School phone system. The contract chosen is with TelAlaska, which offered the lowest cost ($23,393) and matches the system currently in place at NBHS, the district office, and Anvil City Science Academy.

The School Board will next convene at a work session on Tuesday, February 26 that will explore what possible cuts based on Dunleavy’s recent budget proposal would look like. Burgess says they will take that information to the Joint Budget Work Session with the Nome City Council Monday, March 4. The School Board’s regular meeting will follow on March 5.

Image at top: public domain.

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