Community members touched on a wide variety of topics at the Yuma School District-1 Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting, Monday night in downtown Yuma.
Approximately 30 people crowded into the board room, with several signing up for visitors comments. All five board members were in attendance, Duane Brown, Lindsey Galles, Thomas Holtorf, John Deering and Terri Cooper.
One issue brought up by community members dealt with allowing ABA Behavioral Therapists in the Yuma schools. The Armstrong family has been attempting to convince Yuma-1 to allow the prescribed therapists in the schools, but so far to no avail. The Jeff Armstrong Memorial Foundation has built a new behavioral center in Yuma.
The family and others from Yuma also supported state legislation passed earlier this year, requiring schools to allow therapists into the classroom with a child that has a doctor’s prescription. It must be implemented by 2024.
Marylu Smith-Dischner read a letter from Abby Bruch, a special education teacher in Torrington, Wyoming, who has family in Yuma. Her school had a full-time Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) last school year, and has done wonders for the student. A big key is the student has been able to receive ABA therapy while still remaining in school.
“I truly hope that you think about what is best for the students within your school district,” Bruch wrote. “Just because you haven’t done something like this before, doesn’t mean you can’t change the lives of these students now and gift them lifetime opportunities within the walls of your schools.”
Jerrie Weinrich read from a prepared speech — backed by a petition with more than 250 signatures.
“We are presenting this letter of concern to you today because of an urgent matter with the neglect of services to our special needs children,” Weinrich said. “It has been brought to our attention that Yuma School District has not been welcoming to our new ABA Behavioral Therapists that are required by a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription. It’s imperative to meet these requirements, which consists of approximately 30-40 hours a week of therapy for some, or it becomes an issue with insurance coverage. We have several special children who need these therapists to help navigate through the day. The therapists have also been available for these children for over a year now.”
Weinrich touched on several points, and asked why the district is waiting to implement new state legislation when the resources are already available here.
“Our question is why the district would not want to form a partnership with the new behavioral center?”
Gay Straight Alliance
A new student club at Yuma High School prompted comments from the public Friday night. Some of the comments prompted applause from some of the others in attendance.
Nazarene Pastor Dave Martelle noted he and his wife have been in Yuma for two years, and greatly enjoy the community. Also the head of the Yuma Ministerial Association, he said he wants to cooperate with the school district, but there are certain things in which he cannot because it does not align with his theology. He said he wants the district united, not divided.
Ryan Noble said that as a parent, he does not feel school is the place to talk sexuality. He said there are plenty of clubs for the students already. He said he is not interested in on what side of the fence one is on, and it shouldn’t be something in the school.
Jacqueline Lungwitz told the board she is very disappointed that there is such a club at YHS now, saying it divides students based on sexuality. She said there is no homophobic or transphobic hate in her comments, it’s just that she feels the club is inappropriate in the school.
Josh Lyle took a different angle, saying sexuality should be talked about in the schools because education is important, and everyone needs to be accepted. He said everyone needs a place to feel safe, rather than face bigotry.
School board members did address this topic during board comments at the end of the meeting.
Galles said she had to respond after hearing the earlier comments, adding “It is really hard to sit here and just smile.”
She gave an impassioned talk, saying the schools should be a safe place for all kids, and everyone needs a safe harbor. She said she has personally seen struggles by those feeling not accepted, and it is a very tough place to be.
Cooper noted law dictates that the school cannot, not allow the group. She also said there is an effort to start up Fellowship of Christian Athletes again so those students have a place to go. “Everybody has a safe place,” she said.
Brown noted the federal Equal Access Act has been in effect for decades, and the school district’s policy on student clubs closely aligns with the act, adding the school cannot prohibit student-led groups. Cooper added, though, that there are some exceptions, such as if the club is deemed negative or derogatory.
Teacher Ben Inouye, his wife and children briefly addressed the school board. The family is moving from Yuma after 13 years of living here.
He recalled that he and his wife were first a bit shell-shocked when they arrived here from Los Angeles, they have ended up greatly enjoying their life in Yuma, including all of their children being born.
“All the best things in our lives have happened here in Yuma,” Inouye said.
He said he has been the only Chinese-Japanese person in Yuma County, but has never been made to feel out of place.
“We owe much to the good people who live here,” Inouye said.
Ronella Noble addressed the shortage of substitute teachers in the Yuma schools, and how it is impacting teachers and students. She suggested raising the pay for substitute teachers, and for a more widespread advertising campaign to attract substitutes.
“The teachers are getting desperate and the students are being penalized,” Noble said.
Krissy King told the board there are many parents who would like to attend school board meetings virtually. She listed several area school districts that have video feeds of their meetings, plus the ability to watch them later if need be. She said it can be done at no cost to the school district.
The pilot program of having a School Resource Officer in the Yuma schools has proven to be a great success, the Yuma-1 Board of Education was told during its regular monthly meeting, Monday night.
Yuma Police Officer David Hass has been serving as the SRO since the first day of school on August 16. The pilot run between the school district and Yuma Police Department expires on October 1.
The school board had nine letters of support for the SRO program at Monday’s meeting. Superintendent Dianna Chrisman said that personnel all three schools have had nothing but positives to say about Officer Hass being in the buildings.
She said she is working with the YPD in making it a permanent situation, but the process has been delayed a bit by the attorneys.
Hass will remain a city employee. The cost to YSD-1 will be about $40,000. Chrisman was asked if there would have to be a break in service since the pilot program ends this week. She said that probably will not have to be the case.
As for Hass wearing either his “hard” or “soft” look uniform, the board was told that students in all the buildings seem to favor the “hard” look, and ask questions about the various equipment he is wearing.
The board briefly met in executive session to discuss the sale of the district office located at 418 S. Main St. The district offices, along with Transportation and Maintenance, will be moving into the renovated ag building on YHS campus sometime in the next few months.
There were several donations as part of the Consent Calendar: $1,000 for FFA from Zoetis; $150 from the Yuma County Fair Parade to the FFA for second place in the Youth division; $300 from Cory Gardner (ACT West, LLC) for YHS Ag to repair picnic tables at the football concession area; $150 of school supplies from Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, to be split among all the schools; $300 from Central Plains, LLC, for athletics; $50 from Hoch Real Estate for Yuma FFA; fromYuma Booster Club, $9,120 for each sport and band on a per student dollar amount based on the previous year numbers; a stationary bike from Ken Savolt to YHS P.E.; $200 from Central Plains for boys and girls athletics, and; $100 from Pleasant Valley Ladies Aid for Morris Elementary School supplies.
Recommended hirings included: Kim McCombs, YHS special education para; Kent Chrisman, YMS math; Ryan Noble, YHS assistant boys golf coach; Alexandra Ebersole, MES secretary/translator; Kandy Galles, Kari Beauprez, Heidi Trute and Jamie Robinson as Junior Class sponsors; Nicole Ackerson Varela, YHS head cheer coach, and; Bailie Loxterkamp, MES special education para.
Separations and resignations included: Stefanie Imhof, YHS head cheer coach; Amy West, YHS special education para, and; Ben Inouye, YMS eighth grade English teacher.
There was a scheduled presentation about the City of Yuma’s sales tax ballot question, but nobody from the city was in attendance.