Meeting in a non-voting session Thursday, the North Platte public school board discussed preschool enrollment, technology, and the date of graduation in 2025.

The director of elementary teaching and learning, Lyndsey Douglas, updated the board on the Bullpup preschool program. In the 2023-24 recently completed, there were eight preschool teachers. One teacher resigned at the end of the school year and with anticipated lower enrollment in 2024-25, they did not hire a teacher.

The enrollment in 2023-24 was 133, a decrease from 143 the year before. The anticipated enrollment for the next school year is 114. With the lower enrollment, the district plans a preschool for three-year-olds in 2024-25, with 16 enrolled.

The preschool program employs 20 paraprofessionals — a music teacher, two early education special education teachers, two occupational therapists, one occupational therapist assistant, one physical therapist, two speech-language pathologists, one secretary, and one lunch staff.

Douglas said the Bullpup program reached significant achievements this year. Data from the fall and winter showed higher student achievement in all areas, including social-emotional knowledge, physical, language, cognitive abilities, literacy, and mathematics.

The program also successfully operated two special classes — music and library — in partnership with the North Platte Public Library. Also, the Bullpup program collaborated with community helpers, such as the state game and parks staff and the canine unit of the police department.

Notably, this was the first year the program held preschool graduation programs since the onset of COVID-19, Douglas said.

Tech

Next, the director of technology, Brian Tegtmeier, provided a comprehensive overview of the district’s technology department. Tegtmeier said the department has 10 dedicated individuals, playing a pivotal role in supporting teachers and students with technology in the classroom.

They implement online curricula, evaluate and purchase new technology, monitor the operations and security of IT data systems, networks, devices, and accounts. They collect data and report it, and train staff.

The department has an unwavering commitment to ensuring a technologically advanced learning environment for students, Tegtmeier said.

He said every grade level has a 1:1 ratio of students and Google Chromebooks. Units for grades K-4 are purchased on a five-year cycle. They are kept in carts at school to minimize wear and tear. For grades 5-12, there is a four-year cycle for repurchasing.

Teachers receive Chromebook replacements every five years. The next scheduled replacement is in Spring 2028, when the district transitions from HP to Macbooks for all teachers. Parents can buy Chromebook insurance for $10 monthly to help cover repair costs. During the 2023-24 school year, 873 student device incidents occurred, including battery issues, cracked screens, keyboard replacements, etc.

Financial Director Stewart Simpson said the district covers the first incident, partially covers a second incident, and the parents become responsible for the total price if there is a third incident.

Graduation

Supt. Todd Rhodes brought a potential conflict regarding the 2025 high school graduation date to the board. The approved calendar has graduation set for May 10, the same date as the finals of district baseball. Rhodes said the high school team made it to the district finals this year, even with the shortened baseball schedule, and is apt to make it to the district finals next year.

At the June meeting, the board will vote to change graduation date to Mother’s Day, May 11, 2025.

In other business, Human Resources Director Kevin Mills said the school is not fully staffed yet; and still looking for teachers in English, science, and journalism at the high school.

Simpson updated the district on utilities and insurance costs. He said both categories fall into the budget category of non-personnel expense, which is 17.5% of the total budget, or $8.2 million. Utilities and insurance account for 20% of the total, or roughly $1.6 million. Simpson said that the cost of utilities increases on average, by 5% every year. He said they plan a 15% increase in insurance in the coming year.

Legislative updates

Rhodes said 22 school policies need to be amended and four brand-new policies need to be adopted to stay in compliance with new state laws. The four brand-new policies deal with parent-requested repeating of a grade, the preschool program, Malcolm X Day, and projection maps used in the classroom.

He said the policies will be brought before the board for a vote at the June meeting.

General strategies, techniques

The board reviewed Strategy 3 of the 2020-25 Strategic Plan — Providing a safe and healthy learning environment.

The first part includes balancing revenues and expenses to maintain a solid financial position.

Simpson said he does this by analyzing past spending and income patterns, identifying additional revenue sources, providing financial updates to district leaders and principals, and managing the cash reserve.

The second part of this strategy is to ensure a safe and secure environment for all students and staff.

Simpson said this is done by ensuring the facilities are used to their maximum potential, having a plan of action to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of school operations, and reviewing and updating the safety plan each year.

The final part of this strategy is to provide internal and external communication systems.

Communications Specialist Brandon Petersen said sharing district-approved platforms with administrators and staff provides training and support. Also, sharing information via internal and external media outlets and having a system to encourage two-way communication between the district and the community help accomplish the final part of the strategy. 

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