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Athens school board balks at buying policy and bylaw service

The Athens Board of Education on Monday tabled a vote over whether to pay a company to update its school board policies.

Jeff Mastin, Athens schools superintendent, said retired Athens middle and high school band director Patti Riske asked him a few months ago if the school board had a policy on allowing blind people to bring service dogs into the school buildings.

He was surprised to discover the school district doesn’t have a policy relating to service dogs.

Mastin had Neola sales associate Chris Patritto, a retired Hurley School District superintendent, to give the school board a live stream presentation about how the company maintains and updates school policies when there are changes to federal and state statutes.

Athens school board members weren’t ready on Monday to commit to hiring the company. Patritto said the school distric could pay Neola an initial fee of $24,000 to handle the school board’s policies and bylaws, along with administrative guidelines and procedures. The school board’s other option, he said, would be to pay Neola an initial fee of $15,000 for it to only handle school board policies and bylaws. The school district would then need to pay Neola $3,100 every year afterward for it to continually update school board policies.

Tim Krueger, Athens School Board president, asked school building principals Joy Redmann and Juli Gauerke- Peter for their input on whether the school district should pay Neola to handle the school board policies. Both principals felt the school district should pay an outside company to handle and update school board policies for “legal peace of mind.”

Athens school board members, however, were divided over whether to have the school district pay Neola to handle and update school board policies. School board member Julie Guenther felt the initial cost of paying Neola was too high of a cost for the school district to absorb.

“We are getting paid to serve on the school board, therefore shouldn’t it be part of our job to spend time updating the school board policies handbook?” Guenther said.

School board member Jessica Frahm leaned more towards having the school district pay Neola for its board policy services.

“All seven of us school board members could have a different interpretation of whether the federal and state laws are right, wrong or otherwise,” she said.

In other school board news:

_ Athens school board members and Jamey Handschke, school district buildings and grounds supervisor, discussed the top 10 priorities for upgrades needed inside the two school buildings based on a facility study conducted by Performance Services of Waukesha.

Handschke said the heating, ventilation and air conditioning was his top priority for needing upgrades in both the Athens elementary and middle/ high school buildings.

“Some teachers in the elementary school need to open their classroom windows because it gets so warm in them, while other teachers’ classrooms are too cold,” Handschke said.

Athens School Board member Steve Janke said it would be nice to have the Athens High School gym floor replaced before the rescheduled graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 25. Handschke told the school board there are “dead spots” on the gym floor where basketballs might not correctly bounce. Handschke said the company that would replace the gym floor would need to be notified of the job soon before it begins a project at the Kohl Center in Madison.

School board member Tom Ellenbecker said installing grab bars in the boys and girls bathrooms is another major priority so the school district can be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

_ The school board met in closed session at the end of Monday’s meeting and then it reconvened into open session to approve paying spring sports coaches half the amount of their salaries. The WIAA canceled spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.