The Fairfield Area School District School Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Michael Adamek, effective at the end of his current contract on October 22. The board will soon begin searching for a replacement.
The resignation was noted in an addendum to the board’s May 24 meeting. Board President Marcy Van Metre said “Mike, I’d like to say thank you. I wish you well in whatever is ahead for you. In the meantime, we will move forward in planning for the fall while we search for a superintendent.”
Looking forward, the board discussed preparations for this fall and heard concerns from the public. Adamek was not present for the meeting.
A handful of community members spoke up during the meeting, most asking about the status of the district’s health and safety plan and questioning when in-person board meetings will resume.
Patricia Weber, principal of Fairfield Area Middle School, said she is unsure when the health and safety plan will be presented.
Online or in person meetings?
Some community members suggested the board move to in-person meetings or hold a hybrid meeting, with the board meeting in person but also livestreaming the meeting.
Jennifer Holz, vice president of the board, said that the board currently does not have a technical assistant to help set that up.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are without a technology person,” she said. “I don’t think any of us disagree that a hybrid option would be excellent, because quite frankly, we have had excellent participation on the part of the board and the community since we’ve been doing these Zoom meetings. With that being said, in-person, of course, is always preferable. However, we do need the technology hooked up to do so. That decision will be made once we are able.”
Board President Marcy Van Metre also said that community participation has improved with the digital meetings.
“I realize that the in-person meetings are important,” she said in response to one commenter. “But I don’t think you are realizing how important the community participation has been with the meetings as we’ve been holding them. Because I don’t know that you’ve ever been to a school board meeting in person, however I’ve been to many where we have the administration, the school board and the Gettysburg Times, and there’s nobody else in the audience. So, we feel like this has been very successful by holding these meetings by Zoom and getting the participation that we’ve had.”
One speaker said that when topics are “hot-button,” attendance tends to be higher. He also said that the board is seeing more participation now over Zoom since the community has been unable to meet with the board in person.
“You know as well as I do that most times in school board meetings there’s four people there,” board member Joshua Laird replied. “And that’s it. And yes, during the hot-button issues we absolutely had a bunch of people there. Absolutely. What we’re saying is, we’re looking at this moving forward because, you know, news flash, we’ve had a lot of participation. Not a lot of people talk– usually the same three or four. But you know what? Everybody’s on and everybody’s listening, and everybody’s more educated. As for the community, I’ve heard just the opposite. I’ve heard that people love Zoom because they can go about their normal lives and they can still be in these meetings.”
Board member David Millstein agreed.
“Yeah, I want to jump on what Josh just said, because it’s actually a really important point,” he said. “There are thousands of organizations – educational, government, private entities, non-governmental organizations – that have leveraged this technology over the past 15-18 months extremely successfully and exactly as Josh just said, the participation is great. We all want to get back to, quote-unquote, ‘Normal,’ and Sean, you and I have had that discussion specifically about what normal really is. Nobody really knows. If we can take advantage of the technology, increase the amount of participation we have, and increase the ability of people to not only hear what’s going on but to comment, to be engaged in the process, then this has been not without it’s flaws, but it’s definitely worked. The dynamic of being able to have families engage in the things like a meeting at 7 p.m. that may run for hours that would otherwise be impossible if it was strictly in-person– everybody wants to get back to what it was before, whatever that looks like, but for what’s going on right now, this has definitely been a pretty solid second-place solution.”
The board is currently considering the best option for holding future meetings.
Barbara Richwine, principal of Fairfield Area Elementary School, said that based on the amount of anticipated kindergarten students, the district will need a fourth kindergarten teacher.
With the current enrollment and teachers, the class sizes will average 22 students per homeroom, she said. In previous years, the district has hired a fourth teacher right as the school year begins, according to Richwine. She said she expects to see more students enroll this summer and hopes to keep the class sizes at 18 students or fewer per homeroom.
Richwine said that as of Monday, there were 63 first-grade students, averaging about 15 or 16 students per classroom.
The district has found that about 80 percent of kindergarten students transitioning to the next grade haven’t met ideal benchmarks, she said.
“I believe Mr. Adamek’s plan is to reduce the number of first grade teachers from four down to three, and moving the teacher to kindergarten,” she said. “I just want to publicly state that to me, that’s a concern because our kindergarten students– 80% of them (are) below benchmark for first grade, and it worries me. With the four teachers currently in first grade, that would be 15 or 16 students. And I believe the foundations that the students may be lacking because of the possibility, with being in the hybrid and not the consistent five-day, it’s a concern for me and I would not want first grade to be reduced from four teachers to three so that kindergarten can go from three to four. That’s just my feeling. It’s my professional thoughts, and I just wanted to share that.”
Weber said that she knows of another potential solution but said Adamek can better address the issue.
Van Meter said that the board will discuss the issue and possible solutions with Adamek before making a decision about hiring another teacher.
William Mooney, district buildings and grounds supervisor, provided a brief update on the district’s roofing project.
Last month, Mooney and Adamek notified the board that the company whose bid was accepted for a portion of the district’s roofing work would be unable to take on the project. The board voted to pursue collecting a bid bond.
“With the roof, I’ve been advised not to make any comments on it publicly, but I can assure you that the district is going to exhaust every possible avenue to get the proper restitution that we deserve,” Mooney said on Monday.
The district is also working on its floors over the summer.
Mooney said that professionals will strip the floors in the elementary and middle and high school building. Staff will wax and buff them, he said, adding that the floors haven’t been stripped for 7-10 years.
“It should look spectacular when kids come back to school in the fall,” Mooney said.
Fairfield, like other schools across the country, has dealt with the difficulties presented by the novel coronavirus for over a year.
“Also, this past year has been shadowed with challenges that we can only hope our students and community will never again experience,” Weber said. “At times it was difficult to find silver linings. I would like to share a few brighter thoughts and reflections as written and submitted by the middle school teachers as they professionally reflected on this past year.”
Those teachers were able to identify positive moments or trends that have emerged from the pandemic.
“’I am better at developing multiple ways of teaching students with different learning styles and abilities,’” Weber read. “’Parent communication is vital. They want to be involved and help their child succeed and genuinely appreciate the teachers’ efforts. I’ve created better resources, become more patient and focused, and even become more of a team player. The hybrid experience has helped me to grow as an educator by forcing me to evaluate my lessons with a more critical eye. It has taught me to appreciate seeing students face-to-face even more and not take it for granted. The pandemic has served to reinforce my love for my job. I truly cherish the personal interaction of teaching in the classroom and watching my students learn, grow and become future leaders. I continue to stay positive. In retrospect, I feel that adaptability and flexibility were my greatest insights gained over the past year. I truly had many more successes as a teacher than some typical years. I taught at a deeper level and was still able to incorporate hands-on learning. I have adopted new ways of promoting library services and materials using digital means of publishing and communication. I feel that I have grown from this experience by coming up with new ways to connect with the community. My endurance was tested, but we persevered. Right now, I feel like we can power through anything in education. So thank you to the students, the families, the teachers and district administration for your support and empowering us throughout the year.’”
Weber said the statements were collected from multiple teachers.
“Please thank whoever wrote that for their extremely candid thoughts to share,” Millstein said. “That’s definitely appreciated.”
Athletic Director Andy Kuhn said that the district has held two nights for student physicals so far. It will hold the third and final one on July 8.
Kuhn said he is also in the process of completing schedules for the fall season.
The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. June 28 via Zoom or in the district board room.
Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.
You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.