The Watertown-Mayer School Board officially recognized former School Board member Therese Salonek during its April 22 meeting, presenting her with a certificate of appreciation for her 10 years of service on the board.
Salonek resigned in March when she and her husband Ted adopted a child from China. The child is the third that the couple has adopted to go along with four biological children.
Salonek was in China during what would have been her final board meeting last month, so the board officially thanked her last week instead.
Salonek said the time commitment of having a new 3-year-old child would have made it too difficult to remain on the board, but she enjoyed the experiences along the way.
“There’s a season for everything, and I really enjoyed it,” said Salonek, who spend four of her 10 years on the Board as the chairperson. “It was challenging, frustrating at times, but also a very rewarding experience.”
Salonek’s time on the board included both highs and lows. Several years of harsh budget cuts were difficult, but Salonek was also a big part of getting a new operating levy passed by voters and launching the district’s new iPad program.
However, Salonek said her proudest accomplishment on the board was one of her first, when she pushed 10 years ago for more accessibility to the public, including moving the meetings to city hall where they could be videotaped for television broadcast.
“My goals were to make the board accountable and accessible and available to the public,” Salonek said. “I wanted the board to recognize we are providing a service to the community, and responsible to them. That’s why I initially considered running, because I felt that was very important.
“It was a battle, but I knew that the only way to improve accountability and accessibility was to be on videotape. I wasn’t going to stop until we got on tape, and I took a lot of hits for that.”
Still, Salonek knows she had plenty of supporters along the way as well.
“It was a great honor to serve the community,” she said. “I think I did make more friends than enemies. I think I had a net gain, but that’s always a risk you take. I’m grateful to the friends I made, but at the same time, if everybody is always happy with you, maybe you’re not pushing the envelope hard enough.”
At the time of her resignation, current board chairman John McCain had plenty of good things to say about Salonek’s years of service to the district.
“Therese has been a steadfast champion of our students and district,” McCain said. “She has been a driving force on the board that has shaped the way the board conducts its business, insisting on transparency, integrity and an ultimate focus on student achievement.”
Board member Tim Thompson also thanked Salonek personally during the meeting for helping him along during his early years on the board.
“She had been on the school board for a number of years before myself being elected,” Thompson said. “She was a great mentor for me through the process. I just want to openly thank her for that.”
By leaving the school board, Salonek will be leaving one major time commitment behind, but is certainly taking on another with a new child. She said he has brought the family nothing but joy since he’s arrived, and despite an initial diagnosis of cerebral palsy, he actually appears to be 100 percent healthy.
“We are so blessed,” Salonek said. “He’s sleeping through the night, he’s perfectly healthy, there’ no cerebral palsy or health issues. Whatever was going on, his diagnosis was completely wrong. We’re very relieved, and really enjoying having him. He’s a ton of fun.”
Board member search
In Salonek’s absence, the school board is moving forward with plans to interview the four candidates who applied for the vacant seat. The interviews will be conducted during an open meeting on Monday, May 6, which is expected to begin at about 8 p.m., after discussion on the future of the school’s diving program at 7 p.m.
Of the four candidates who applied for the vacant seat, only Erin Blair, of Watertown, ran in the fall election. The other three candidates are Gerald Bruner of Watertown, Jeffrey Jackson of Mayer and Julie Sweeney of Watertown.
During last week’s meeting, the board took time to discuss what it was looking for in a new member, and seemed to agree it was important that the board member provide diversity to the group, perhaps representing a segment of the community or school district not already represented on the board, or offering a knowledge set or expertise that was not currently represented.
In other business:
• The board granted tenure to a number of teachers, while also eliminating several positions and choosing not to renew other contracts.
Teachers awarded tenure included: Rochelle Lindberg, middle school English and reading; Angela Eick-Eliason, special education; Christopher Lian, middle school; Rebekah Wagner, special education; Brittany Wilkens, middle school computers; Shirlee Gilmore, vocal music; Andrew Neumann, elementary school; Lisa Schau, elementary school; Sandra Spray-Kerr, special education.
The board also decided to discontinue the Technology, Teaching and Learning position held by Scott Fitzsimonds and the middle school social worker position held by Jessica Pond.
Superintendent Dave Marlette said the district had more of a need for a mental health position than a social work position at this time. He also said the district would look more for an instructional coach instead of the Teaching and Learning position.
“Mr. Fitzsimonds has done great job,” Marlette said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do this year in that position, but that position is not what we need going forward. We’re going to discontinue that position and move toward the instructional coach we’ve talked about.”
The board also chose to reduce Helen Waldock’s Community Education Director position from a 0.8 full time equivalent job to a 0.25 full time equivalent job. The board also decided not to renew the contracts of primary school special education teacher Lien Nguyen and middle school math teacher Jessica Broughton.
• The board chose to replace one eight-hour staff development day next year with four two-hour early dismissals. The board had previously been weighing a proposal to replace two eight-hour staff development days with eight two-hour late starts, but was hesitant to move in that direction because of the inconvenience many parents say late starts create. Teachers prefer having development time more spread out throughout theyear to better analyze student data.
“Through discussions, we feel this is something that would work better with parents,” Marlette said of the four early dismissals. “It’s kind of a compromise, or a happy medium.”
• Marlette provided an update on the high school boilers, which were replaced recently. A long standing debate among the school board and numerous contractors, architects and engineers was whether it was the engineering system that was to blame for the boilers’ failure, or whether the boilers were wrong for the system.
Marlette said installing the new boilers that were originally designed for the system has seemed to fix the problem and provide an answer.
“Since we have put in our new Fulton boilers — that were originally specced in our construction project — they have worked outstanding,” he said. “The system and the boilers are matched the way they need to be, and everything is working exceptionally.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]