Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) met at 6 p.m. Monday, April 11, at Axtell Public School. Board members present in-person were Anissa Bloom, Kathy Lippert, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Kent Saylor and Phillip Buessing. Present by phone call was Stan Keim.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

The board members entered into a five-minute executive session, with Superintendent Todd Evans present, to discuss personnel matters for non-elected personnel as allowed under KOMA. No action was taken following the executive session.

Sarah Shaughnessy of Axtell came before the board to share her concerns about the Axtell school counselor leaving next school year. She asked what the board can do about the situation and hopes the board has a plan to keep a counselor at Axtell.

Dale Buessing of Axtell also came before the board to share concerns about Axtell keeping a mental health counselor on staff. He also spoke about Axtell gaining a new grocery store after the town lost its old store.

Students from the Axtell Student Council, Axtell KAY Club and Axtell FFA spoke to the board members about activities and projects they are currently involved in and what they accomplished last year.

D. Buessing returned to speak to the board members about the current happenings taking place in the Axtell Booster Club.

Lippert gave legislative updates.

The board received written reports from building administrators David Glynn, Rusty Willis, Matt Garber, Rick Schnacker and Alana Seddon, as well as Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Gatz.

Seddon thanked the Axtell KAY Club, Eagle Booster and Eagle Car Wash for funding the new basketball goals on the playground. She also thanked the volunteers who have been working on the playground.

Willis talked to the board members about all the Sabetha Elementary School (SES) fourth and fifth graders going to the Topeka Capitol Building on Tuesday, April 12, to present to the Kansas State Board of Education about the Sandhill Plum and to watch Governor Laura Kelly sign House Bill 2466, which would designate the Sandhill Plum as the official Kansas State Fruit.

Gatz told the board members about Kansas State University recognizing Sabetha and other Kansas schools for being a part of their rural professional development program. She also let the board know that driver’s education online portion is going well. She said students will begin the written portion of driver’s ed soon and hopefully all the USD 113 schools will be done with the driving portion by the end of May. Gatz also talked about their KESA (Kansas Education Systems Accreditation) process.

The board approved the consent agenda as amended, including the following: minutes from the March 14 meeting; April bills for the amount of $329,895.31; March payroll for the amount of $759,781.55; accept an anonymous donation of $100,000 to be used on the USD 113 Construction/Remodel Project; accept a donation of $1,875 from Jerry Grimm to SES; reaffirm Return to School Plan; approve additional track coach at Axtell High School; approve additional track coach at SMS; approve request from Harmony Hills in Axtell for school bus and driver for April 23; approve payment of $55,810.77 from Capital Outlay to AHRS for remodel/renovation expenses; approve payment of $72,646.56 from the Lease Purchase for payment for new construction at SES; resignations of Adam Maas as assistant boys’ basketball at Wetmore High School (WHS) at the end of 2022 season, Katie Topp as Sabetha band teacher at the end of fiscal year (FY) 21/22, Kayla Thayer as head boys’ basketball coach at WHS, Kelsi Bloom as WHS junior class and concessions sponsor – effective at the end of FY 21/22, Cassie Elliott as fifth grade teacher at Axtell, Kelsi Bloom as Instructional Support Staff (ISS) at Wetmore – effective at the end of FY 21/22, Sarah Cormier as ISS at Wetmore – effective at the end of FY 21/22, Holly Meyer as SES teacher and Sheryl Plattner as SES teacher; rescind previous resignation from Celi Merino; contracts with Ross Bruggeman as Sabetha High School (SHS) Social Studies teacher, Staci Claycamp as assistant junior high track coach at Wetmore, Kelsi Bloom as Wetmore Academic Center (WAC) Elementary School teacher, Sarah Cormier as WAC English Language Arts teacher, Joseph Gruber as semester two Business teacher at SHS, Trevin Edelman as Sabetha Middle School (SMS)/SHS Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teacher, Mason Chanay as SHS Science teacher and Joyce Stallbaumer as ISS at Wetmore; and personal day requests for Julie Kuckelman, Megan Glick, Heather Schremmer, Ashley Griffith, Nicolas Richardson, Phyllis Slipke, Alex McAfee, Jennifer Streett, Briana Uphaus, Holly Meyer, Brian Cole and Julie Howard.

