Governing Body: Prairie Hills USD No. 113 1.14.2019

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at Wetmore Academic Center. Board members present were Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert, Kent Saylor, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Ann Shaughnessy and Jeff DeMint.

The board adopted the agenda as presented.

The board approved the consent agenda, including the following: minutes from the Dec. 10, 2018, meeting; payment of January bills of $134,020.63; December payroll of $709,420.59; and a contract with Mary Herrmann as Sabetha Middle School secretary.

DeMint reported that the USD 113 Foundation has received its tax exemption status.

Lippert presented a legislative report. State office holders were inaugurated today, she said. The December revenue report showed receipts were above estimates, but down from December 2017. Lippert said she would encourage everyone to use great caution regarding their expectations of what money is left for education.

The board received written administrative reports from principals David Glynn, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker and Jayson Tynon; and from Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz. “Good News” photos from each school also were presented.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Todd Evans reported to the board on a number of items.

BOE Recognition: January is Board of Education Appreciation Month. Evans presented certificates to each board member. Reznicek has served on the board since 2003; DeMint has served since 2012; Lippert, Saylor, J. Scoby and L. Scoby have served since 2015; and Shaughnessy has served since 2018.

Calendars: Evans shared a few calendar options with board members. He asked board members for a general consensus. The question he had was regarding whether board members would be okay with giving the calendar committee and teachers the option to consider an alternative in which the final days of the first and second semesters would be half days, combined with half day teacher workdays. Evans said that a choice like this would incur a cost, because it would add transportation cost, food service cost, etc. Lippert asked if this cost could increase expense at some campuses that could be looking at viability concerns.

Axtell Project: The advertisement has been placed seeking bids for the project at Axtell. Bids are set to be opened on Feb. 7.

Wind Farm: Evans said he has had several emails and contact from people regarding wind farms. He said he wrote a column for this week’s newspaper on the topic.

Expense Comparison: Evans reported on the district’s expense comparison document — comparing July 1, 2018, through Jan. 14, 2019, with the same timeframe the previous year. To date, the district has spent $198,798.23 more from the general, supplemental general, at-risk, food service, professional development and vocational funds; $210,875.78 more from the capital outlay fund; and $22,629.75 less from the special education fund. A transfer of $167,000 is included in the first figure, which is a timing issue and over-inflates that difference at this time, Evans said.

District Enrollment: Evans reported headcount enrollment numbers from each campus, as well as the district in its entirety, as of Jan. 8, 2019. Since the official count date on Sept. 20, 2018, district headcount has increased by 12. Each campus has experienced a headcount increase as well — Axtell up to 173 from 169, Sabetha up to 806 from 805, and Wetmore up to 160 from 153.

Fire Marshal Report: Evans said the Fire Marshal came into the district the day after Winter Break. There are a few things here and there, but the report was overall good, Evans said.

Graduation Requirements

In December, board members received a policy adjusting graduation requirements for a first read. The change pertains to the science area. While three units of science would still be required, the change would give the option for students to take physical science or chemistry to satisfy one of the units. In the past, physical science was the required course. Board members approved the change.

Axtell Greenhouse

The volunteers who are going to work on the Greenhouse are ready to do work on the site, Evans said. Evans recommended that the board give approval to Tynon to be the board’s representative, managing the project and proceeding with construction as fundraising allows. The board authorized Tynon to act in this capacity.

Axtell Viability Suggestions

At the November 2018 meeting, the board reviewed the viability status of the district and individual campuses, per the 2017-18 school year audit. The Axtell campus was operating in the red, but still staying above the standards, with a 1.11 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/District Expenditure category, and a 6.62 percent deficit in the Campus Deficit/Campus Expenditure category.

However, projections for the 2018-19 school year showed the Axtell campus operating at a larger deficit – putting that campus outside of the viability range. At that time, board members agreed that it would be prudent to consider options at Axtell to reduce expenditures or increase revenue, to get ahead of the issue.

At the December 2018 meeting, Superintendent Evans told board members that they are going to be looking for savings of approximately $80,000 at the Axtell campus. This savings, he said, would hopefully get the campus ahead of the projections.

At Monday’s meeting, the board reviewed input from the Axtell staff and site council for either decreasing expenditures for increasing revenue.

Superintendent Evans noted that these were just suggestions, and some of them are not feasible.

Board Member Lippert noted that some of the suggestions — such as freezing raises — are in conflict with the district retaining qualified teaching staff. That is important to a quality education, she said.

Reznicek said that an option like freezing raises also would not reduce a singular campus’ ratio of expenditures, because it would affect all campuses.

Lippert said that both the Wetmore and Axtell campuses have been operating in the red, while the Sabetha campus has not. She wants to see all campuses brought within break-even point, so that this lengthy process does not have to be continually happening.

Saylor said he sees the process put in place with the viability standards is a good one, even if it takes time.

“We cannot do this in perpetuity,” Lippert said.

“We might have to,” Saylor said. “Some places do. I don’t see this as a negative.”

DeMint said the conversation needs to stay on topic, and if Lippert would like to discuss viability in general that it should be added to the agenda for next month’s meeting.

Lippert asked Evans to add an agenda item for the next meeting to discuss bringing all campuses to a break-even point. Evans said he would add it to the next meeting.

Regarding the process at the Axtell campus, Evans said he sees the next step being for him to meet with Tynon to discuss options. This will allow Evans to prepare a proposal for the board to review at the February meeting. In the end, Evans said, the final list and decision need to be made by the Superintendent and the board members.

KASB Policy Updates

The board received policy update suggestions from the Kansas Association of School Boards for a first read. These policy updates will be considered for approval at the board’s February meeting.

2019-20 Dates

The board reviewed proposed dates for Board of Education meetings and graduations for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The proposed dates were approved.

Executive Sessions

The board entered into executive session to discuss employee job performance, with the board members and Evans present for the executive session. Following the executive session, no binding action was taken.

The board entered into executive session to discuss teacher negotiations, with only the board members present for the executive session. Following the executive session, no binding action was taken.

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 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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