PLATTSMOUTH – In other years, the biggest challenge Plattsmouth school officials might face would probably involve finances, a new facility or a curriculum change.
But, this is 2020 with COVID-19 being the major issue students, teachers and administrators are facing, according to candidates for the Plattsmouth Community Schools Board of Education.
However, Brian Harvey, Nolan Siemonsma and Jeremey Shuey each see the challenge of the virus in a different light.
Shuey said teachers are becoming “exhausted” by demands being placed on them in response to the virus.
“Our teachers were promised, at the beginning of the year, certain hours in the day for preparation and frankly to take a breather,” he said.
“Those hours are now gone. Both (teachers and students) are to wear masks for eight hours a day. We must maintain safety, but we also need to look at ways to accomplish our goals, while providing breaks to our students and teachers.”
Shuey suggested more spirit days or an outdoor teachers vs. students challenge or some other fun event to relieve stress.
Harvey suggested teachers need to be trained for future remote learning.
“We need to develop a path forward,” he said.
Siemonsma believes the challenges of COVID-19 have brought on a low morale among the teachers.
“We need to sit down together to get to the bottom of this.”
These three candidates made their views known on a variety of issues during a candidate forum at Plattsmouth High School last week.
The three board incumbents – Ken Winters, Matt Glup and Karen Tesarek-Parsons – did not attend.
Siemonsma believes more communication between the board and the residents is important.
“We need to let the community know our goals,” he said.
He added that academics in the schools are on the right track, but “we have room to grow.”
Shuey said that if the teachers and students are to succeed, the Board of Education must do several things – have a clear vision, work as a team, be transparent, be fiscally responsible and advocate at all levels for the school district.
Harvey believes that the board must provide more transparency in its budget process, while Siemonsma suggested a third party be brought in to study the board’s spending.
Harvey said the board must become more involved in the community and suggested more forums like this one be shown on social media.
Shuey said, “I believe everyone should have the opportunity to engage with the board if they are unable to attend in person. This would include live streaming every board meeting and implementing a live chat feature.”
On improved safety and security, Shuey said he would support an additional school resource officer.
“We must also train teachers for all situations,” he added. “And, I have zero tolerance for bullying. We must teach students to value their peers.”
Siemonsma said COVID-19 has actually provided a good opportunity to implement a new safety protocol in place.
“I’d keep evaluating and prepare for the future,” he said.
Harvey added, “We need to make sure every person is trained on safety protocol.”
All three said they would work as hard as possible to make education in the Plattsmouth school district the best it can be.
“I’m prepared for the challenge,” Harvey said. “I can be a productive member of the board with a willingness to listen. My goal is to increase student learning and achievement, and the way to do that is working together. I don’t make decisions without doing a lot of thought.”
“I look forward to doing what is best for the students,” Siemonsma said.