Governing Body: Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education 10.8.18
The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at Axtell Public School in Axtell. Board members present were Ed Reznicek, Kent Saylor, Leslie Scoby, Ann Shaughnessy and Jeff DeMint. Present via telephone conference were Kathy Lippert and Jim Scoby.
The board adopted the agenda as amended.
The board invited the two candidates for Kansas House of Representatives, 62nd District — incumbent Republican Randy Garber, and Democratic challenger Melvin Baker. Garber was unable to attend.
Baker presented to the board members. He is a former teacher, and told board members that education and school safety are priorities for him. He wants to see teachers and staff paid accordingly for the jobs they do. He also wants to ensure students and staff are safe in school. Ultimately, Baker said he would try to meet in the middle and work on things with both sides.
Ken Kickhaefer with Kickhaefer and Buessing presented the 2017-18 audit. Kickhaefer said the district has a clean opinion. He went through the report with board members. The board accepted the audit.
The board approved the consent agenda, including the following: Sept. 10 meeting minutes; gift of $60,285.12 for the Sabetha High School press box from the Sabetha Booster Club; payment of October bills of $343,529.92; payment of September payroll of $704,035.32; resignation of Jann Drahota as Sabetha Elementary School nurse and Lenny Burdick as Sabetha Middle School custodian; contracts with Samantha Shafer as SMS part-time secretary and Brenda Peschel as Axtell High School head track coach; and personal day requests for Kristina Castillo and Nate Bauman.
The board received written requests from building administrators David Glynn, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker and Jayson Tynon; and from Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz. Principals also shared photos of positive things going on in their buildings.
Superintendent Todd Evans reported to the board.
Bus: Superintendent Evans shared that the new activity bus for Axtell had arrived.
Energy Solutions: Evans had been contacted by an energy firm that wanted to do a energy audit of the district. He asked board members if they were interested in looking at energy efficient solutions at this time. The district office had reviewed electric bills, and district buildings are in the average cost range, with Wetmore being the lowest. Shaughnessy said it has been done in the recent past. Reznicek said the USD No. 441 made some improvements based on an energy audit, and while he might be interested in looking into this in a few years he is not interested at this time. Board members agreed to wait at this time.
Enrollment: Student enrollment figures were taken during the official Sept. 20 count. Headcount enrollment district-wide is up. However, Evans said he has a few areas of concern that center around at-risk weighting — at-risk weighting for free lunches is expected to decrease about 16 FTE, and Wetmore’s high density at-risk weighting is expected to go down about 5 FTE. See more detailed enrollment information in a story beginning on the front page of this week’s Herald, or here.
Wind Farms: Evans informed board members that there are now three potential wind farms that would be located within parts of USD No. 113 — one that includes eastern Marshall County, one that includes southern Nemaha County, and one on the line between Nemaha and Brown counties. The issue at hand, Evans said, is whether the school district will see any revenue from the wind farms. Kansas statute exempts renewable energy equipment from property taxes if an application for an exemption was filed for the property was filed before Dec. 31, 2016. Applications filed after that time are limited to the 10 taxable years immediately following the taxable year in which construction or installation is completed. At least one of those wind farms — Soldier Creek — had filed their exemption prior to that date and so would be granted tax exemption for the wind farm’s lifetime. Wind Farms often make PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreements with the counties in which they are located, and at this point it does not appear that the school district or other taxing entities will be included in these discussions in any of the counties. Evans said he has been told that distributing money from the PILOT agreements to each taxing entity would be too complex, but that the counties would use the money to lower taxes in general. L. Scoby said she believes that, in Nemaha County, there was a request to have a committee formed, and she believes the district could ask to have a person on that committee. Evans said he will look into this possibility.
Custodian: Evans told board members he would like to hire a substitute custodian who could fill in for special events, and also fill in as a substitute when needed. Board members agreed this was a good idea.
Corn: The school district rents approximately 20 acres, which were planted with corn this season. Evans reported that corn came in higher than expected, bringing an average of 95 bushels per acre.
Budget Comparisons: Saylor compared information from the “Budget at a Glance” documents available from the Kansas State Department of Education online. He compared information from USD No. 113 with other area districts. Saylor noted that USD No. 113 district patrons are “getting a good bang for your buck.”
