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Waupaca to revamp contract with Chain

Shown, from left, are Sandy Robinson, a member of the Governance Council of the Chain Exploration Center, and Betty Manion, a Waupaca School Board meber. Courtesy of CEC

School board discusses conflicts at charter school

By Robert Cloud

The Waupaca School Board plans to revise its contract for the Chain Exploration Center.

The contract and ongoing conflicts between CEC’s administrative staff and governance council were the focus of a special Jan. 25 meeting.

Launched in 2018, the Chain Exploration Center offers project-based learning in a collaborative environment for 4K through eighth-grade students.

Students select their own projects and advisors ensure that projects meet all national education standards.

Carrie Naparalla leads the staff as the CEC’s CEO and administrator.

A Governance Council oversees the CEC, sets policies, provides direction and manages finances. It is composed of volunteers.

Megan Sanders is the current president of the council.

The contract is between the Waupaca School District and the CEC Governance Council.

“The contract describes the method and delivery of instruction, measures of success, services and terms of the contract,” according to the CEC website.

Relationships, mutual trust

“We’re all clear about all the great things the CEC does,” school board member Dale Feldt said in a prepared statement at the meeting. “I don’t think there’s a question on that at all.”

Feldt said there needed to be trust among the school board, administrative staff and community.

“The relationship between the admin team and the Governance Council has been very strained,” Feldt said.

He said they need to build positive relationships.

“Growing these relationships doesn’t just happen. It takes time and effort from everyone,” Feldt said.

The process of writing a new contract may help build those relationships.

“While we work together on this contract, we can build a working relationship for years to come that is built on collaboration, communication, compassion, clarity, competency, commitment, contribution and connection,” Feldt said.

“That’s a lot of alliteration for a math teacher,” school board member Ron Brooks said, before saying he agreed with Feldt’s idea.

Contract issues

“I proposed we continue to operate the CEC under the current contract for one year,” Feldt said.

“During this time, we’ll meet a minimum of at least twice a month to develop a new contract that is a collaborative work of the School Board of Waupaca, the Governance Council and the superintendent of the school district.”

Feldt said that once the new contract is completed, the school board will grant the Governance Council a rolling two-year contract.

He said one year was the limit on how long they should work on developing the new contract.

Brooks said he liked the idea of a rolling contract because it would give CEC teachers more security.

School board member Betty Manion said she was concerned that the idea of a rolling contract would make teachers and parents feel less secure.

“We’ve heard that a one-year contract is scary,” Manion said. “It’s scary for the teachers. It’s also scary for the families.”

She suggested parents may be reluctant to enroll their children in the CEC if they thought it would have no contract with the district the following year.

Feldt said he was proposing a minimum three-year commitment.

School board member Pat Phair agreed that the plan was for a commitment of more than a single year.

“Right now, it (CEC) is one of the shining stars in our district,” Phair said.

“I want to make it clear that I do not support shutting down the CEC,” Feldt said when introducing his plan, noting that the CEC “provides an alternative pedagogy for our community families.”

“I think it’s semantics,” board member Molly McDonald said. “For all intents and purposes, it’s three years.”

The school board voted unanimously to move forward on writing a new contract and remain under the existing contract until the new one is finished.

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