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Superintendent Discusses July School Board Meeting

With the approval of additional new hires at last week's Three Forks School Board Meeting, the District has filled almost all of its teacher openings.

The Board voted at their July 18 meeting to approve the hire of Diona Elms as a first-grade teacher, Michelle Liddell as a middle school teacher, and Samantha Stith as an Early Learning teacher.

Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut said she is thankful they have filled almost all of their certified positions except for a school psychologist.

Compared to last year, Uthlaut said the District is in a lot better place with hiring. She added a four-day school week and a salary increase for the previous school year helped recruit a much larger talent pool for open positions.

While pleased with the hiring process, Uthlaut said because the levy did not pass, the salary increase for this year was a very minimal 1.5 percent. Wanting the District to be competitive with surrounding districts like Manhattan or Townsend, Uthlaut worries about the ramifications if they cannot stay competitive with salaries. She added the District should not have to do any emergency certifications for the 2023-24 school year.

The 1.5 percent increase will increase the rate for substitute teachers to $116 a day. Uthlaut said it had been a hardship to find substitutes, and they have had to have teachers cover for classes during their planning period. Uthlaut added the District would be advertising soon to recruit more substitute teachers and bus drivers. While the Board approved three routes for the upcoming school year, Uthlaut said the District really needs five, but they cannot fund more bus drivers.

With school starting next month, Uthlaut gave an update on the Three Forks School Building Project.

"We are really starting to wrap things up, and that's a huge sigh of relief," she said.

Looking back at the construction, Uthlaut said it was challenging for teachers and children to relocate, with every classroom moving at least once.

"Construction is one thing, but doing it in a building with children has been a challenge," she said.

According to Uthlaut, construction is winding up on replacing the 30-year-old roof and replacing windows. The windows were replaced with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We should be in great shape for the first day of school and not rushing as we were last year," Uthlaut said.

In other business, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the HRDC Head Start Program. Uthlaut said that because the District did not have Head Start, it was a hardship for Three Forks residents trying to access the program. With the partnership of Head Start and the Three Forks Early Learning Program, Uthlaut said the Board approved a second classroom for both to utilize.

The Three Forks School District will also add an additional Early Learning Screening for students turning four on or before September 10. The screening is scheduled for Thursday, July 27. For more information, please call 406-285-3224 Ext 127.

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