County School Superintendent consolidation considered

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the office of the Carbon County Commissioners was packed with teachers and parties interested in discussing a proposed consolidation of the office of the Carbon County Schools Superintendent (CCSS). Current Carbon County Schools Superintendent Jerry Scott was present as were Commissioners John Prinkki and John Grewell. There were a lot of questions and input from people with years in the system. The proposal is to blend the CCSS office with the elected office of the Treasurer. Carbon County Youth Court’s Pam Hellerud said she first reacted when she heard about the proposal, “This is new to me! You’re kidding me? He’s just been there for me. All OP (Office of Public Instruction) meetings, child protective services meetings…how do we get these kids to school? We run all these things by Jerry.” She reflected, “Just his experience-he is so important to me. Also, my truancy office. The schools report to Jerry-we have a system. ” She said he was important to problem solving. “I use his knowledge and experience. The time he puts in! He’s always so busy but his door is open when I need it.” Commissioner Prinkki clarified, “Jerry’s done a great job. We’re not talking about Jerry, this is about the position.” Commissioner Grewell commented, “It was the superintendent who proposed it to us a year ago.” Scott responded, “That was before I talked to the teachers about it. I retract that now. I recommend against consolidation of the office. It is still viable and important to keep it open.” “The staff will stay,” said Commissioner John Grewell.

“But not the educator,” said Carrie Entenmann, parent, educator, trustee. “He’s on the Mental Health Board, does child protection, does PLUCK, he’s with me in the principal’s office if there’s a problem kid. There’s no way someone without that background can help our kids.” Maggy Hiltner said, “An educator-that’s their mindset. I think it takes that to care enough, to go further, to look into things. It’s a neutral place. Each school district is different. The county superintendent is objective. It’s a place to go if someone is not doing their job.” Hiltner continued, “You must have someone with an education background, experience and connections even if not working in those areas. It will affect the ability to perform all those other jobs.” For truancy, Prinkki said, “We’ll have a cop.” Marilyn Weast, former Jackson School Clerk and Red Lodge High School Board member said, “Why are we having all these people who don’t understand the job? If I’m a parent I want to go to an impartial officer. What’s Jane (county treasurer) going to do? Who else knows about high school? Who else cares?” Prinkki, “I wonder how other consolidated schools do that.” Weast, “We may be doing something they don’t (for their kids); they’ve just fallen through the cracks.” “I don’t think Jerry realized the importance of the impact the elimination of his position would have on schools,” said Weast. “Just because staff answers phone calls doesn’t mean they handle them.

They will refer the calls to Jerry when he returns.” “When Jackson closed,” said Scott, “it consolidated with Luther. That was part of my area. Boyd annexed with Joliet. I wrote those orders. I went to the meetings. I oversaw the elections.” Prinkki said three duties of the superintendent required certification: 1. Teacher evaluations; 2. School accreditations and 3. IEP-Individual Education Plans. Weast saw trouble with the day to day without hiring a superintendent for each need. “It’s easy to say, ‘go to the school board.’ I can wait ten days. Jerry gets a call back from OPI or a school board in ten minutes. If you call the School Board Association you get a bill or ‘we’re not qualified to answer.’” Janis Eckert, Lead Teacher Luther said, “I disagree with John that there are only three areas where the superintendent is needed. There is (also) special ed, the school lunch program, truancy, the liaison with Pam (Youth Court) by Jerry. Most important thing is it all has to do with children.

That’s why we need an education person who knows the law, understands it and helps teachers. We have no idea how many come to Jerry and ask for help because Jerry can’t tell us. There are six high schools and seven elementary schools in Carbon County. The consolidations that occurred in Ravelli and Cascade Counties were given as possible examples by Prinkki. Ravelli County has a population of approximately 40,000 and Cascade, 80,000, as compared to Carbon’s 10,000. Scott repeated an earlier statement that hiring contract superintendents when needed could equal or exceed the cost of his position. “We need a mediator in that position,” Entenmann stressed A Resolution of Intent to consolidate the position is likely being filed by the Commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 21 with a public meeting thereafter as required, date to be announced. The public can comment at that meeting. They can also contact the commissioners directly.