Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education 8.12.19

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education met at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at the district office in Sabetha. Present were board members 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 the following: minutes from the July 8 regular meeting; minutes from the July 24 and Aug. 5 special meetings; payment of August bills of $261,141.35; July payroll of $448,921.04; crisis standards added to the crisis plan; Kansas Association of School Boards recommended policy updates that had been presented to the board in July; revision of bus behavior codes; correction to final bills from fiscal year 2019 in the amount of $204,086.58 and end-of-year transfers of $1,124,867.52; and a number of resignations and contracts.

Resignations included the following: Kathy Huneke, instructional support staff at Sabetha Elementary School; Summer Garber, secretary at Sabetha High School; Rachel Combs, instructional support staff and lunch duty at Axtell Public School; Carol Kuckelman, accounting supervisor and board clerk; and Mary Herrmann, part-time secretary at Sabetha Middle School.

Contracts included the following: Jim Argabright, Sabetha bus driver; Justin Foote, Wetmore Highland Community College Western Center driver; Denise Ludwig, head custodian at APS; Rachel Ronnebaum, Axtell High School SIT; Lindsay Wittwer, secretary at SHS; Julie Shafer, instructional support staff at SES; Steven Shafer, bus driver at Sabetha; Alanna McCorkle, food service at Sabetha; Ashley Niehues, food service at Sabetha; and Tammy Porting and Sharon Deters, cheerleading co-sponsors at Axtell High School.

Patron Jamie Strahm addressed the board and let them know that there were a few parents at the meeting, who are concerned about the number of students in the kindergarten grade this year. She said they would like to see if the board would consider doing something to alleviate the number of students in each classroom, or add to the staff available in the kindergarten rooms.

DeMint reported to the board about the USD 113 Foundation.

Lippert said there is no legislative update this month.

The board received written reports from Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz and principals David Glynn, Matt Garber, Sara Toedman, Rick Schnacker and Jayson Tynon.

Gatz said there were 375 students enrolled through online enrollment this year and online fee payment.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Evans reported to the board on numerous items, including but not limited to the following.

Technology: The district’s iPads were sold through the buyback program. The district received $54,873 for the iPads, which comes out to about $44 or $45 per iPad, Evans said. Also, Evans reported that the district had received 25 used laptops through a government grant program.

Food Service: Food Service Director Brook Brubeck and the district cooks will be recognized at the State Board of Education meeting for their work on innovative best practices.

Crisis Drill: Sabetha Community Hospital is coordinating an active shooter crisis drill in October and would like to have the schools’ participation, and conduct the drill at Sabetha High School. A full-scale exercise is a requirement for the hospital, according to SCH Nursing Director Jenna McClain. Full-scale means that local entities have been invited to participate, such as local law enforcement, schools, etc. Evans informed board members that the day the drill would be held in a non-student day, so students would only be involved if they were participating as volunteers. However, he said, teachers and staff members would be invited to participate. Lippert said she would want to ensure it is properly communicated that a drill will be occurring that day so that community members are aware. McClain said they would communicate heavily prior to the drill. Board members indicated they were okay with moving forward with this.

Board Clerk Timeline: With the resignation of Accounting Supervisor and Board Clerk, Carol Kuckelman, Evans informed board members of the proposed timeline for hiring and training a replacement. The district will be accepting applications until Sept. 6, to then hire and have some time training while Kuckelman is still with the district.

Negotiations: Evans said that the district filed an extension with the Kansas Department of Labor regarding negotiations. Because they were waiting on final word on the school funding court case, it put them behind on negotiations, as well.

Budget Hearing

Following a budget hearing, the board approved the 2019-20 budget. The budget is $18,110,377 — up from the 2018-19 budget.

See details on a story beginning on the front page of this week’s Herald.

Snow Day Policy

The board continued discussion about changing the district’s School Days/Hours Make-Up Policy, referred to as the Snow Day Policy.

After discussion, the board approved — 6-1 — the policy changes as presented by Superintendent Evans. J. Scoby was opposed.

See detailed story on the front page of this week’s Herald.

SES Kindergarten

Evans reported that SES kindergarten enrollment is currently at 60 students. Currently, the district is planning on three sections of kindergarten, which would put 20 students in each classroom.

Until the 2016-17 school year, it had been typical to have four sections of kindergarten each year. The 2016-17 school year was the first that one kindergarten position was reduced, cutting it down to three sections that year when only 53 students were projected and class sizes. Four sections were offered last year, because of a kindergarten enrollment of more than 70 students.

SES Principal Toedman explained how instructional support staff are used in the kindergarten classrooms, and how often these staff members are present in classrooms or small groups helping to provide instruction.

Saylor asked how many instructional support staff are involved with the kindergarten. Toedman said it depends on the needs of the class. To begin with, Toedman said, she schedules one instructional support staff per classroom plus one that can float among the three classrooms. These staff members are generally present throughout the morning and lunch. She said she does not want the board to have the impression that the teachers are alone without support all day, because that is not the case.

