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Monroe Legacy

PCM hires new middle school principal

Board discusses pre-school bus transportation options

PRAIRIE CITY – PCM Middle School has a new principal at the helm – and he will not be coming from too far away.

The PCM school board unanimously approved the hiring of Pella Community School District’s Dean of Students Wade Van Vark as the middle school’s new principal.

“He has the strong background we are looking for. He has an instructional coach background and worked in professional learning communities. He has had a lot of

opportunity to grow from Pella, and this is probably the next natural step for his career,” PCM superintendent Brad Jermeland said. “He related well with our interview committees.”

This decision was made after Ty Weatherman resigned from the position amid allegations from PCM parents that the administrator forced some students to clean up chewed up and spit out food from other classmates off a lunchroom table.

According to the superintendent, the district interviewed four candidates for the position before deciding on the Pella native.

Van Vark started his teaching career as a math teacher at Pella High School in 1999. The Central College graduate received his master’s degree in educational leadership from Drake University in 2003.

The board approved to hire Van Vark at the suggested salary of $90,000.

The hire is pending the results of a background check. He will officially begin the position Aug. 1.

Van Vark’s predecessor was placed on administrative leave in April in connection to the clean up incident. Weatherman decided to resign from the position early May, despite more than a week-long investigation concluding that the former PCM Middle School principal’s conduct did not constitute bullying or harassment.

Other personnel decisions made that evening include the following:

• Approval of resignation of Rusty Gibbs as the high school boys basketball assistant coach

• Approval of hiring fourth grade Monroe Elementary teacher, Kelsey Van Veen

• Approval of John Schaeffer’s advancement to MA after completing a master’s program

• Approval of the hiring of Tayler Fenton at Monroe Elementary at the preschool level.

Early Childhood Programming

With the recent hire of Fenton, the early childhood program at PCM has been experiencing some reshuffling.

According to Jermeland, last year’s developmental kindergarten and preschool teachers at Monroe Elementary, Angie Landgrebe and Mandy Shannon, respectively, will serve first grade and third grade.

Despite the change, the superintendent said the district plans to continue the program through the upcoming school year. But to help give better access to the community, the board decided to discuss the potential of offering bus transportation services for the early childhood program students.

“I know not all 4-year-olds have the capability of (getting to PCM’s early childhood programming) because their parents are working or their childcare provider isn’t able to bring them because of other kids they are watching,” Jermeland said. “They would possibly come if we could provide some sort of busing.”

The district initially came up with the idea after seeing a similar transportation program set up in the Pella Community School District. Under this option, preschool students in Pella are allowed to ride the bus route that runs before and after the regular scheduled school day at no cost to the family.

For Pella preschool students who require a ride after the morning session or before the afternoon session, families could sign up for the district’s mid-day transportation at a cost of $65 a semester – which equals $130 a year.

At the meeting, the board discussed potentially running a similar transportation program for its early childhood program students.

“It is basically $1 a day,” Jermeland said. “That might be a way for us to get more 4-year-olds into our program and give us better numbers to predict per year. ... Right now, I have teachers picking up kids and taking them home in their own private vehicles so they can get to preschool. I think if we had a 4-year-old that had to be picked up in town, I think we could make arrangements.”

According to Jermeland, next year there are 75 kids projected to attend developmental kindergarten and kindergarten. The superintendent said next year’s pre-kindergarten class is expected to have 61 students.

“Looking ahead, next year we will be graduating a pretty large senior class,” Jermeland said. “We are graduating a group of 67. There are more incoming kindergartners than we have outgoing seniors.”

Board Policy Discussion

The board also discussed potentially changing a board policy that pertains to school-related activities held Wednesday evenings.

The current version of Board Policy 508.2, Open Night states “student activities scheduled on Wednesday night will conclude by 6 p.m. and the building cleared by 6:15 p.m. whenever possible.” Under the current version of the policy, students may take part in Wednesday evening activities scheduled by the state or re-scheduled by other schools. Students with schedule-conflicts shall be excused with no consequence for missing the Wednesday evening, rescheduled activity.

According to Jermeland, the district will work on specifying the language in regards to the “whenever possible” portion of the policy.

“We are looking at some dates for when (activities) can start officially going beyond 6, 6:15 p.m. Wednesday,” Jermeland said. “We are looking at the beginning of May, putting that in our policy and taking out the words ‘whenever possible.’”

The board will vote on the first reading of the potential rewording or change to this policy during its next scheduled meeting June 18.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes

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