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BPS hopes to hire superintendent by end of 2017

Beatrice Public Schools could have a superintendent for the next school year hired by the end of 2017.

The BPS Board of Education met with officials from Baker and Rastovski School Services Monday night. The firm is assisting the district in its superintendent search following the announcement last month that Pat Nauroth will retire at the end of the school year.

According to information from Roy Baker of the search firm, if all goes according to plan, an offer will be made to a potential superintendent by Dec. 11, at the latest.

“Once upon a time, it would have been considered to be awfully early to have people apply for a job and all that,” Baker said. “Five years ago, it would have felt a little early here. As it turned out, it wasn’t and that’s the way the trend has gone, people getting on these things much earlier than they used to.”

Baker suggested the salary range for the future superintendent should be $150,000-$165,000, saying the range is “what fits” with current trends, though board member Doris Martin suggested starting the range at $145,000, then increasing from there based on the candidate’s qualifications.

Nauroth’s current salary is $170,393.

Baker provided a list of superintendent salaries from five comparable districts, which ranged from $144,946 up to $166,382.

Nauroth was hired by the board in December of 2012 and began his tenure as superintendent of Beatrice Public Schools in July 2013. His final day will be at the end of June 2018.

It was also decided to start the superintendent with a two-year contract.

The board opted to interview the potential candidates all in a single day. The decision was to ensure the candidates are all interviewed on a level playing field by interacting with the same staff and members of the public.

Board President Lisa Pieper said it’s also easier for the public to come on one day, as opposed to taking time multiple nights in a row. The interview day is still being considered.

“I like that all-in-one format as well, not just for the six of us, but for the community,” Pieper said. “That is probably the more difficult phase, asking people from the community to give up four of their days to do that.”

In addition to meeting the candidates in person, Baker said an online survey will be available for feedback.

Baker also suggested that up to 10 designated community members who are prominent in the community could participate in the process.

“It’s up to the board as far as who do you want involved,” Baker said. “Most often, the board wants some kind of staff involvement so they don’t feel left out of the process.”

Late last month, the board selected Baker and Rastovski from five proposals to lead the search.

The firm presented two proposals. The first, at a cost of $6,000, would take on all aspects of the search, including identifying the necessary qualities for the position, establishing a timeline, reviewing reports, selecting finalists and conducting interviews, among other things.

A second proposal, at a cost of $4,000, would see the firm take a reduced role in the search while BPS Board members themselves would work on some of the tasks, including defining what qualities applicants should have. The firm’s proposal tied for being least expensive option.

It was noted that the reduced cost plan would likely generate fewer applicants, as some may be more comfortable dealing with an experienced search firm.

On Monday, the School Board opted for the $6,000 option to ensure the search is thorough and efficient.

Board member Janet Byars said the process would “flow” better with the firm handling the entire process, while Peiper pointed out that the process could potentially be delayed if the board would fall behind in its responsibilities under the cheaper plan.

“Given the short time frame we’re working with, if one piece falls out of place, it could set that time frame back,” she said. “That’s my fear.”

Once the search is narrowed down to four candidates, those being considered must be made public under state law.

Baker specifically addressed keeping the media and public in the loop after board member Janet Byars called for a closed session Monday night, citing a discussion concerning personnel.

He said there was no need to meet in private, and the board did not go into a closed session during the meeting Monday.

Preschoolers get hands-on fire safety lessons

Students at Beatrice Community Preschool got a lesson in fire safety from Beatrice Fire and Rescue Tuesday.

As part of Fire Safety Week, both morning and afternoon preschool classes got a chance to explore inside a real fire truck and ambulance and see what a firefighter looks like with all his or her gear on, courtesy of Beatrice Fire and Rescue.

When Jake Yurka put on his heavy, yellow fire gear with help from captain Corey Lieneman, he warned them that it might be a little scary, and his voice might sound a little funny, especially with his breathing mask on.

“The kids love it,” said firefighter Nick Koch. “At that age, it's kind of hard to go over a whole lot of fire safety stuff, but we put our gear on so they can see what a firefighter looks like, because that can be kind of scary for little kids.”

