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

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 5:15 p.m. Monday, May 14, at Sabetha Elementary School for a building tour. Following the tour, board members reconvened for regular session at 6 p.m. at the district office in Sabetha. Board Members present included Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert, Kent Saylor, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Ann Shaughnessy and Jeff DeMint.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

The board approved the consent agenda, including approval April 9 meeting minutes; payment of May bills for $164,981.72; payment of April payroll for $667,435.74; a $10,000 anonymous donation for school safety; and a number of resignations, contracts and personal/dock day requests. The $10,000 donation came through the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation from anonymous sources to provide support for the security system enhancement within the USD No. 113 school system.

Personal/dock day requests were approved for Kaleb Moeller, Briana Evans, Briana Uphaus, Chris Bauerle, Heather Schremmer, Linda White, Brent Hayden, Aaron Frey, Erika Buessing, Pam Walker and Jacque Stallbaumer.

Resignations approved were as follows: Connie Hutfles as Wetmore Middle School volleyball coach and WMS track coach; Jim Bloom as part-time evening custodian at Wetmore Academic Center; Jessica Atwood reducing from 59 percent to 43 percent fifth- and sixth-grade social studies teacher at WAC; David Martin as Wetmore High School boys’ basketball coach; Jesse Hutfles for payment of plan time at WAC; Kayla Thayer as junior class sponsor and concession stand at WHS; Harlan Suther as WHS assistant girls’ basketball coach; Adam Maas as head WHS girls’ basketball coach; and Bob West as Axtell Activities Director.

Contracts approved were as follows: Johanna Brockhoff as Sabetha High School Scholars Bowl advisor; Tresa Burger as Sabetha Middle School science teacher; and Donna Elder as Sabetha Elementary School kindergarten teacher. Summer help was approved as follows: Kamden Brownlee at SES; Joseph Gruber at SMS; Kay Duncan at SHS; Kristina Rice at WAC; and Laurie Cameron at Axtell Public School.

The board heard an update from Anna Cochenour, representative from SHS Student Council.

The board heard an annual report from Sabetha PTO.

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

Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz presented a review of state assessment results. Mathematics is a consistent strength in the district, but the district did perform better than state average in both English/Language Arts, science and mathematics, with two building/grade level exceptions.

Board Member J. Scoby noted that the district appears to be trending downward since 2015 in regard to level scoring. Gatz said it was showing that, and while the state as a whole has been trending downward as well the district was trending a little heavier. Gatz said she believes it is due to multiple factors, including a larger emphasis on social and emotional skills in addition to assessment-covered topics.

Board Member Saylor said he notices trends specific to buildings, and he wonders if teaching methods are consistent across the district.

Board Members L. Scoby and Lippert asked about how much testing students are doing, and whether the district is continuing to move toward less testing. Gatz said the district is continuing to have discussions about testing, and making sure that all testing is being utilized for teaching.

“We have definitely put less pressure on any one particular measure, which is probably part of the reason the scores have gone down a little bit,” Gatz said. “But there are other things that are just as important as a score.”

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Todd Evans shared information from district seniors about what they plan to do in the future. Plans were as follows: four-year institution, 53 percent; two-year institution, 8 percent; technical college, 15 percent; employment, 17 percent; and military, 7 percent.

Evans presented enrollment figures projected for the 2018-19 school year. Enrollment is anticipated to be up by approximately 11 students, he said.

Evans provided board members with the year-to-date expense comparison. Less transfers, Evans said, the district has spent approximately $500,000 more this year than last. In capital outlay, the district has spent approximately $37,000 more.

Parents As Teachers

The board heard the proposal for the Parents As Teacher program for the 2018-19 school year. During the 2017-18 school years, USD No. 113 contracted with PAT for 4.5 units.

PAT representatives Brandy Edelman and Tracy Hinton presented to the board the 2018-19 options. The program is currently serving 32 families.

Unit size has changed, so now each unit serves eight families. Edelman and Hinton think they would have no trouble finding four families to serve, as they already have three on the waiting list.

“It makes sense to me to support the Parents As Teachers program, and I think we get a lot of bang for our buck,” L. Scoby said.

The board approved, 6-1, 4.5 units serving 36 families for the 2018-19 school year, at a cost of $19,300. J. Scoby abstained.

Science Textbooks 9-12

New science textbooks were chosen by science teachers and Gatz for grades nine through 12.

In April, the board approved science textbooks for grades kindergarten through eighth at a total cost of $75,000.

Grades nine through 12 textbooks chosen were Pearson for chemistry and physics, and Miller for biology. Total cost for books and six-year licenses will be approximately $52,000.

Physical science books are not included, though this is typically taught in ninth grade, and integrated with Earth science. The reason for not choosing a physical science book is that there is no recent book offered from any of the major companies. The group decided, Gatz said, that the current book is just as recent as anything on the market currently. Physical science teachers will use current books and open education resources.

Lippert noted that textbooks are a resource, and asked if teachers can use other resources to augment areas that are not featured within the textbooks. Gatz said the teachers can use numerous resources to create a curriculum that is aligned to science standards.

The biggest amount of time spent on re-working curriculum is during textbook adoption. It is a “living document,” Gatz said.