Lippert asked the difference between an instructional support staff member and a para. Toedman explained that a para is associated with the special education cooperative. An instructional support staff is delivering instruction, while a para is doing support work with students.

Lippert asked if there are paras in kindergarten classrooms, as well. Toedman said there would be if they are supporting a student or students with individual education plans.

Lippert said there are a lot of fine motor skills still being worked on at the age, and she asked if it is a concern just to get coats on and off, gloves on and off, etc. Toedman said she does want to make sure kids have support they need, but that would not be a number one concern.

Lippert asked about the possibility of late enrollments, and asked what is typical for kindergarten. Toedman said she does expect to lose at least one a few months into the year.

Last year, Toedman said, two of the four sections had 19 students. In the 2016-17 school year, which was her first year, there were 19 students in each of the three sections.

The number of students in the classroom can seem like more or less depending on the students, their needs, and the quality and experience of the teacher, she said. Therefore, Toedman said, it is hard for her to say — with students who have not yet been in her building — what their needs will be and what the classrooms will be like.

Saylor said it seems like Toedman knows how to manage the school she is administering, and he trusts her to know what she needs.

Toedman said she has concerns about adding a teacher. First of all, school starts in 10 days, she said. She said she wants a quality teacher, not just a body in a classroom. This would be her biggest concern.

Second of all, Toedman said, every room at the elementary school is currently spoken for and coming up with a room for another kindergarten would be difficult and not ideal.

L. Scoby said she agrees that a quality teacher is extremely important, and the elementary school is not lacking in teacher support. Twenty is a little larger than it has been, but it does not seem terribly high — especially taking into account classroom space and timeframe, L. Scoby said.

L. Scoby said she would see no reason why an additional support staff member could not be added if it is determined to be needed once the kids come into the classroom and school gets started.

Lippert said she wants to ensure that if there is a need, it gets fulfilled. Toedman asked what that means.

Saylor said that is for Toedman to tell them, if and when she determines she needs it.

J. Scoby said he believes Toedman knows what is needed better than the board members, and if a need arises she simply needs to communicate what the need is.

Board members agreed to not make any changes at this time, but encouraged Toedman to communicate any additional staffing needs as she sees fit.

Strategic Plan

Superintendent Evans presented the 2018-2021 Strategic Improvement Plan to the board, to discuss any issues with the SIP that the board would like to discuss at a future meeting.

DeMint said the USD 113 Foundation has made discretionary funds available for things such as hiring bonuses, and DeMint would like to see that added as a new item under recruitment and retention of quality staff. Evans said he would add a line item regarding Foundation advantages.

Saylor said it would be a good idea to change the term certified staff to licensed staff, as that is the new terminology being used at the state level. Evans said he would change that terminology throughout the document.

Evans said a few board members have expressed to him that they would like to looks at adjustments the Standards of Solvency and Viability, which was approved Oct. 10, 2016.

The ideas that have been expressed to him involve possible changes to the process used to assign revenue and/or expenses to each campus.

J. Scoby said he does not think the board is ever going to have a perfect system. And, within the document, it still states that it is within the board’s discretion about what happens. J. Scoby said he thinks the document and corresponding formula are a fantastic way to evaluate the district as a whole and the three campuses individually.

“When we see one getting close to having a problem, we can look at it a little closer and make some adjustments, make some judgments and get it back on track,” J. Scoby said.

J. Scoby said he does not think it would be a good idea to throw it out and start over.

Shaughnessy said she is not saying to throw it out and start over, but just to re-evaluate a few areas. Shaughnessy said it was suggested to her that district level administration expenses come out of the surplus, then the campuses would stand on their own revenue and expenses.

Lippert said it seems like that calculation process essentially would take the surplus from the Sabetha campus to pay the district level administration expenses of the other campuses, because Sabetha is the only one with a surplus currently.

Saylor said he had an idea to make an adjustment to revenue, assigning it a bit differently utilizing valuation information in addition to enrollment. However, he said, he would prefer to wait until November when the board receives the audited figures from Ken Kickhaefer’s 2018-19 report.

L. Scoby said she would like the board to review the figures in November before considering any changes.

Reznicek said he would be interested to see what the figures would look like with the adjustments Saylor is discussing.

Lippert asked if this is a discussion for the finance committee. Board members agreed that a discussion should take place with the entire board.

The board requested that Saylor put his idea in writing to present at the September meeting. Additionally, the board would like to see how this change would affect the actual figures from 2017-18.

The board will not consider a decision until after receiving the Kickhaefer audit figures in November.

Also at the meeting:

The board approved the bus rate for non-district trips at $1.82 per mile with a district paid driver, or $1.55 per mile with a district volunteer driver.

The board approved Blue Valley WiFi for the APS gym and football stadium. This will be at no cost to the district.

The board entered into executive session to discuss employee compensation. Following executive session, no binding action was taken.

The board entered into executive session to discuss administrative compensation. Following executive session, no binding action was taken.

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at the district office in Sabetha.

Amber Deters127 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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