Story last updated at 2:33 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Laidlaw gets Homer contract
by Jenni Dillon
Morris News Service-Alaska

Laidlaw Transit Inc. will take over transportation for Homer area schools' co-curricular activities this fall, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education decided Monday.

The decision came after the bus company brought a proposal to the district offering significant cost savings and benefits.

The proposal compared Laidlaw's current extracurricular activity rates for local and long-distance trips to the district's current trip rates data for Homer schools, finding a savings of up to $10,000 a year.

In addition, Laidlaw noted that it would absorb the costs of vehicle maintenance, driver safety training and federally mandated drug and alcohol testing for bus drivers, offering additional indirect savings for the district.

School board member Al Poindexter raised concerns about the proposal, including a possible loss of flexibility for the district and congestion on the buses. But, he said, "I appreciate the creativity of Laidlaw and the district to try to solve some of our long-distance transportation problems."

He added that while the district buses are safe enough, they are no longer reliable for long-distance trips, making Laidlaw's proposal a necessity.

"I understand Al's issues," responded school board member Deborah Germano," but making sure students are as safe as they can be is the top priority, and if we can save money, we win all the way around."

In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the proposal for a one-year period, effective during the 2002-03 school year.

The board also received end-of-the-year reports from site councils at each district school Monday night. The reports will be reviewed by the board and the school principals -- a step that has not been taken in the past.

"They're being disseminated more widely than in the past," superintendent Donna Peterson told the school board.

The board also honored Jeff Sinz, borough finance director, and Kimb Remsen, Sears Elementary School volunteer and substitute, with Golden Apple awards. Sinz was instrumental in exploring new funding avenues for the district and researching an interest allocation process that saved the district from additional budget cuts.

"These are only a sampling of the ways he has assisted the district this year," said school board member Debra Mullins. "His willingness to be a resource is greatly appreciated."

Remsen was recognized as an outstanding example of a school volunteer. For the past 12 years, she has served as a classroom helper, teacher aide and chair of the Sears Holiday Drive. She also was honored with a First Lady's Volunteer Award earlier this year.

In addition, the board recognized five area students who received the state Spirit of Youth Award. They were Carrie Collins, Caelin Kubena, Bethany Thornton, Angel Hollers and Katie VanDerWege. (See related story, this page.)

In other board news:

* The board approved lease agreements for area programs to use district school properties. The leases, including those held by After the Bell, the Boys and Girls Club, Community Schools programs, North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, the Seward Bus Fleet and Kachemak Selo, Razdolna and Voznesenka schools, have not changed since last year.

* The board approved 2002-03 district goals and school board meeting agenda guidelines, all available on the district Web site at

* The board approved a pay scale for substitutes and other temporary employees for the 2002-03 school year. Wages range from $5.75 an hour for temporary locker room attendants or cashiers at school pools to $14 an hour for substitute nurses to $100 a day for certified substitute teachers. The pay schedule is identical to the 2001-02 schedule.

* A substitute teacher contract was approved for Irene Hegwer, language arts substitute at Soldotna Middle School.

* Additional teacher assignments for the 2002-03 school year were approved, including: Janice Waldron, Ninilchik School, third, fourth and fifth grades; Cindy Bedingfield, Susan B. English School, special education and secondary generalist; Suzanne Haines, West Homer Elementary, Quest teacher and librarian; Timothy McFarland, Ninilchik, music; Timothy Whip, Grants office, online assessment trainer; Jill Sill, Homer Flex, generalist and Title I teacher; Linda Etzwiler, Voznesenka, Title I teacher.

* Unpaid leaves of absence were approved for three district teachers, and the board accepted resignations from six staffers.

* Three non-tenured teachers were approved for tenure, including Virginia Bucher, West Homer Elementary.

* The board approved administrator appointments for the 2002-03 school year, including Joseph Huftel, Homer High, assistant principal, and Benny Abraham, Paul Banks Elementary, principal.

The next school board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 in the Borough Assembly Chambers at the Borough Building, 148 n. Binkley Street, Soldotna. The meeting is open to the public.

Jenni Dillon is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.