Negaunee school board talks finances, benefits



Journal Staff Writer

NEGAUNEE — Money moves were made at the Negaunee Public Schools board of education meeting on Monday.

Similar to previous years, board members unanimously approved the recommended budget of the Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency.

One Lakeview Elementary guidance counselor, Becky Halamka, recently began a private business called Superior Educator Wellness, which focuses on providing work-life balance counseling for teachers. Halamka has offered her services to NPS for a minimum payment of $5,000 per year.

“My goal is to provide short-term, brief wellness counseling to educators in Negaunee Public Schools,” Halamka said.

She cited an incident that sparked her idea as the lack of adequate attention paid to staff following a suicide in the NICE Schools district.

“We were supporting our students day after day after day after that crisis, but as I looked around at the adults, they were receiving very little support,” she said.

The board unanimously approved one year of Halamka’s services for $5,000. NPS will cover the cost of sessions for all its educators.

A variety of repair project bids concerning Negaunee Middle School, Negaunee High School and Lakeview were pitched by Superintendent Dan Skewis, totaling to $132,558.55. The board unanimously approved all bids, paid through the district’s sinking fund.

Due to outdated technology in the district, the board also unanimously approved the purchase of 550 Chromebooks to replace Chromebooks no longer supported by Google.

When it comes to money, NPS business manager Michelle LaMere reported the district’s total assets at $11.8 million with revenue of $17 million and expenses at $13 million.

She noted that with the help of the MARESA, NPS has applied for the 27k Student Loan Repayment Program offered by the state. With this grant, 17 eligible educators in the district will receive monthly loan reimbursements beginning in July.

Other benefits to NPS employees were voted on as action items.

NPS instructional aid Laurie McGrath’s request for experience credit was unanimously approved by the board due to her prior experience running an in-home daycare. She will move up two steps in the district’s salary schedule.

Additionally, a recommendation to make Faith Toutant the junior varsity softball coach was passed by the board 5-0, with Greg Toutant abstaining.

During his administrative report, Skewis reported that there are four unofficial retirements with none formally submitting paperwork yet. Currently, there is one special education position open and an effort is being made to find more custodial staff.

Principals of Lakeview Elementary, Negaunee Middle School and Negaunee High School reported that their students are in the midst of testing season. Elementary students are taking the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress tests while middle school students are taking MSTEP tests. High schoolers are currently working through the PSAT, SAT and ACT, depending on their grade level.

Aside from testing, NHS principal Andrew Brunette reported that sophomores have received instruction from MARESA staff on how to identify and help peers struggling with their mental health.

Lakeview Elementary Principal Heather Holman told the board she will be meeting with Doug Smith from Penchura, a recreation products and services provider, to brainstorm new concepts for the school’s playground.

Though nothing has been decided yet, Holman said, “My hope is that removing those tennis courts would open up a lot of space on the playground now that they’re not being utilized anymore.”

Mike McCollum, NMS principal, told the board that Negaunee police officer Josh Myers spoke to an English class about using writing skills in the real world and spoke to sixth-graders about identifying inappropriate texts.

McCollum also reported that 20 girls from the school attended Northern Michigan University’s Women in Construction night, which was a great success, according to the students.

Skewis also updated the board on the in-progress preschool space in Hope Church. A lease is being drafted for NPS to use the lower-level classrooms and office space.

“We’re only interested in where the preschool was prior. That would give us three classrooms, it would cap us for the first year at 48 students. The only thing we’re not quite sure of is when we would start,” he said.

Licensing, inspection and staffing still need to be handled prior to its opening, but the current plan is to have an income-based Great Start Readiness Program classroom, a three-year-old classroom and a four-year-old classroom.

Alexandria Bournonville can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 506. Her email address is abournonville@miningjournal.net.


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