The board members thanked Plattner, Meyer and Topp for their time teaching our students.

Math Textbooks

Before the board approved the consent agenda, J. Scoby requested to pull out the item “approve math textbooks K-5 (SAVVAS)” from the consent agenda for discussion.

J. Scoby said he looked over the textbooks and saw that the front cover said the book was aligned with the common core. He said he did not want the schools to have textbooks aligning with common core, because he “believes common core is confusing” and “not good math.” He proposed the schools send the textbooks back and get something more basic.

“We’ve dealt with common core for some time, and to say that I’m not hugely impressed with it would be a vast understatement,” J. Scoby said. “The idea that it’s not math in and of itself is an objective course. Two plus two is four, it’s not subjective, which common core has a tendency to be, and you can’t do that. I would be much more inclined to go along with what has been proposed if I saw that our math scores on the state level were increasing, but they’re not. They’re going down progressively every year, and I think if we could get back to a much more basic math curriculum where we learn math facts, if we want to go again with problem solving later on, that would be fine. But as I’ve seen too many things that are not good on this… I’m a math nerd, always have been. What I saw in it [the textbooks] was not good math. It’s confusing, and we’ve had good math students, even in junior high and high school, struggling, not because of the teacher per se, but because of the way the math is being presented with the curriculum, and I cannot support this. I appreciate all the work that your committee has done for two years, but I will propose that we send [the textbooks] back to your committee and get something more basic, and in fact, I will make that motion right now.

J. Scoby’s motion died due to there being no second.

Gatz spoke to the board about the math committee’s goals and the list of pros they made about the textbooks when the committee reviewed them.

“When our committee first met, the first thing we do is we look at our data and set goals. Then, we started off with the most important things about the textbooks. The top five that I listed was that it’s engaging for students, it got their attention, it was interesting to them. The second thing we said was it aligned with our state standards, to ensure we’re performing and willing to perform the best that we can on our state assessments. The third thing was the focus on fact fluency. That was something we thought was really important because we see a strong decline in our students in their fact fluency. That was one of the things that resource does, is it has fact fluency built into every unit, that we thought was really important and the other resource in our top two did not have that.”

Gatz also explained common core to the board and how it can get confusing.

“When common core was adopted, the first resources that came out were trying to align with common core without having a good understanding of it,” Gatz said. “One of the things with common core, the reason why it gets a bad rap for math, is the fact that they think you have to teach kids all these different strategies, but it’s really about understanding the problem and how to solve the problem, not about teaching 15 different strategies, which is the confusing part…common core is not necessarily about teaching all the strategies, it’s about seeing what strategies the students already have and then scaffolding them up, building up their understanding, to understand the algorithm.”

L. Scoby shared what she had heard from math teachers in the district, about their opinions on the enVision math textbooks. The overall consensus from the teachers was positive toward the common core math textbooks.

After further discussion between the board members and Gatz, Saylor made the motion to approve the enVision math textbooks for grades K-5 (SAVVAS) as presented. The board members approved the motion with six in favor and J. Scoby opposed.

To listen to the full conversation, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvqKDCXoEeQ.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Evans reported on year-to-date expenses and other topics as follows:

Expense Comparison: The expense comparison from July 1, 2021, through April 1, 2022, compared with the same time frame last year, showed the district has spent $458,341 more in the general, supplemental general, 4-year-old at-risk, K-12 at-risk, food services, professional development and vocational funds. During the same time frame, the district has spent $509,925 more from the capital outlay fund, and $48,304 more from the special education fund.

