BURLINGTON JCT., Mo. — In an unusual move, the West Nodaway Board of Education affirmed in a vote last week its intention not to offer contract extensions for the 2021-2022 school year to two administrators, including the superintendent.
At the end of a three-hour closed session that concluded just before 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 12, the board took the unusual action of voting to extend the contracts of elementary principal Holly Brady and superintendent Shannon Nolte through the 2021-2022 school year, then voting against both extensions. Both administrators’ contracts still run through the end of the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
“What I can tell you is that I think there is kind of a different direction that our board … (members) want to see us take as administrators, and the direction they want to see us take the school,” Nolte told The Forum over the phone. “There’s … I would call it a list of goals, they have for us. And I guess they wanted to communicate those to us, and before we do any contract extensions for another year following, they wanted us to know those goals and take action steps toward those goals, and then evaluate where we’re at next year.”
Nolte said that his evaluation, as most superintendent evaluations in the county are, was carried out as normal in January, including comments and goals for the upcoming year. But a contract extension did not accompany it, an unusual — though not unheard of — occurrence for a superintendent if a school board intended to retain him or her.
Per a request of a board member, Nolte said, it was brought back to the table in the February meeting for a vote. The vote failed with only two board members voting for the extension, and five voting against.
Nolte said he recommended to the board it approve an extension for Brady, K-5 principal since 2015. That, too, was voted down by the same margin.
According to the meeting minutes, board member Bernie Farmer and board president Troy Brady (no relation to Holly Brady) voted for the extensions. Emma Barnett, Scott Conn, James Graham, Sarah Thompson and Amanda Walker all voted against each extension.
Mitch Barnes, who is completing his first year as principal of grades 6-12, was unanimously hired by the board to the same position for next year. Nolte said that the board’s policy dictates that administrators’ contracts are year-to-year until after the third year, at which point the board can offer multi-year extensions.
"We as a district are constantly seeking those improvements to our system that will benefit our students and community," Troy Brady said in an email to The Forum Thursday. "The Board and the perspective that its members bring to discussion with administrators is a guiding force in these improvements."
Citizens Bank and Trust in Burlington Junction presented two checks totaling nearly $2,600 to the West Nodaway R-I Board of Education last week as part of the bank’s school mascot debit card program.
Connie Hall of Citizens Bank presented the checks and told the school board that the bank would like a clearer idea of what the funds from the program are going toward.
“The bank has never placed stipulations, or directed how these funds should be spent,” Hall said. “Over the years, those funds have helped to build the sign out front, we’ve purchased football helmets, we’ve helped the art and band programs, we’ve purchased sensory items for various classrooms, et cetera. The intent was to help support the school with projects that otherwise may not have been possible to achieve.
“The past year, we’ve had a lot more inquiries as to where these funds are being used. And we’ve had requests for certain projects. We’ve discussed this, and as a bank, we’re not going to direct those funds. … I challenge you to leave this school, and this community, a better place. A place our students can be proud to call home.”
The mascot debit card program puts a percentage of purchases made through a school-themed debit card — in this case a Rocket debit card — to the school as a donation. Hall said West Nodaway was one of the first schools to participate, and receives about $5,000 per year as part of the program.
Hall also noted that the bank has seen fewer high school students physically enter the bank to sign up for or maintain bank accounts. She encouraged the school to reach out if there were any ways for the bank to increase its presence at high school events or on the school’s campus.
Later in the meeting, the board voted to put the donation towards the purchase of new stage curtains, which cost around $5,200. Superintendent Shannon Nolte said the current set of curtains are badly damaged and cannot be used anymore, necessitating immediate replacement.
Board members said they would like to start taking pictures of the projects and improvements the mascot debit card donations have gone toward so the bank could display exactly where the funds are going.
School personnel underwent ALICE training — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — last week, an enhanced lockdown drill in case of an active shooter.
“This ALICE training is a very practical, hands-on, scenario-based training,” Nolte said. “And we feel like this is going to prepare us, hopefully, for something that never happens.”
Preparedness, Nolte said, is the key to saving lives in emergency situations, pointing to the ubiquity of fire drills as a major factor in driving down student deaths in school fires.
“And the reason is you run 3 or 4 fire drills a year and you know when a fire … bell goes off, you evacuate the building — that’s practice,” Nolte said. “That’s the same concept behind this, is you practice those scenarios so that if it does happen, it minimizes the damage or the loss that you might see.”
He said that right now, teachers and staff are the only ones involved in the trainings, but next year, students K-12 will participate.
“Because they need to know, what does ‘lockdown’ mean?” Nolte said. “It’s not just shut the door, turn the lights off, huddle in the corner and hide. It’s actively barricading the door, hiding if you need to, get out of the window, those kinds of things. It’s not the passive lockdown situation anymore. And kids need to know that. Evacuation is a prime thing.
“If you’ve got somebody in the building who is causing harm, they’re only going to be in one part of the building. The rest of the building should be getting the heck out of there and going someplace else. So we will train kids on that, yes.”
The board approved the final reading of the 2020-21 school calendar.
Starting next school year, each school day will begin 15 minutes earlier, at 7:55 a.m. Because the days will be longer and the state requires a set number of hours per year instead of school days per year, it will shorten the school year by a few days.
Graduation will be on May 9, with the last day of school scheduled for May 14.
- Alan Calfee was hired as head varsity football coach for North-West Nodaway for the 2020-21 school year.
- Valerie Cowden was hired as elementary secretary for the 2020-21 school year.
- The board accepted Melissa Cook’s resignation as varsity basketball cheer coach at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
- The board accepted Brenda Langston’s retirement letter as paraprofessional that will go into effect at the end of the 2019-20 contract year.
Other West Nodaway notes
- The district is considering offering and optional full-day preschool program after conducting a survey of parents. A committee considering how to move forward with a proposal will have a recommendation for the board next month.
- Applications are open for head baseball coach for this spring and those interested are encouraged to apply ASAP. The first game is scheduled for March 23.
- The district purchased a snowblower to help with clearing snow.