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At Last Meeting of Year, Nome Schools Hires New Director of Federal Programs

Starting this August, Nome Superintendent Jamie Burgess will no longer juggle two positions, as the district just hired a new Director of Federal Programs. This and several other items were part of the discussion at the final Nome School Board meeting of the 2018-2019 school year on Tuesday night.

Since February, when Jamie Burgess took over for former Superintendent Bill Schildbach — who left abruptly due to what the board calls “personal reasons” — she has been balancing both her role as Director of Federal Programs and Superintendent.

This will no longer be so, as Megan Hayes, who comes to Nome from her most recent role as the Chugiak School District’s IT director, has just been hired to take over. This will allow Burgess to focus exclusively on being Superintendent of Nome Public Schools.

A junior high special education teacher was also hired, leaving one more special education spot and two elementary school teacher spots to fill. 

Not having a special education teacher by the time the school year starts means the workload would be re-distributed. This would require staff to take on more responsibilities. 

“Those are always the toughest ones to fill. Special education is just a real, real high needs area.”

Burgess says she has an idea of who to offer the position to, but there are complications with the particular candidate finding housing in Nome. 

An overview of the recent Climate and Connectedness Survey during the School Board meeting showed that while parents’ and students’ results saw an overall improvement, staff results actually worsened in many areas. For example, while students and parents reported feeling safe at school, staff results showed perceived school safety down 10%, which Burgess called “significantly lower.” 

After talk of staff’s perceived cultural disconnect, Board member Nancy Mendenhall speculated about why.

“When I saw that, I thought, ‘Well, maybe because we had so many new people coming in from outside the region and outside the state that they felt more inadequate as far as the culture went.’”

Burgess says she plans on encouraging principals to “dig into” the survey results in order to see how they can address the areas that need improvement.

Superintendent Burgess also shared that the district has received more than double the amount of Migrant Education Funding from last year, at almost $345,000. The number of migrant students directly impacts Title One funding, which is supplemental funding to assist the district in meeting its educational goals. 

Burgess says that having a high number of migrant students allows the school to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision.

“That’s what allows us to offer every single one of our students the free breakfast and lunch program without going through the application process for free and reduced lunch and have those that don’t qualify have to pay everyday for breakfast and lunch.”

This increase in Migrant Education Funding, coupled with Title One funding, will be used to cover an elementary school counselor salary for the upcoming year, as well.

An offer has been made to a candidate from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and a verbal agreement has been reached. Burgess is also hopeful that they have found their permanent maintenance director in Ron Rule, who is currently under contract.

Beyond staffing, the school board approved funding for upgrades to the special education van. The van will have a wheelchair lift and four-wheel drive installed. This will come at less than half the cost of a new van, which would cost upwards of $80,000.

Funding for the modifications to the 15-passenger van had already been set aside, and the motion passed unanimously. This will allow greater ease of access to students whose Individualized Education Program mandates they have door-to-door transport, especially in winter.

The Board also approved the purchase and installation of flooring in the Beltz apartments, as well as in the Special Ed office and Anvil City Science Academy storage space. Burgess says she estimates the current carpeting in these spaces is around 15 years old. The estimated $46,000 the project will cost will come out of the apartment fund.

Toward the end of the meeting, Board members had positive parting words for one another. Board President Brandy Arrington recognized Vice President Barb Amarok for her latest feat. 

“I wanted to say congratulations to our very own Dr. Barb Amarok on being selected as the Northwest Campus Director, that’s exciting!”

[applause]

The Nome School Board will not convene again until its first regular meeting of the 2019-2020 school year, on August 13.

Joe Coleman contributed reporting to this story.

Image at top: The Nome School Board at their last meeting of the 2018-19 school year. Katie Kazmierski, KNOM.