Governing Body: Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education
The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at Wetmore Academic Center. Board members present included Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert, Kent Saylor, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Kent Kuckelman and Jeff DeMint.
The board adopted the agenda as amended.
The board approved the consent agenda, including minutes from the Oct. 9 regular board meeting, November bills of $341,480.44, October payroll of $697,169.47, audit contract with Kickhaefer and Buessing for fiscal year 2018, addition of 12.5 percent of teaching position for Axtell Career Development, donation of $2,500 to Sabetha schools in memory of Sabetha High School graduate Marion (Janette) Meyerton Campbell, personal/dock day request from Cindy Wiltz, a number of contracts and a resignation from Sheri Harmer as SHS principal. Contracts included Rachel Combs, three hours instructional support staff at Axtell; Richard Tynon, Axtell Junior High boys’ basketball coach; and Brianna Uphaus, Axtell High School forensics.
Wetmore High School representatives presented to the board on their recent activities at Wetmore, including Cardinal Kiddos, Anti-bullying month, and Veterans Day program, among others.
The board received written reports from principals Sheri Harmer, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker and Jayson Tynon.
Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz reported to board members about the parent surveys taken regarding family engagement and technology. The family engagement survey was filled out by 347 individuals, while the technology survey — which was only offered to parents of sixth through 12 grade students — was filled out by 198 individuals.
Regarding the family engagement survey, J. Scoby noted that communication was the connecting factor in all the items that the district scored most poorly. However, L. Scoby said that she has heard communication is better than ever, so she wonders if it depends of the expectations of the parents.
Regarding the technology survey, Gatz said the Device Refresh committee is working to determine whether to consider with iPads in the one-to-one initiative or switch to a different device. The survey information will help the committee as they work toward a recommendation for the board. J. Scoby asked how many textbooks were offered in digital format only. Gatz said most textbooks were available in both forms.
Superintendent Todd Evans presented the expense comparison document to the board. It shows that the district has spent about $10,000 more at this point in this year, compared to the same timeframe last year. Evans said he expected it to be much more, but he learned that this is likely because a special education payment had gone out at this time last year but not yet this year. With this information, Evans said, he believes the district is running close to where he expected.
Next, Evans updated the board on enrollment. Since the enrollment counts in September, he said, Axtell has added five students and Wetmore has gained one, while Sabetha has lost a few.
Next, Evans discussed special bus requests for students. Sometimes the district gets a request for a regular drop-off somewhere other than the student’s home, and in the past the district has denied these requests. However, he said, going forward he would like to have a formal request form that can be filled out, with all requests that fall along the regular route being approved. The board agreed with this plan.
Evans updated the board on the condition of the roofs at Wetmore. He told the board that he has asked for an opinion from AHRS, as he already reported on the opinion from Specialty Roofing last month. If the opinions are the same, he said, the district should start moving toward getting the specifications and bidding the work.
Next, Evans reported to the board that he had discussed scheduling with the Building Leadership Teams to consider whether they should study a move back to block. After further reflection, Evans said, he does not believe the district should consider making any change such as this until at least the 2019-20 school year. The state is conducting its School Redesign Project, and he noted that it is important to see what direction this takes education in the state.
Evans reported to the board that there was a school bus accident Monday morning, but no students were on board and the driver sustained relatively minor injuries. The bus and a large truck hit mirrors at the center line on Old Highway 75.
The board accepted the resignation of SHS Principal Sheri Harmer within the consent agenda. Evans said he was appreciative of her service, as well as her early decision to retire, which allows the board plenty of time to find a quality replacement.
The district will form a four-person committee to participate in the candidate interview process. It will include Evans, Reznicek, L. Scoby and Lippert.
The position will be posted Dec. 1, with an application deadline of Jan. 2. Applicants will be screened down at the January board meeting, with interviewing taking place through the rest of that month. Ideally, the position would be filled by the February meeting.
Ken Kickhaefer with Kickhaefer and Buessing presented the audit for Fiscal Year 2017.
Kickhaefer said there is one violation that deals with a surety bond. A surety bond should be in place any time there is a construction project more than $100,000, to cover the cost of the project. This is to protect the district, he said.
The board approved the audit.
Following the approval in October 2016 of the USD No. 113 “Standards of Solvency and Viability,” the board evaluates both the district as a whole, as well as individual campuses, each year following the official district audit by Kickhaefer. At this point in time, the board determines whether the district has met the standards, as well as whether individual campuses have met the standards. See Figure A for the entire Standards of Solvency and Viability as approved by the board in 2016.
Kickhaefer presented the “Audited Allocation of Expenditures Per Building” for the 2016-17 school year. The figures are prepared by Carol Kuckelman and reviewed by Kickhaefer. He said he also reviewed all revenues to ensure there are no duplications.
Evans noted a few concerns in the document, such as allocating district office expenditures 70-15-15 — 70 percent to Sabetha, and 15 percent to each of the Axtell and Wetmore campuses — to the three campuses. Per a previous meeting, the board had decided to allocate revenue and expenditures based on the actual weighted enrollments. While the weightings come close to the 70-15-15 mark, it is not as exact as it should be, Evans said.
