Farwell’s Hill named National Spanish Teacher of Year

By Erich T. Doerr

The Farwell School Board was gathered together Monday night in Lake George to honor one of the district’s teachers and make several official decisions regarding union contracts and personal.

According to Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter the meeting began with a visit from Farwell High School Spanish teacher Sean Hill. Hill was just named as the National Teacher of the Year at the secondary level by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Seiter presented him with a plaque during the meeting.

“We’re all very proud of Sean,” Seiter said, noting Hill is a dedicated profession in all respects. “His dedication to his students and our profession is exemplary… He is constantly looking for ways to improve.”

The biggest approvals made by the board during the meeting were the ratification of three union contracts. According to Seiter the first was with the teachers of the Farwell Education Association. He added the deal was a one-year contract that has frozen wages but does automatically trigger increases depending on if there is an increase in enrollment; if the enrollment goes up by 10 students the teachers would receive a half-percent lump sum off-scale pay raise while a 25-student increase would give each a step up in longevity on the pay scale.

Seiter said all of the teacher’s union contracts of late have been 1-year deals. He added this is due to an unstable amount of funding coming from the state.

“It’s difficult to plan when you are unclear on how much the state may give you or take away from you,” Seiter said.

The other approved union contracts were a 2-year deal with the teamsters that make up the districts bus drivers, cooks and custodians and a 3-year deal with the Farwell Education Support Association that provides the area’s classroom aides. Both of the deals also include frozen wages but include a half percent increase if there is a five student increase in the blended count of student enrollment plus a step up in longevity if enroll jumps by 13 students.

“I’m very pleased,” Seiter said of the contracts, noting he found them very fair given the state of finances amongst area districts. “Their support of the district offers incentives in the event of student enrollment increases.”

Seiter said the board also approved the addition of two employees during the meeting. The first is the recalling of one previously laid off employee to run the elementary school’s choice room. He added the other is the hiring of a new assistant middle school principal, a position he said has been unused over the last few years.

“The idea is if they want their building’s leader to focus on educational issues they need the support of an assistant principal to handle stuff like discipline and day-to-day supervision,” Seiter said.

In another piece of personal news there are two familiar faces who won’t be in action when school begins this year as food service employees Linda Dougherty and Verna Warner both had their retirement papers accepted during the meeting. According to Seiter Dougherty was with the district for nearly 40 years while Warner served Farwell students for 11 years.

“(Dougherty) worked in the food service department when I was a kid coming through high school,” Seiter said. “Sad to see these two individuals go and they will be missed. We thank them for their dedication to Farwell schools.”

The Farwell board also approved some financial bills during the meeting. According to Seiter the board conducted a second and final reading of a tax issue regarding a post-issue tax compliance policy before appointing school business manager Jacob Sullivan as the school’s new debt compliance officer. He added the new debt compliance officer position was created at the recommendation of the school’s attorneys who made similar recommendations to other districts they work with.

The meeting was held in Lake George instead of Farwell and according to Seiter is one of two each year held outside Farwell in different areas of the district. The other is in Lake, located in Garfield Township.

“We try to get out to our surrounding communities,” Seiter said. “We want to give those residents a chance to voice their opinions. We try to promote their participation.”

Seiter added the Farwell board meets on the first and third Mondays of each month. He said the next meeting would be held back in Farwell at the high school media center.

Caption to photo: Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter presents the National Teacher of the Year at the secondary level to high school Spanish teacher Sean Hill.

Photo courtesy of Farwell Schools