Governing Body: Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education 1.8.18

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, at Wetmore Academic Center. Board members present were Ed Reznicek, Kent Saylor, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Ann Shaughnessy and Jeff DeMint.

The board began their meeting with a walking tour of Wetmore Academic Center.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

The board approved the consent agenda, including the approval of Dec. 11 regular meeting minutes, January bills in the amount of $177,020.22, December payroll in the amount of $703,012.34, Policy JGGA on surveillance, Policy EBC on security and safety, and participation in the Northeast Kansas Library System.

The board discussed board meeting “norms,” including starting meetings on time; showing respect for fellow board members and their opinions and opportunity to speak; and limiting public participation to the comment portion of the meeting.

Reznicek said sometimes a board member might talk a bit too long, so it is important to be aware of that. Reznicek said he would also like to see the board give members of the public an opportunity to finish speaking before asking questions or making comments.

Superintendent Todd Evans said it also is important to be aware of time constraints when making requests of the district office.

Evans asked the board if the end-of-the-week emails have been working for communication, and the board members agreed it is.

The board also discussed the “surprise pact,” which means that Superintendent Evans will not surprise members with information at the meeting, and he asks that board members likewise not surprise him if possible.

Finally, Evans said, it is important that board members not email each other to ensure they are not violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

DeMint noted that it is important that board members remember that their board packets are privileged information, and not all information contained in them is for public consumption.

Wetmore High School Student Council, KAY and SADD representatives presented to the board on recent and upcoming activities. Sabetha High School Student Council provided a written report on upcoming activities.

The board received written reports from administrators Sheri Harmer, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker, Jayson Tynon and Jennifer Gatz.

Board Member Kathy Lippert joined the meeting.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Evans reported to the board on the audit from the Sept. 20 student counts. The district’s estimate on the count was 7.7 students above the state’s audited figure, which is quite high, Evans said. It will be important for the district to make more accurate counts in the future, Evans said.

Since Sept. 20 count day, Evans said, Axtell has gained four students, Wetmore has gained three students and Sabetha has lost two.

Evans reviewed the district expenditures to date. The district has spent $260,411.21 more this year, as compared to the same timeframe last year, from the general and supplemental general funds, mostly attributable to salary increases. The district has spent $56,106 less in capital outlay this year.

Evans presented calendar options for discussion by the board. He asked for board members’ input. The board indicated they were agreeable to any of the three calendar options.

SHS Press Box

Harmer shared information from the Booster Club that they were able to bring the price down from the initially estimated $150,000 to $120,000. The Booster Club also shared examples of possible advertising design.

Lippert asked with which activities the press box is used. Harmer said it is used during football and track for both middle school and high school, as well as other school and community activities.

Per the last meeting, the board had approved district costs of half the total cost, up to but not exceeding $60,000.

WAC Multi-Age Classrooms

Superintendent Evans said the board had asked during last school year to consider the possibility of multi-age classrooms earlier in the school year, to give ample time for preparation.

At the December board meeting, board members indicated they would like to consider multi-age classrooms at Wetmore to help offset the campus’ viability concerns.

Following discussion, the board voted 7-0 to request Gatz and Schnacker bring back a recommendation for a multi-age combination at Wetmore, including whether the combination is possible.

See discussion notes in story beginning on Page 1A of this week’s Herald.

WAC Roofing Project

Superintendent Evans presented bids that had been submitted for the roofing projects at Wetmore Academic Center. Companies were supposed to present separate bids for two projects at WAC — one for the 1929 building and stage area, and one for the gymnasium. However, Evans said, only one of the companies submitted the bid properly. Luckily, he said, this was also the lowest bid overall.

Midwest Coating had the low bid of $74,500 total, which included a bid of $42,600 for the 1929 building and stage area, and $31,900 for the gymnasium. This bid was $5,000 lower than the JB Turner bid, and more than $40,000 lower than the Buckley bid.

Saylor motioned to approve the Midwest Coating bid, with a completion date of April 9.

“We are talking about still operating this building for at least 18 months, and we truly hope longer than that,” Saylor said. “I think we have an obligation to maintain our facilities.”

Lippert stated that she had concerns with approving a building improvement project at a campus that currently is not meeting its financial viability standard. The issues with the roof are not new, she said, and could wait at least until a more solid plan for viability is in place.

“At this point, we do not have a plan to move toward financial viability, and we’re still left guessing what options are going to come forward,” Lippert said. “This school district has in the past made decisions that could be learned from, and one of those decisions was to make improvements on a building that was not fiscally viable and was closed 18 months later.”

Shaughnessy said that, if the board waits to make a decision, the projects could not be completed over spring break. Additionally, she said, the problem with the roof is “only getting worse” and must be repaired.

“If you have a leaky roof, you have to fix the roof,” Shaughnessy said. “You can’t not fix a roof.”

Reznicek agreed, saying that “there comes a time when you have to deal with the roof.”

It is the board’s responsibility as stewards of the public’s money, Lippert said, to make financially good decisions.

Reznicek said that it would cost millions of dollars to replace the buildings if they were damaged, and not replacing a roof compromises the integrity of the building.

“I think that maintaining the roof is fiscally responsible, because we are maintaining the integrity of the building,” Reznicek said.

J. Scoby said that the Wetmore campus is currently significantly below the viability standard, with only a few options to get it back “into shape.”

“One of those options is to continue to cut personnel, which will continue to make it less likely to gain students,” J. Scoby said.

While he understands that it is important to maintain the roofs, J. Scoby said it would be possible to patch the roof instead of replace it.

Superintendent Evans said that the roofs have been patched multiple times, and they continued to leak. If he believed patching the roofs was still an option, Evans said, he never would have brought the idea of replacing them to the table.

Saylor said that the district is in good shape in regard to capital outlay, and “even with everything we have done this year, we will still be adding money to the bottom line of the capital outlay fund.”

L. Scoby said she can appreciate what Lippert is saying, but she understands the other side of it, as well.

“It is nice to have a building in good condition,” L. Scoby said.

DeMint said he agrees with the points being made on both sides, but — bottom line — he would find it very difficult to vote against fixing a roof, which is a need, when he voted for wants such as a track and a press box at Sabetha.

The board approved the bid, 5-2, with the work to be completed by April 9. Board members in favor were Reznicek, Saylor, L. Scoby, Shaughnessy and DeMint. Board members opposed were J. Scoby and Lippert.

Legislative Update

The legislature is not yet in session, Lippert said, though a special committee had met to discuss options in regard to education funding.

The Attorney General suggested that the legislature approve an education funding bill by March 15, she said. However, Lippert said, there are not funds on the books to support the Supreme Court’s decision.

SHS Principal Search

With the resignation of Sheri Harmer at the board’s November meeting, the board had opened up the position for SHS Principal through Jan. 5.

The stated plan was to narrow down the field at this meeting, with interviews set for later this month. The goal is to have a new principal hired at the February board meeting.

The board went into executive session to discuss confidential information regarding job applicants. Following executive session, no binding action was taken.

The next regular meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at the district office in Sabetha.

Amber Deters121 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.

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