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Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board meeting is a happy event

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 12:09 am | Updated: 12:07 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Editor's note: The article has been modified to correct Margaret Donat's name and a reference to the Lathrop academic decathlon team coached by Chris Benshoof.

FAIRBANKS — It was good news all around at Tuesday’s Fairbanks North Star Borough School District meeting.

The positive tempo of the meeting was set with an opening concert by the Pearl Creek School Orchestra and continued with the introduction of two of the four school district teachers recently honored with state titles of Alaska Teacher of the Year.

The district passed its annual audit report card with flying colors, and a newly introduced, Late Bus Notification System to alert parents and students of late bus arrivals via email, text messages and website was explained by its creators.

Kara Moore, a partner with Cook & Haugberg CPAs, auditing the district congratulated the school district on its fiscal accountability and the quality of its financial reports.

“There were no difficulties or significant issues encountered,” she said, referring to the audit for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012.

She also complimented the administration for following up on suggestions from last year’s audit and implementing new processes.

Moore made several administrative suggestions such as beginning discussions on professional behavior for all district staff, so people will feel more comfortable about reporting fraud.

Other suggestions included training across the district schools for employees, clubs members and volunteers handling cash, and a second review of check runs outside of the accounts payable department.

A new program instituted about three weeks ago to alert parents, guardians and students to late bus arrivals is slowly growing as people sign up through the district Power School accounts.

With an estimated 6,000 students riding school buses each day, the new program will alert families and students not only if the bus is late but how many minutes it will be late.

Robinson Duffy, who developed the program with a district team and First Student Bus Company, said the objective is to make it as easy as possible to enroll and get the information.

Parents log in their PowerSchool Guardian Account and students into the PowerSchool Student Account to sign up and be alerted of late bus arrivals via text message, email and website.

The school district and First Student Bus Company have partnered in the effort for both morning and afternoon routes.

Late bus information will continue to be broadcast via local radio and TV stations.

The district’s class size report didn’t differ greatly from last year.

The numbers, determined at the end of the first week in October, show 7,039 K-6 students in elementary schools with an average class size of 23.3; 1,855 students in middle and junior high schools with an average class size of 21.2, and 3,561 students in high schools with an average class size of 21.2.

According to the report, elementary school class sizes increased 0.2 percent; middle school classes by 0.6 percent, and high school class size decreased slightly by 0.4 percent.

The one-year lobbyist contract with John Ringstad for the period Nov. 20, 2012 through June 30, 2013, at $36,000 was adopted with the consent agenda.

West Valley High School counselor Jeff Walters was lauded for his student advocacy, trust and good judgment by West Valley Principal Shaun Kraska, and Lathrop High School math teacher Chris Benshoof was presented by Superintendent Pete Lewis in recognition of his many hours of teaching and coaching students beyond school hours and his 11 years (six winning) fine tuning the Lathrop academic decathalon team.

Two other teachers, Margaret Donat and Jennifer Johnson, recently were named Alaska Art Teacher of the Year and Alaska Career and Technical Education Teacher of the year, respectively.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

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