Preschoolers are spending this week learning how to stay safe in case of a fire, said Preschool Director Missy Timmerman. On Monday, they built construction paper fire trucks and tried on firefighter costumes.

“It's a fun way to get them introduced,” Timmerman said.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, students were jumping up and down at the prospect of getting to climb aboard a real fire truck and ambulance.

Koch prepared a group of preschoolers to climb aboard the ambulance and check out the things inside.

“Has anybody ever ridden in an ambulance before?” Koch asked the students.

Many of the students yelled “Yeah!” in unison, before being reminded by their teacher that they probably hadn’t.

“We let them see the back of an ambulance if in case, unfortunately, they ever have to go in one, they've at least seen it before and they're not scared,” Koch said.

Next to the fire truck, Jeff Hays and Kitrik Ahl were showing the kids what kind of gear sits behind the many doors of a fire truck, before lifting them into the cab.

“We come out here, do a little fire safety presentation inside and show them the trucks,” Koch said. “And it gets us out of the station.”

‘Buddy benches’ arrive at Beatrice

For elementary students, the playground can be something of a mixed bag.

That break in the day for recess offers a chance to relax, kick a ball or slap a friend on the back during a game of tag.

But recess can also be a daunting place for students who are new, have trouble making friends or are shy.

A new student-led initiative at Beatrice Public Schools is aiming to change that.

It’s called the "buddy bench," and you can find one on every BPS playground this school year.

Kevin Janssen, the principal of Stoddard and Lincoln Elementary schools, said the idea was brought forward by second grade student William Stokes after he saw it on the internet while researching how to be a good friend.

“He came across a video that was about the buddy bench,” Janssen said. “It’s a bench that’s set aside for children who maybe feel lonely, sad, don’t have any friends to play with or maybe they started a game, it didn’t go well, they feel frustrated and just need a restart. They can go sit on what’s called a buddy bench.”

The rules of the buddy bench are few and simple. The biggest rule is if a fellow student asks you to play, you go play.

“Your answer is always yes,” Janssen said. “There is no ‘no.’ If somebody asks you to play, you have to play that game. You may not like it that day, but at least you get to try it.”

Rule number two: if there are two people sitting on the bench at the same time, they have to find something to do. This rule aims to help kids stay active and make new friends.

BPS Board President Lisa Pieper commended William for his idea and said it’s a model for how improvements are made.

“I think it’s a great idea, too,” she said. “I’m really proud of you. That’s how communities should work. When somebody has a great idea, they should share it and it makes the community better. You did a great thing.”

Janssen said the idea originated in Germany and migrated to America, where it’s popular on the coasts. He hopes bringing the idea to Beatrice will build bonds among students, particularly after this year’s restructuring that transformed Cedar Elementary to a preschool-only facility, moving some students to new schools.

“It’s a great way to bring our community and kids together,” he said. “Especially our Cedar kids who maybe were kind of dispersed from a lot of schools.”

Drug arrest made during traffic stop

Gage County deputies arrested a woman for possession of methamphetamine following a traffic stop.

Cassandra Jurgens was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance.

The arrest stemmed from a stop Saturday night after a Gage County deputy spotted a Chevrolet Trailblazer with no license plates or visible in-transit sticker, due to the windows being tinted.

A traffic stop was conducted at Fifth and Court streets in Beatrice.

Jurgens, 29, was identified as the driver and court documents note she seemed nervous and said the vehicle belonged to a coworker.

She also told the deputy she was out on bond, and, after hesitating when being asked, said there was nothing illegal in the vehicle.

She declined to let the deputy search the vehicle, and was informed that a K-9 unit would be walked around the vehicle.

The K-9 alerted deputites to the presence of narcotics and a search was conducted. During the search, authorities found a glass pipe with burnt marijuana residue in the center console. Two hypodermic needles, which appeared to be used, were recovered and had a yellow substance in the plastic casing. A test revealed the presence of methamphetamine.

During a search of Jurgens at the jail, authorities found a baggie of methamphetamine in her bra.

Jurgens’ bond was set at $5,000 with a 10 percent deposit. Her next hearing is set for Nov. 7.