Centre’s virtual program has growing pains

Staff writer

Vickie Jirak, coordinator of the Kansas Online Learning Program, and her assistants, Sheri Stahlecker and counselor Jill Day, appeared before the Centre school board Monday to ask for more help in administering the program.

Jirak noted the program has grown from 21 to 180 enrollees in four years. Currently, nine student learning advocates oversee enrollees. She said the program could grow to 250 enrollees.

Jirak said her office is especially busy during the enrollment period of June through September. Last summer, she called on others to provide extra help.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said.

Stahlecker enters data in the computer software program, Skyward. Day analyzes transcripts provided by high-school-age and adult enrollees and develops a four-year plan of classes for each one. The two women often work evenings. Together with their brick-and-mortar responsibilities, they often put in 60 to 70 hours a week.

Board member Terry Deines asked Day if her involvement in the virtual program took away from her regular job as school counselor. She said it does not, and she has had no complaints in that regard from parents or students.

Jirak said she needs more time to communicate with enrollees.

“We are good at customer service,” she said. “We make phone calls and encourage enrollees to continue the program and finish it.”

She also noted that all members of the teaching staff are supportive of the virtual program.

When asked what kind of help she would like to have, Jirak said one classified employee and one certified employee would be ideal.

The board agreed to consider the matter. They spent 45 minutes in executive session with Superintendent Brian Smith to discuss personnel matters. After returning to open session, they scheduled a special board meeting for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 20, to address staffing issues.

Other business

The board accepted the resignation of Jackie Ingram as English teacher and yearbook adviser effective at the end of the school year and Carrie Smith as co-cheerleader sponsor effective Jan. 14.

The board accepted a $410 bid from Darrin Hajek on a 1998 Ford Taurus and $1,003 from Joe Zinn for a pre-1960 Ford utility tractor with blade.

The board spent 35 minutes in executive session evaluating the superintendent’s performance, including 10 minutes with Smith.

The board allocated no more than $50,000 toward summer projects, including new electrical panels and gym lights.

The board spent 10 minutes in executive session to discuss negotiations with teachers.

Smith reported that fourth-grade teacher Gail Lorson was honored Jan. 27 as Tri-County Educator of the Year at a banquet sponsored by the Herington Chamber of Commerce.

Smith informed the board that ag instructor Jay O’Brien has applied for a $12,500 Farm to School grant from the Kansas Department of Agriculture to develop a pilot program to increase the amount of local food served through school meal programs. The money will be awarded to eight school districts with existing agricultural education programs.

Smith presented Steve Jirak with a Certificate of Achievement from the Kansas Association of School Boards for training he received as a board member.

The ACT day camp has been rescheduled for April 8.

Board Clerk Traci Alt requested the purchase of a new web-based fund accounting program. The board asked for more research on available plans. It will revisit the matter at its March 10 meeting.

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