BIG PINEY – With the fire raging in the mountains above, and smoke and ash slowly descending on the town of Big Piney, the Sublette County School District No. 9 Board of Trustees held its regular meeting on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Business Manager Amy Anschutz and Superintendent Gerry Chase had talked to the incident commander of the Fontenelle Fire. The high school and school grounds will be used as a command center and a place to house personnel fighting the blaze.
Anschutz said the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) had told her to expect between 275 and 300 firefighters. Chase said tents will be set up on lawn areas and the firefighters will be given access to locker rooms and other areas to shower. He said the USFS often brings a portable kitchen, but those staying at the school might use the cafeteria and its kitchen.
The group will also take over 10 classrooms on the west side of the high school to set up the actual incident command center, complete with network connections and a communication center.
Anschutz said the district and USFS would sign a land use agreement to reimburse the district for any resources used or consumed during the stay.
Bridger-Teton National Forest Public Affairs Officer Mary Cernicek said the Type 2 incident started arriving Wednesday and held a transition meeting to take over the fire Wednesday night. A fully staffed Type 2 incident team is between 250 and 300 firefighters.
Also at the meeting:
• Maintenance Supervisor George Bohm reported on the progress of replacing the light fixtures in the district. Most of the buildings’ fixtures have been replaced, with only the high school and fine arts building remaining. He’s hoping the retrofit will be complete before the school year starts, but he added the high school gym is slowing the progress down.
When all the new fixtures are installed, Rocky Mountain Power will do a walkthrough to determine the size of rebate the district will receive for increasing its energy efficiency. Anschutz said the district will see some money returned soon thereafter.
• The board approved amendments to policies on the discipline, suspension or dismissal of support staff, guidance on professional leave and public meeting notification. The amendments have to be approved twice to take effect.
• Chase is working on a federal grant package that will include Title 2A funds for class size reduction. The funds will pay the salary and benefits of one fifth-grade teacher to keep class sizes below 25 students. The district projects there will be 51 fifth graders next year.
• Chase also reported on the MAP testing scores. Students across the district were measured in 55 areas and met or exceeded growth projections for 52 of those. He said the three measurements that came up short were one grade level in reading, one in language and one in science.
• The board approved a principal salary schedule. Chase told the Roundup this was the first year for such a schedule and it is meant to give the district a factual rationale for how much it pays its principals.
“It allows us to be consistent and competitive,” he said.
There will be adjustments to the salaries of two of the four principals to put them in line with the new schedule, which includes education and professional training as factors toward determining pay.
Along with the new schedule, Chase told the Roundup the district has hired a new principal for Big Piney Middle School. Stan Dodds grew up in Granger and is coming to Big Piney from Junction City, Kan.
The board also approved a one-time-only cost-of-living stipend. Chase said the health insurance premiums for the district have declined and the budget committee was looking for a way to spend the extra funds.
“It’s a way to say to the staff, ‘we appreciate you working with us; we know the cost of living has gone up in the county, so here’s a one-time stipend and we hope this can help,’” he said.
The stipend will be $1,000 for every full-time regular staff member and $500 for part-time regular staff.
• The next meeting will be July 18 at 7 p.m. with a short budget hearing at 8 p.m.