School Board reduces one Wetmore teacher
The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education approved the reduction of one teacher at Wetmore Academic Center during the board’s regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 12. The reduction will be made through attrition, as the board accepted resignation of one elementary teacher at Monday’s meeting.
At the board’s audit and viability review in November, it was presented that the Wetmore campus had fallen below the district’s fiscal viability standards during the 2016-17 school year. Projections for the 2017-18 school year requested by the board’s Finance Committee — comprised of Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert and Kent Saylor — showed Wetmore dropping into a further deficit despite cuts implemented this year.
In December, board members said they would like to consider the possibility of multi-age classrooms more seriously, because saving money through the combination of two or more classrooms at Wetmore could help the campus’ offset viability concerns. The goal for the Wetmore campus is to be back in viability compliance by the board’s review of the 2018-19 school year audit, which would take place in the fall of 2019.
Current counts at Wetmore are as follows: kindergarten, five students; first, 11 students; second, 11 students; third, 14 students; fourth, seven students; and fifth, eight students.
In January, the board voted for Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz and WAC Principal Rick Schnacker to explore the possibility of combining classrooms at Wetmore, with the understanding that the district would like to see the reduction made if possible.
Following that board meeting, Gatz and Schnacker reported that they met with teachers at Wetmore to discuss ideas, and later met together to put together some combination options that they would like to take back to the teachers.
Based on their discussions and research, Gatz and Schnacker told board members that they do believe it is feasible to reduce by one staff member effective with the 2018-19 school year.
Gatz said they did talk with those teachers about how the state is working to “break the barriers” and redesign education, and how Wetmore can work to make these changes in an innovative way.
The board voted to reduce one teaching position at Wetmore Academic Center, giving flexibility in regard to how that position is reduced. This reduction would save approximately $61,000.
This savings alone will not be enough to bring Wetmore within the viability threshold, however, so additional adjustments will need to be considered. Superintendent Todd Evans told board members that he estimates the district needs to get the deficit spending down to $130,000, which is approximately the viability formula threshold for Wetmore’s campus.
Looking forward at enrollment projections, Evans said, the financial issues at Wetmore could compound if enrollment continues to decrease.
Evans asked that board members give him direction regarding how proactive they want to be in making those reductions.
“I am not attempting to get them in the black,” Evans said. “I am attempting to get them to viability.”
In addition to the elementary position at Wetmore, Evans presented a few other suggestions, including the staff members who travel for partial or whole days at Wetmore — such as elementary art teacher and counselor — as well as the evening custodian. These would not be reductions to the district’s overall costs, but rather would be reductions to move costs from Wetmore.
Evans said the board also should consider giving Wetmore a credit for the green building, which is being used by the special education cooperative to be made available for elementary school alternative school.
Saylor and Board Member Jeff DeMint said they believe the cost for that building should be spread across the district .
Saylor said it would be nice to see a prioritized list so that they can see what other reductions are possible.
Board Member Jim Scoby agreed, asking for a list and suggesting that the district should be trying to make as many reductions as possible to reach the viability standard.
Board Member Ann Shaughnessy asked Schnacker and Gatz if they feel they can accommodate enough reductions to make viability attainable.
Schnacker said he has personally been working on a list of possibilities, but he has not gone outside of that.
Gatz said that, as she and Schnacker have dug into the schedule, they have been looking at what types of combinations are positive and what they could do to save a little bit more money while not impairing educational.
Shaughnessy said she would like to “give them time to work on it.”
See full meeting minutes on Page 6A of this week’s Herald.
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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.