By Maria Wyllie

BIG SKY – At the Big Sky School Board’s annual organizational meeting on May 15, board members were sworn in following the May 7 election results. Members also gave standing reports and voted on various action items, including whether to renew non-tenured teacher contracts.

Loren Bough was reelected as chairman, Laura Michel as vice chair, and Marie Goode re-appointed as district clerk.

Supt. Jerry House gave a report covering construction, driver’s training, the capstone project, activities and school enrollment. The school will notify parents by July 2 regarding if it will offer driver’s education for students in Big Sky.

For the 2013/14 school year, middle school students will be switching from a block schedule to a traditional one, with subjects taught every day.

High school students will be moving to an “AB, AB” schedule, meaning that they will alternate classes every other day. Having classes more spread out will help accommodate students involved in extracurricular activities, according to Leah Johnson, the school’s guidance counselor. The school is also working toward increasing electives for high school students.

Capstone/Internship Coordinator Beth Farhat gave a brief recap on the capstone project, saying a website will be available to students with summer volunteer opportunities and internships listed. Women In Action and local residents Kym and George Rapier are also working together to form a new group, “Kym’s Kids of Montana,” which will provide scholarship money to kids in exchange for service hours.

Next spring, Athletics Director Tony Beardsley hopes to give students the options of joining intramural flag football and soccer, as well as the intramural tennis program already in place for grades K-8.

Enrollment numbers have remained stable all year at 250 students, and nine planning to graduate. Supt. House expects an income of probably 20 new students next year.

All non-tenured staff were re-elected except for music teacher Christian Gutierez and first grade teacher Nikki Rust, both of whom House recommended for non-renewal.

The board is not required to give an explanation for not renewing staff contracts, as it is an internal personnel matter, House noted.

Bough invited members of the public to come forward and state whether they opposed or accepted the motion.

One woman, crying, read a letter before the board in which she described how Gutierez, known as “Mr. G,” instilled a growing love for music in her son, who was previously not interested in playing an instrument.

More students and adults came forward; some with letters prepared, but Bough informed them that, because of Montana state law, they could only state whether or not they opposed the action.

Four students and six adults in attendance opposed House’s recommendation not to renew Gutierez’s position. However, the motion passed 3-2.

One adult opposed the recommendation not to renew Rust’s position, but the motion passed unanimously.

“Hiring staff is the key responsibility of the board,” Bough said, “but we also have to uphold Montana state law.”

According to Bough, every school district in Montana must follow the same rules and procedures. And, due to employee privacy rights, the board is prohibited from giving specific reasons for termination.

Other action items included the approval of a bus purchase, handbooks and a budget amendment resolution; all passed.

Following the action items, a grievances hearing was held for Girls Varsity Basketball Coach Adam Olson, whose contract ended March 2. Olson requested a reexamination of board policies and procedures, stating that Beardsley, House and Bough had all violated policies.

Responding, the three board members argued that policies had been in fact met. With a vote of 4-0, with one board member abstention, the grievant was not warranted in relation to not renewing a contract, meaning that no further action will be taken.