TAWAS CITY – Two Tawas Area Schools (TAS) teachers reported that the schedule modifications agreed to by the district and the Tawas Area Federation of Teachers (TAFT) to help teachers cope with the demands of in-class and remote learning are having a positive impact. 

Katy Jagelewski and Anna Dalman gave their perspective on the extra time allotted by the adjustment at the TAS Board of Education meeting on Nov. 9.

In a prepared statement commenting on the district’s Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan Update, Jagelewski said, “…many of our staff have expressed to the union leadership team that the modified schedule that the district adopted to deal with the challenges of teaching the online students and in-person students has been extremely helpful. Teachers have told us it has helped them be able to communicate more effectively with the online students and prepare more effective lessons for the students as well. 

“Furthermore, the TAFT has appreciated the collaborative approach the board, Mr. (Superintendent John) Klinger, and the administration team has taken when putting the Return to Learn plan and Extended Learning plan together, as well as when meeting to make modifications to the plan as new issues and challenges have arose. We know that with many stakeholders involved, these decisions can be difficult, so we appreciate TAFT being a meaningful part of the process.”

Jagelewski added, “It’s been a bit of a stress reliever for most of the staff.”

Dalman anecdotally shared that the extra time has helped her pull a virtual student up from failing to a passing grade, and expressed her thanks. 

Speaking as a parent of a fourth-grade student, Dalman was concerned about the fact that the class size for that grade is at its maximum for the three sections this year. Noting that the Board’s personnel committee is scheduled to meet in the near future, she encouraged the district to consider hiring an additional teacher and add a fourth section. Dalman commented that such a move would also enhance the district’s COVID-19 Learning Plan, especially with respect to social distancing.

In other matters before the board:

• Klinger announced that new billboards advertising the school district would be going up on Saturday (Nov. 14). Klinger said that the billboard project included their own students with the help of the digital photography class to create “excellent examples that will represent our schools” and catch the attention of people driving by to interest them in educating their children at Tawas Area Schools.

• Custodian Kal Jones submitted a letter of resignation/retirement, effective Nov. 30. Jones has worked for the district for more than five years;

• At the recommendation of Food Service Director Jan Sacrant, the board unanimously approved the hiring of two new cook’s helpers. Sandra Ledin and Kandra Cousins will fill those roles for the district.

• Interim Athletic Director Lynn Kosto recommended Nicole Obeada to coach varsity cheerleading. The board approved that hire without dissent.

• A second reading of new and revised board policies took place. By a 6-0 vote, the policy changes, which came from NEOLA and were recommended for approval by the policy committee, were approved.

• The sinking fund committee submitted their recommendations about which building projects should be prioritized for the 2020-21 school year. While the committee acknowledged that the district’s aging boiler system should be addressed, they suggested waiting one more year to ensure the availability of additional budgeted funds to handle the entire project at that time. This year’s priorities include installation of radio boosters in both buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate more effectively and adding a secure entrance to the central office.

• Klinger updated the board on new legislation signed into law by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer which amended the Open Meetings Act, and provides a timetable for a gradual return to regular, in-person public meetings.

• The board unanimously approved the extended COVID-19 learning plan reconfirmation update.

• As a part of the new Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process (MICIP), the Board unanimously approved the creation of a District Vision Statement, which reads, “Tawas Area Schools are committed to inspiring and empowering students to become critical thinkers, engaging in evolutionary experiences, and cultivating lifelong learners.”

• By a 6-0 vote, the board approved a measure calling for the evaluation of the superintendent to take place in December, rather than in March.

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