The Mancos school board approved a series of personnel items at its regular meeting Monday night including nonrenewal of a contract for a middle school science teacher.
The teacher, Kristina Linders, was probationary, meaning she had not yet taught for three consecutive years, the time necessary to earn non-probationary status according to state education law. Although the issue was not discussed at the meeting, two reasons for the nonrenewal were listed in the board report: “observed lack of cooperation and collaboration with fellow staff members” and “failure/refusal to follow through on expectations/directives from administration.”
The item was on the list of action consent items approved 3-0 at the meeting. Board vice president Boe Hawkins and secretary Pamela Coppinger were absent.
Four people spoke against the motion during the meeting’s public participation period: three students of Linders’, and her husband, Scott Linders, who teaches social studies at the middle school.
“I think the recommendation is more personally motivated versus professionally justified,” Scott Linders said. “If you look at the school’s model of hiring and retaining the most highly qualified candidates, you have a licensed teacher that either meets or exceeds the standard in every regard on formal and informal evaluations.”
The students who spoke voiced appreciation for Linders’ teaching, both for her knowledge of the material and her assistance building social-emotional skills.
“I trust and respect her,” seventh-grader Braxton Dennison said. “I can’t imagine going to eighth grade next year without her.”
Superintendent Hanson declined to comment on his recommendation, stating that he couldn’t speak about it because it was a personnel issue. In his staff report, he wrote, “This has been fully vetted through our school attorney and everything handled as outlined in statute. Regardless of what may occur during the board meeting, specifically during public comment, I stand behind my recommendation.”
In an email to The Journal, Linders said that the nonrenewal of her contract stemmed from an assault that happened on school property in October that has been handled unprofessionally, and that she has informed the school board of the situation.
“The recommendation was because of a personal issue and not my teaching ability,” she wrote.
Also on consent, the board approved Heath Showalter as director of operations for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, added one year onto the contract of PK-5 Principal Cathy Epps for the 2020-21 school year, and approved seven coaching staff members.
Board President Blake Mitchell asked if the district would be able to handle discipline issues appropriately with Showalter moving to a new position, because he has been serving as dean of students at the high school.
Hanson replied that Showalter would still be “hovering,” and that this is a revised position from his current post.
In other news:Board members approved the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2020. The district has about $6.87 million appropriated in the General Fund, and according to Hanson, was able to meet most of the needs and wants of staff.Hanson recommends the district go into deficit spending to hire a project-based learning coordinator, a position he says is necessary in order to move forward with those initiatives.
The board approved new salary schedules for fiscal year 2020. The new schedules represent a 3.8% raise to the base on all salary schedules.During her report to the board, PK-5 Principal Cathy Epps reviewed results from math and reading testing at the respective elementary grades.Based on the MAPS assessment, which tests math comprehension and skills, students who were at or above grade level by the end of the school year stood at: 63% of kindergarten students, 46% of first-graders, 60% of second-graders, 58% of third-graders, 38% of fourth-graders, and 40% of fifth-graders.
For the DIBELS reading assessment, the percentage of students at or above grade level by the end of the year was higher overall: 76% of kindergarten students, 34% of first-graders, 67% of second-graders, 63% of third-graders, 56% of fourth-graders, and 65% of fifth-graders.
Epps also highlighted that the Mancos Preschool recently achieved a 4 on its state evaluation, which rates preschools on a 5-point scale.
This article was updated on May 23 to clarify the teaching status of Kristina Linders.