Chairs: Evans told the board members that old folding chairs were found under the gymnasium stage at SES. He wanted the board to know that he was thinking to give the chairs away to any interested non-profits due to the chairs being rusted and well-used over the years.

Retirement Celebrations: Evans let the board know that at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, Sabetha will host a retirement celebration for Elaine Girton, Randy Plattner, Sheryl Plattner, Pete Schuetz, Pam Walker and Linda White. He also said Wetmore will host its own retirement celebration for Linda Boyd at 3:45 p.m. Monday, May 16. Evans said a date for Axtell’s retirement celebration is currently being worked on.

Facility Remodel Project

Theodore Demonchaux with Civium Architects gave the board updates on the USD 113 Construction/Remodel Project. He showed blueprints for the kitchen at SES and explained what updates will be made to the kitchen.

Axtell Remodel Project

During the last board in March, Demonchaux presented the board two options regarding Axtell’s remodel project. One was to put in a new fire escape stairwell and keep the current sprinkler system. The second option was to put in new sprinklers throughout the basement, first story and second story of the Axtell school in the classrooms, and to not put in a new stairwell. Demonchaux recommended the sprinklers as the better option.

The board approved the motion, with all in favor, to select the sprinkler option at Axtell Public School for Civium to pursue further.

SES Dishwasher

Demonchaux let the board know that he had looked at the process in the SES kitchen and thought it was necessary to include installing a dishwasher in the facility project. The board agreed to add the dishwasher to the remodel project.

Sabetha Sidewalk Project

Marvin Kohlmeier, of Sabetha, spoke to the board members about a sidewalk project that the Greater Sabetha Community Foundation (GSCF) and the City of Sabetha is taking on. This project will expand the sidewalk on the south side of Oregon Street in Sabetha that goes from Bluejay Boulevard to the Wellness Center.

He also told the members that included in the project will be a bridge on part of the sidewalk, as well as signage along the sidewalk containing historical facts about Sabetha. Kohlmeier recommended Lillian Brownlee, of Sabetha, to help with the historical signage.

Kohlmeier requested the board write a strong letter of support for the sidewalk project. The school board members agreed to write a strong letter in support of this project.

Trap League

Evans presented an informational item to the board regarding the possibility of a trap shoot league starting in Sabetha. Evans said the trap league organization requires a school name to be attached to the league’s name. The board discussed granting the organization the use of Sabetha High School’s name for the program, though the board did not want the trap league to be a school activity or club.

The board did not make any final decisions after discussion. This topic will be revisited in the future.

Axtell Summer Arts Program

Principal Seddon spoke to the board members about the Marshall County Summer Arts Program that she brought up during the March meeting. She said the Marshall County Commissioners approved this program and also awarded funds for the program. Seddon asked for the school board to allow Axtell to use its facilities for the program. The board approved the motion, with all in favor, for Axtell Public School to use its facilities for the Marshall County Summer Arts Program.

Also at the meeting:

The board approved the motion for there to be no students at SES only on Thursday, May 19, in order to prepare for remodel.

The board also approved the motion, 6-0, to designate Saylor Insurance as the USD 113 Insurance Agent of Record for FY23. Saylor abstained from voting.

The board members also approved SHS seniors to help with Sabetha Project Clean-Up on Wednesday, April 27.

The board approved the motion to authorize Superintendent Evans to sell SES library books that are collectible.

Board members entered into a five-minute executive session to discuss matters relating to actions adversely or favorably affecting a student as allowed under KOMA. Present for the executive session were the board members, Superintendent Evans and principal Glynn. No action was taken following the executive session.

To watch the Superintendent’s summary of the meeting, visit https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3flINVqLVS.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, May 9, at the district office in Sabetha.

Erin Herrmann72 Posts

Erin Herrmann is one of two co-editors at The Sabetha Herald. She specializes in school board reporting, features and advertising design. Erin lives in Sabetha.

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