P-S Board Hires Ketchem As Principal

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The Pine-Strawberry School Board accepted Principal Richard Soikkeli's resignation Tuesday and asked P-S teacher Kathe Ketchem to serve as his replacement for the 1999-2000 school year.

The school board will draft a one-year contract and review it for signatures with Ketchem next month at the board's regular meeting, School Board Member Patty Horton said.

The board also decided to revamp its administrator evaluation process to include staff feedback -- both positive and negative.

"As a board, we're not in the classroom with that person day-to-day," Horton said. "If we can get that feedback from the teachers, it will give us a good opportunity to pat that person on the back, or, if there are problems, set goals to guide them in the right direction.

"We're a small enough district; we should do that. We're like a family and families should be able to talk to each other. We can't all work together for the benefit of the kids if we're not working and talking together."

In other business, the board approved 5-0 a new sex-ed program published by Boys Town Press. The new curriculum will be implemented at the junior high school next school year, but it may be offered for this year's graduating eighth-grade students, Horton said.

Textbooks for the new curriculum are available at the school office for parent review, she said, and parent briefing meetings will be held before the first classes are taught, possibly before the end of the school year.

"We want to make sure parents understand what's going on with it," Horton said. "We're going to talk to them real up front about what it is and why the district thinks it's a benefit for the kids."

The school's current sex-ed curriculum, which is offered with parent permission, focuses on the biology and physiology of sex, she said. The new curriculum expands on that and addresses sexual games and sexual manipulation and how children can protect themselves from dangerous behavior.

"That's an important thing for kids to learn," Horton said. "It's something everyone learns slowly as they become adults, but if we can give these kids this knowledge in junior high, they'll be better prepared to protect themselves in high school and beyond."

The board also opted to retain its "call-to-the-public" policy, which lets members of the public address the board regarding any item on board agenda, except student or staff matters, during school board meetings.

"We like people to come and talk to us," Horton said. "We've gotten some real positive feedback in the past."

And finally, the school board discussed the Hands Across the Border student exchange program.

Students from P-S school visited the school's sister town, Cucurpe, Sonora, Mexico last month, and next Monday night, about 16 students from Cucurpe will arrive in Pine.

The students and their Pine partners will go on a nature hike and picnic Tuesday afternoon and will compete in a basketball game Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 8 in the school gym. The public is invited to attend, and the school will be selling hot dogs, pizza and soda to raise money for next year's trip.

The students will study English, Spanish and computers in class Wednesday, and Thursday, the students and their partners will be given a free day for such activities as shopping, horseback riding and hiking. The Cucurpe students will return to Mexico Friday morning.

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