No public comments were taken Monday night at the North Platte public schools board meeting, but the topic that would have been addressed during public comments was in the air anyway — a conceptual merger of Buffalo and Lincoln elementary schools.

About 20 people waited until the end of the meeting to talk to their school board member about the situation, including parents and teachers’ representatives.

Some disappointed parents from Buffalo and Lincoln said they wanted to speak, and suspected that public comments were removed so they couldn’t.

Supt. Ron Hanson told the Bulletin that was not the case. He said the official reason was that the board is going through the yearly election of officers and  needed time to understand their roles.

The decision was made by outgoing president Mike Morrell. He and Hanson went over the agenda in advance and made the decision. Hanson indicated it is challenging for a new president to handle the meeting. A string of public comments could make it more difficult.

It was the first time in memory that the board has not had a time for public comments. Hanson and the newly elected board president, Skip Altig, said public comments will return at the next meeting.

JoAnn Lundgreen was elected vice-president.

Buffalo and Lincoln elementary schools are in Ward 2 of the school district. Board members Mike Morrell and Jo Ann Lundgreen represent the ward, and people waited to talk to them after the meeting.

When the regular  meeting was over, the board went into executive session to discuss personnel and pending litigation. They returned about 20 minutes later.

Under the state’s open meeting laws, members of the public have the right to attend and the right to speak at meetings of public bodies. Also, all or any part of a public meeting may be videotaped, recorded, televised, broadcast, photographed, etc. by any person. A public body is not required to allow citizens to speak at each meeting, but it may not forbid public participation at all meetings.

Also, the board:

  • Increased the pay for substitute teachers from $120/day to $130/day for short-term employment (1-10 days.) The rate will increase from $150 a day to $200 a day for longer-term employment (11-30 consecutive days for the same teacher.) Simpson hopes the increase with attract and keep more substitute teachers. He said at times, some school buildings are 2-3 teachers short of a full staff, due to absences and not enough available substitute teachers.
  • Heard from high school principal Scott Siegel, who said professional learning time is held Wednesday afternoons from 2:20-3:45 p.m. at the high school, so teachers cam get together to share ideas and information. The majority of teachers said they prefer that time over morning meetings.
  • Designated all the banks in the area as depositories for the district’s fund accounts, and investment of school district money.

North Platte school board meetings are held the second Monday of each month, starting at 5:30 p.m., at the McKinley Education Center, 301 West F St. Public comments will be heard at the next meeting.

(This report has been corrected to say that JoAnn Lundgreen and Mike Morrell represent ward 2 of the school district. The report was initially posted as a preview of the school board meeting. It was updated after the meeting. – Editor)