Reiff appointed to school board; GFPS piloting arts programs; District concerned about teacher shortage

Nathan Reiff was appointed to the school board during their July 19 meeting to fill the vacancy created by the unexpected death of former chairman Jan Cahill.

A board committee met last week to interview the two applicants for the vacancy and unanimously recommended that Reiff be appointed.

The full board voted unanimously to appoint Reiff to the board. He will have to run for the seat in the May 2022 school election to fill the remainder of the term and then again in 2023 for a full term if he so chooses.

GFPS committee recommends Reiff for school board vacancy

Reiff ran for the board in the May 2021 as did Russ Herring, the other applicant. In that election, Marlee Sunchild was the top vote getting, Herring was second and Reiff third.

Reiff works for First Interstate Bank and previously worked for the Great Falls Development Authority. Those business connections were cited by the interview committee as being beneficial to the board and the district at this time.

During the meeting, district officials updated the board on plans for a pilot programs including a drama class and a seventh grade choir class at North Middle School.

GFPS board sets plan to fill vacancy; remembers Cahill during meeting

No additional staff is needed for the programs since a recent change in school staffing allowed the district to share a full time teacher between C.M. Russell High school and North Middle School for the programs.

North has had a general music class and choir was a component of that but this class will replace the general music class. The choir will meet every other day and students make take other performing arts classes in addition to choir.

Drama has never been taught at the middle school level, according to the district, and this drama class at North will allow more performing arts options for students and hopefully grow interest in the drama program at the high school level, according to GFPS officials.

During the meeting, Superintendent Tom Moore told the board that a teacher shortage is a worry coming out of COVID, as well as challenges hiring in certain employee groups, including food service, crossing guards, teacher aides, paraprofessionals and substitute teachers.

GFPS board approves teachers, superintendent pay increases

“Teachers are a major concern and have been and are becoming more and more of a concern for us,” Moore said.

The district has modified the job description for Becky Nelson who handles the district’s communication and community relations efforts to also assist in employee recruitment for the next two years, Moore said.

Ruth Uecker and Heather Hoyer said that between their divisions, there are five current teacher vacancies, three at the elementary and two at the high school level.

Hoyer said that shortages mean larger class sizes at the high school level and should the shortage worsen, electives would be canceled to focus on the core academic areas with the available teachers, but the district isn’t at that point now.

The district is planning to sell Roosevelt Elementary and the school has been used to store excess equipment and furniture so a garage sale is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 18 to move those items that will be sold as is.

GFPS selling Roosevelt Elementary, Campfire house

Lance Boyd, director of student services, said that the audits for the initial state and federal COVID relief funds have been completed. He said that those had tight timelines and rules and that about 40-50 percent of those went to academic instruction, the rest to pandemic needs such as personal protective equipment and nursing staff.

The district is now going into the next round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, and the American Rescue Plan funds.

GFPS monitoring COVID to make plans for upcoming school year

The district received $10.02 million in this round of ESSER funds that can be spent from July 1, 2021 to Sept. 1, 2023 for COVID related needs. Boyd said 100 percent of those funds will support the district’s strategic plan for re-engagement, reintegration and remediation.

He said that $5.9 million will go into remediation efforts, $2.2 million into re-engagement and $1.9 million into reintegration.

The district also received $22.13 million in ARP funds that must be spent by 2024.