Axtell Building Project
At prior meetings this school year, the board approved moving forward with the design process of a building project at Axtell Public School, which would exchange a few rooms to move the office to the forefront of the school to offer additional security. The project’s architect is Emily Koenig of ekoe Architecture. Principal Tynon provided an update to the board, stating that he and members of the project committee had met with Koenig to discuss the initial schematics. The committee suggested some subtle changes, Tynon said, which Koenig will be incorporating into the new schematics and bid specifications. It is expected that bid specifications will be presented to the board in November. The goal is for the project to be completed by the end of January.
Wetmore Brick Wall
At the board’s September meeting, it was brought to board members’ attention that the mortar on the brick wall by the stage appears to be decaying and falling. At that time, the board asked Principal Schnacker to investigate the problem thoroughly to ensure the proposed fix would be appropriate, and that the wall itself was stable.
Superintendent Evans told the board that Schnacker had met with a contractor, and he feels comfortable moving forward with the fix and proposal brought to the board in September. The wall is stable, so the proposed correction should be sufficient, Evans said.
The board agreed that Evans and Schnacker could move forward with the repairs, which are estimated to cost between $3,300 and $5,200.
Superintendent Evans told board members that, as part of the district’s moves to step up safety and security, they had begun requiring identification badges in all school buildings. He said he would like to know if the board supports this move, and if so if they would make such a statement.
Board member Lippert said she did not believe that it was necessary for Evans to ask the board to implement reasonable measures such as this, but that she approved. J. Scoby agreed.
Saylor said he would like to see the identification badges included in the crisis policy.
The spring of 2019 will mark the third year of the Sabetha High School baseball program, which has been funded by the Stan Keim family. Superintendent Evans reminded board members that the original agreement was that the Keim family would support the program for three years.
Annual expense for the program is approximately $16,000, which includes ongoing uniform and equipment expenses and three coaches. Three coaches will likely continue to be necessary, because of the high participation.
It was an initial concern that adding baseball and softball could negatively impact track and field or golf, but Evans said it does not appear that it has. Participation has been stable in all spring programs. Prior to baseball beginning, participation was as follows: for girls’ track, 25 in 2014-15 and 24 in 2015-16; for boys’ track, 21 for 2014-15 and 21 for 2015-16; for golf, 22 for 2014-15 and 21 for 2015-16. Total participation in spring sports was 68 for 2014-15 and 66 for 2015-16.
Following the implementation of baseball and softball, participation numbers for 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, have been as follows: girls’ track, 26 and 26; boys’ track, 27 and 25; golf, 18 and 17; baseball, 24 and 26; and softball, 22 and 23. Total participation for spring sports was 117 for 2016-17 and 117 for 2017-18.
Numbers seem to suggest that, rather than spreading the same kids over more sports, the implementation of baseball and softball has resulted in more students participating in spring sports overall. Spring participation rates rose about 73 percent from 2014-15 to 2017-18.
J. Scoby said he sees the benefit of the baseball and softball programs, but he is concerned with where the district will pull the funds to cover the cost. He does not want to see the money come from instructional funds, he said. Despite this concern, J. Scoby said, he will support funding the program.
The board approved funding the baseball program beginning with the 2019-20 school year, and ongoing from that point.
Principal Tynon reported to the board that he had been approached by a person who wanted to purchase a greenhouse for the school. After Tynon put some figures together, that individual and Tynon have worked to secure donations from local businesses and individuals.
Lippert asked how much of the cost was covered. At this time, the cost of a small greenhouse is about two-thirds covered, and the goal is to have the project fully funded. The only thing that would be paid for by the school would be hooking up a water meter, Tynon said, and he plans to cover that out of his building capital outlay funds.
Reznicek asked what the wind rating was on the building. Tynon said it was 70 miles per hour for the building he found. Reznicek said he would like to know whether or not this could be covered by insurance, or whether it would need to have a higher wind rating. Tynon said he would look into this.
Lippert asked who would be responsible for the maintenance and cleaning of the greenhouse. Tynon said responsibility would be shared among those who use it.
Superintendent Evans told board members that Tynon would continue to work through the process and report back to the board with more information when it was available.
Also at the meeting:
The board entered into executive session to discuss confidential student information. Following executive session, the board approved early graduation for a student.
The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Wetmore Academic Center.