The document shows that — for the 2016-17 school year — the district as a whole was operating at a break-even point.
The Sabetha campus was operating in the green, staying well above the standards, with a 2.24 percent benefit in the Campus Deficit/District Expenditure category, and a 7.99 percent benefit in the Campus Deficit/Campus Expenditure category.
The Axtell campus was operating in the red, but still staying above the standards, with a 0.87 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/District Expenditure category, and a 5.18 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/Campus Expenditure category.
The Wetmore campus was operating in the red, and fell below the standards, with a 1.32 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/District Expenditure category, and a 7.99 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/Campus Expenditure category.
The Finance Committee — comprising Reznicek, Lippert and Saylor — met in October to go over these figures, and prepared a set of suggested actions, per the solvency information.
First, the board recognizes challenges for WAC viability along with the need to be proactive to enhance WAC viability options.
Second, it asked the projections be examined for fiscal year 2018. These projections were presented, and showed Wetmore dropping into a further deficit for the 2017-18 school year despite cuts already implemented this year. Projections also showed Axtell nearing the viability standard cut-off point.
Third, communication needs to be had with WAC staff and Site Council about financial situation and obtain input on potential reductions for Fiscal Year 2019.
Barring district losses in revenue, district or building losses in enrollment, the fall of 2019 information from the 2018-19 school year is the goal to be back in compliance with the viability formula. This is because, Evans said, any financial adjustments made now or in the next few months would be implemented in the 2018-19 school year and would not impact the budget until the review in the fall of 2019.
The board agreed with the Finance Committee’s suggestions.
“Let’s be proactive now,” Saylor said.
The trend does not look great for any of the campuses, J. Scoby said. He said he believes the campuses all need to “tighten belts.”
“This is a trend, not a snapshot,” J. Scoby said.
Superintendent Evans asked board members if they wanted to have a discussion about multi-age elementary classes for the 2018-19 school year.
Reznicek suggested that this discussion be tabled until December, after Evans has spoken to Wetmore staff and Site Council about possible efficiency measures to bring that campus back within viability. The board agreed to table this item to December.
The board considered information about maintenance needed on the SHS track.
J. Scoby said he had walked the track with SHS Athletic Director Scott Burger, and he noted a lot of cracks that appear to go through the track to the asphalt.
“As much as I hate to spend money, I think this is a project that is needed if we are going to maintain the track,” J. Scoby said.
Saylor said it is important to maintain things to reduce the need for complete replacement. He said he is seeing other districts that need to completely replace a track, with cost estimates of $500,000 to $1 million.
Evans presented specifications for the maintenance work, which would repair cracking issues and add an overlay and painting to all surfaces. This project should maintain the track for another seven years, Evans said.
The board approved the bid specifications, with a deadline for bids of Dec. 1.
SHS Surveillance System
Per the October meeting, Superintendent Evans brought to the board two bids for a surveillance system at SHS. The bid from Blue Valley was for $15,101.90, while the bid from Sound Products was for $19,697.
Both bids included an entire system and recording, and cameras throughout the building. The cameras would cover a large percentage of the school, said USD No. 113 Information Technology Director Darren Reith said. It can be viewed live, or searched by time.
Reith explained the two bids to the board, stating that he believed the system and cameras proposed from Sound Products were better quality and easier to use. He told the board that he also feels the bid from Sound Products is more complete, whereas the Blue Valley bid would result in extra unknown costs for the district.
DeMint asked if the administration is certain that a surveillance system is wanted.
This project is not meant just to catch vandals, Evans said. It would be used to watch behaviors within the building, and hopefully deter negative behaviors.
J. Scoby asked Harmer if there would be an advantage to having a surveillance system.
Harmer said that her former school did have surveillance, and it was used many times to solve problem situations. She said she believes the system would be a good thing.
“We’re probably a little bit outdated that we don’t have anything,” Harmer said.
Reznicek said he believes it would be worth it to go ahead with the system at SHS, and see how it works then consider implementation at other buildings.
The board approved 5-1, with DeMint opposed, the bid from Sound Products for the surveillance system at SHS. Kuckelman left the meeting during the vote, due to a conflict of interest.
The approved bid from Sound Products includes nine cameras and a surveillance system and recording device.
Lippert presented a legislative update to fellow board members.
Interim committees have been set up to review the Supreme Court decision on education funding. Meanwhile, many other entities have “come out of woodwork” with additional funding needs, she said.
Revenues recently have been up and exceeded projections, Lippert said. The new revenue estimating group seems to be better at estimating, she said.
Saylor asked Lippert if she believed a constitutional amendment might actually be considered or feasible. Lippert said changing the constitution is very difficult, but that does not mean it might not be tried.
Also at the meeting:
DeMint presented an education foundation update on the Appleseed Innovative Grant, which funded $12,000 in grant items. All purchases have been made and should be received by December. All requests were funded. The form is online and can be filled out anytime for the next school year, he said.
The board was provided with a first read of the crisis management and response policy. Board members will consider the policy for approval at the December meeting.
The board held an executive session to discuss administrative contracts. No binding action was taken following the executive session.
The board held an executive session to discuss confidential student information. No binding action was taken following the executive session.
Amber Deters120 Posts
Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.