Nicole Stannard has lived in Sierra Brooks for 11 years with her husband and two young sons who are just beginning school. She previously worked for the Nevada Dairy Council and is a Registered Dietetic Technician. Nicole had served as the Area 4 Trustee prior to the vacancy.
Benjamin Hitchcock has resided in Sierra Brooks eight months with his wife, coming from Sheridan, Montana where he worked as a public works employee, was the fire chief and served on the town council. He currently works for a local company involved in fuels reduction for forests and fire fighting
The two were interviewed during the meeting. Board President Mike Moore asked why they were interested in serving. Benjamin stated he wanted to help his community and be of service. Nicole said she wanted to serve for the students and community as a whole and is able to donate her time and energy.
Moore asked what they see as the major issues affecting schools in the near future. Benjamin stated he saw COVID-19, funding and staffing as major issues. Nicole said funding and the financial ability to move forward, health of the community and health and education of our students.
When asked what their strength and experience was, Nicole stated she was a great communicator and listens to concerns. She is a fast learner and has the time and energy to serve. Benjamin said he is direct and to the point, doesn’t beat around the bush. He has done a lot of fundraising, has grant writing experience, a problem solver and feels he can contribute quite a bit to see the Board into the future.
Board Trustee Christina Potter nominated Nicole Stannard, who was unanimously voted in as Trustee for Area 4.
Superintendent James Berardi thanked Benjamin for wanting to serve and stated both candidates were very qualified.
During the Superintendent’s report, Berardi talked about needing to have some budget meetings, stating they know they are in deficit spending and know they may have to make cuts and difficult decisions. He said he’s been meeting with SPTA and suggested having an adhoc committee to get a grip on what is happening and have clear decisions before putting it out to the public. Berardi recognized needing to have better information, adding they luckily don’t have to cut $1.3 million all at once. Berardi stated he was hearing talk about a cost of living adjustment (COLA), which may work out in their favor. He said Business Manager Nona Griesert has been gathering information and they are hearing some better news that may not be as dire as first predicted. Berardi wanted to have communication with staff and the community, but recommended a methodical process, adding he didn’t want what happened last year to occur again and wanted to be clear and more transparent. Moore wanted a special budget meeting for the Board and to have Griesert give a presentation to get a feel for where they are with the District.
Berardi reported that things are constantly changing and really felt the whole board should be trained in Board Best Practices. He said Bob Ferguson, who helped with the Superintendent search, does these trainings and would cost $700 plus travel expenses. Berardi stressed wanting everyone to be on the same page, adding it puts them on a path for who they are and helps to figure out what their direction is. Board Trustee Patty Hall stated she spoke with Megan Meschery, Vice President of Sierra Schools Foundation who indicated the Foundation would help with training costs. Berardi was going to contact Ferguson.
During staff reports, Loyalton High School Principal Tom Jones stated he was happy to be back after the holiday break. He reported the semester ends January 29th and they were holding parent meetings for those most at risk. He praised his teachers who are continuing to do an amazing job, tackling obstacles daily. Jones said they had open lines of communication with the Health Department.
Loyalton Elementary School Principal Andrea Ceresola stated it was exciting to have the kids back. Over the next 2-3 weeks they would be working on fostering relationships, and behavior management for our classrooms to be successful.
Berardi gave an update on Downieville School. He stated they’d dodged a bullet with COVID for a while and then went from 6 to 24 cases in a 10-day period. Three staff members had COVID in Downieville. Because of the numbers, they decided to close the school down. Berardi said the elementary was set to reopen on the 18th and moved to reopen the high school after Teachers have been meeting regularly on zoom and staff is working hard district wide.
Ed’s Note: On Thursday, January 14th, Loyalton schools returned to distance learning based on confirmed exposures to positive cases within the elementary and high school sites. The exposures within the schools triggered student and staff quarantines. It is hoped with isolation and universal precautions, schools can reopen on Monday, February 1st and semester will be extended to February 12th.
School Accountability Report Cards for 2019-2020 were approved unanimously. Berardi stated the goal was to have all students be successful and improve their test scores throughout the district. Great test scores were mentioned that Loyalton Elementary School and Loyalton High School have had.