J. Scoby said when he looked through the books, he did not have a problem with the chemistry book but did not like the biology book.

“It comes at it from strictly a humanistic paradigm,” J. Scoby said. “It taught evolution as fact. Macroevolution is not universally accepted, and that is what this book teaches, and I don’t like it.”

J. Scoby said he does not have a problem with exposure to evolution, but rather the emphasis on it as fact. Gatz noted that it is one small part of the whole.

Saylor said that we cannot please everyone, every time.

Lippert said it is important to have supplemental information to augment what is in science textbooks.

Gatz said a resource is a resource, and the curriculum is determined by the teachers.

“Science is always open-ended,” Reznicek said. “There will always be a change with science.”

“I think we can go on and on, but we are never going to have a science textbook series that pleases everyone in here,” L. Scoby said, motioning to approve the books.

Shaughnessy said she appreciates the time and work put into this selection and the curriculum.

The board approved the textbooks, 6-1. J. Scoby was opposed.

Strategic Plan

The board reviewed the district’s advances in MTSS implementation per the strategic plan. A survey was given to educators and staff within the buildings. Each building administrator received building-specific information, and the board reviewed district-wide information.

Student Assurance Insurance

The board reviewed the district’s Student Assurance Services insurance plan. Accident insurance — which would cover what is not covered by parents’ insurance up to a cap — used to be included through the school district, but it was reduced previously. Currently, parents are expected to cover these expenses.

Two options to renew the student insurance were presented to board members. The board approved 7-0 a premium of $18,425.50 Student Assurance Services.

Capital Outlay Expenditures

The board considered proposed capital outlay expenditures for summer projects. The board approved capital outlay improvements totaling $178,413.31. See full story on Page 1A of this week’s Herald.

The Finance Committee also discussed increasing the money allocated to each building, so that the buildings could budget for wanted items, while the district would just take care of infrastructure. Currently, each building gets at least $6,000. The board will discuss this possibility in the future.

SES Instructional Support Staff

The board considered a request from Principal Toedman to hire additional instructional support staff at SES. Instructional support staff provide reading and mathematics support, as well as additional classroom support.

The request was made to provide additional support to improve student learning through the MTSS framework, especially due to the increased projected size of the 2018-19 kindergarten class.

“If the MTSS program is successful, our students are going to be successful,” Toedman said.

It is important to keep the groups smaller, Gatz added.

This year’s kindergarten class had 53 students, and next year’s grade will have at least 70 if not more. Toedman noted that she got another call about kindergarten this week, and she knows of 76 possible students.

This position would not just support the kindergarten students, but the additional person would provide support to the building. ISS members work with small groups of students on educational interventions.

L. Scoby asked about what kind of education an ISS member might have. Toedman said it “runs the gamut.”

Currently, SES has nine full ISS positions. This would add a 10th. The board approved 7-0 the additional position.

Executive Sessions

The board entered into executive session to discuss employee performance, with board members, Superintendent Evans, and Principal Tynon. No binding action was taken following executive session.

The board entered into executive session to discuss confidential student information relating to actions adversely or favorable affecting a student, with the board members and Superintendent Evans. Toedman entered for four minutes, and Tynon and Gatz entered for six minutes. Following executive session, the board approved adjusting graduation requirements per discussion in executive session.

The board entered into executive session to discuss employee compensation allowable under the employer-employee negotiations, with the board members and Superintendent Evans. No binding action was taken following executive session.

Also at the Meeting:

Lippert and Evans presented a legislative update. The Legislature has approved a “fix” bill, and it will go before the Kansas Supreme Court. Evans said he is concerned with the timeline, with the Kansas Supreme Court not making a decision until the end of June. He is concerned that they will be cramming to get a budget done before school starts.

The board heard an Education Foundation update. The Foundation currently has approximately $1.4 million held. It administered a number of scholarships — approximately $60,000. Students need to request the money they were awarded, DeMint said. Again recently, DeMint said, the Saylors have given another $350,000 donation to be spread across numerous funds. Also, DeMint said, the Tara Ploeger Memorial is close to being endowed.

The board approved legal fees for KEIT Trust through Blue Cross Blue Shield. Twenty-seven districts are in the Trust, and 21 recently met to discuss pursuing a redefined agreement. There is a lot of confusion about the Trust, and BCBS is not forthcoming with information, Evans said. This attorney would work with BCBS to redefine the Trust agreement. Lippert said the attorney needs to agree to a fee cap. The board approved 7-0 for Evans to use discretion and pay for an attorney up to $1,500.

The board approved the copier agreement, for a five-year copier lease with Logan Equipment. The board approved 7-0 the five-year agreement at a cost of $27,200 per year.

The board approved athletic trainer agreements. Sabetha and Wetmore are covered by Cotton O’Neil, and Axtell is covered by Nemaha Valley Community Hospital. The board approved three-year agreements for Sabetha and Wetmore, and a one-year agreement for Axtell.

The board approved bid letting for Bus 99 — a 2000 Chevrolet Bluebird 53-passenger bus with 119,320 miles.

The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, June 11, at the district office in Sabetha.

Amber Deters115 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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