School Board agrees to offer course but not to proposalJamestown Public Schools will offer a summer construction course, but it’s unlikely the instructor who came up with the idea will actually teach it. Richard LaQua, who teaches at the James Valley Career and Technology Center, had proposed a summer course which would allow students to build a house off school-grounds.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown Public Schools will offer a summer construction course, but it’s unlikely the instructor who came up with the idea will actually teach it.
Richard LaQua, who teaches at the James Valley Career and Technology Center, had proposed a summer course which would allow students to build a house off school-grounds. The students would learn construction and workmanship skills that the state lacks in its workforce, he said. Some students don’t succeed in standard school coursework like English, math and science. This course would allow those students to obtain high school credit in a subject that would give them real-life skills, he said.
“I work with a lot of kids that this is their avenue toward success,” he said.
Some members of the Jamestown Public School Board questioned at the board’s meeting Monday how the district could offer the course without taking several financial risks and also, how the board could keep LaQua’s compensation consistent with other summer school teachers.
Member Gail Martin questioned putting LaQua on a 12-month contract because the district doesn’t know if enough students would enroll in the course. The district is required to compensate LaQua on the 12-monthcontract even if it doesn’t have enough students enrolled to offer the class, said Superintendent Bob Toso.
The board voted 5-4 to pay the course’s instructor off the district’s summer schedule with members Gary Peterson, Rosemary McDougall, Gail Martin, Mindi Grieve and Greg Allen in favor and Scott Walch, Tanya Ostlie, Roy Musland and Ann Hoggarth opposing.
Peterson questioned the fairness of the 12-month contract since most teachers who teach summer courses are compensated based on the summer school contract.
“I think we’re just opening up a big problem here,” he said.
LaQua said payment off the summer schedule wouldn’t be “feasible.” Under the summer salary schedule, LaQua would be paid $21.32 per hour which amounts to about $5,000 for teaching the course. LaQua would be paid about $15,000 for the course if he were paid based off the 12-month contract, said Sally Ost, business manager.
The summer salary schedule, as well other teaching salary schedules, is based off a teacher’s level of education and years of experience.
But besides compensating the instructor, some board members expressed concern about other aspects of offering the course.
Allen questioned what would happen to enrollment of standard courses like English and math if the pool of students needing summer school credits took the construction course instead. Considering the district did not make its adequate yearly progress goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Allen said he was concerned the district wouldn’t be able to offer the standard courses if all the students chose to take a construction course instead.
If students who don’t succeed in the standard classed but like the construction course, Grieve said, maybe that could translate to other classes.
Martin questioned the finances and what the district would do with a house if it didn’t sell.
“Who knows when this house is going to be sold in these economic times?” she said.
She suggested the students build some projects the district already needs like a storage shed for the middle school green space or a press box for Ernie Gates Field. Martin also questioned the liability of the district since under LaQua’s proposal, the students would be working off school grounds.
The board passed proceeding with the course in a 5-4 vote with Grieve, Hoggarth, Musland, Ostlie and Walch in favor and Allen, Martin, McDougall and Peterson opposing. The vote means that the board can offer the course if it finds someone willing to teach it off the district’s summer salary schedule.
In other business, the board also considered changing its meeting schedule to two full board meetings per month instead of one full board meeting and four to five committee meetings each month. It’s current meeting schedule may be illegal under North Dakota sunshine laws which are meant to ensure public access.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Jamestown Public School Board is Nov. 17.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org