Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education 11.14.2022

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) met at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at the Wetmore Academic Center. Board members present were Anissa Bloom, Kathy Lippert, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Kent Saylor, Phillip Buessing and Stan Keim.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

Gary Ronnebaum, representing a group of Axtell patrons, spoke to the board members to give insight about how well the Axtell school is doing in the state, athletically and academically, and how the community is growing. Ronnebaum also shared his concerns about comments made by the board during the last meeting about Axtell’s enrollment numbers and quality of educational experience.

He also shared concerns about rumors surfacing that the Axtell school “might close in a year or two,” because these rumors cost Axtell enrollment.

Ronnebaum said it takes a village to raise a child, and the Axtell community is very proud of the children they raise. He also said our school district needs to focus on the real issue of educating the kids in our district rather than “being hung up on who is paying for what and who is contributing more or less tax dollars to district funds.” He said that, together, we need to find a way to best meet that challenge.

Corey Bloom, representing Wetmore, also spoke to the board members. He started by saying that he was present for the Kickhaefer & Buessing audit that the board approved during the last Oct. 25 board meeting. He said no praise or acknowledgment was given to the Wetmore administration and staff for the district carry-over reported in the audit, that the conversation went “straight to negativity and doom.”

After hearing a comment by a board member during the BOE meeting about Wetmore needing to “make some serious decisions” about enrollment, C. Bloom said he questioned what decisions need to be made when the Wetmore school is “running in the black” in the audit.

C. Bloom also said that, since the viability formula was approved in 2019, all campuses have met viability. He questioned why the board would want to change the viability formula when the formula is working, and he questioned if the board wants to change the formula because Wetmore’s numbers are doing better than what was expected. He said that is what the Wetmore community sees happening.

C. Bloom asked, if Wetmore is closed, if the district is ready for the fall-out when a large percentage of Wetmore students choose to attend neighboring schools to avoid traveling 24-25 miles to attend the Sabetha schools. He questioned how the district’s operating budget will be affected if the loss of students, and possibly Wetmore’s land valuation, goes to the neighboring schools.

He said the goal of the district is to educate students, not to make money, and that it doesn’t matter how many students Wetmore has as long as they’re running in the black. C. Bloom told the board to “quit trying to change the rules of the game because you are not getting the results to meet your agenda.”

C. Bloom left the board members with these words: “Common sense will go a long ways in this world, but you have to use it. No business ever becomes successful without an element of risk. This risk seems minor to me with all we have in place for protection.”

After hearing from the public, members of the Wetmore SADD and KAY clubs spoke to the board about the activities their clubs have participated in this year and what plans they have in store for the future.

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

Gatz went over some data she has received so far on WorkKeys and Pre-ACT 8/9 assessments.

The board approved the consent agenda as amended, including the following: minutes from the Oct. 10 regular board meeting; minutes from the Oct. 25 special board meeting; November bills for the amount of $498,147.72; October payroll for the amount of $787,962.44; payment to AHRS for the construction project – Capital Outlay for $78,575.40 and Lease Purchase for $362,184.59; payment of $4,784.61 to Civium Architects from the Contingency Fund; approve a No School Day for Wetmore (PK-12) on Jan. 25, 2023, to host the Twin Valley League Scholars Bowl; accept a donation of $7,600 from Kent and Donna Saylor for new Sabetha Elementary School (SES) signage; accept a donation of $500 to the Sabetha High School (SHS) National Honor Society from GR LLC, Randy Garcia or Kim Rettele; resignations of Alec Duryea as Instructional Support Staff (ISS) at Axtell and Connie Herbster as SHS art teacher – effective at the end of 2022-23 fiscal year; contracts with Jenny Lierz as ISS at Axtell, Jessica Fulton as Axtell custodian, Walker Lowdermilk as Sabetha Middle School assistant wrestling coach, Courtney Rausch as SES librarian/secretary and Melody Sommers as SHS accompanist; and a dock day request for Cindy Wiltz.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Evans reported on graduation requirements and other topics as follows:

Graduation Requirements: Evans let the board know that new graduation requirements have been created by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), and the new requirements for this year’s eighth graders will take effect next year.

Interest Rates: Evans provided a document reflecting interest rates for current school projects. In comparing these rates to the interest rate on the Lease Purchase, it appears as if the board had good timing.

Career Symposium: Evans shared his excitement for how well the Career Symposium went this year, and how he enjoyed interviewing some of the students.

Caney Valley Thank You: Evans shared an email from the USD No. 436 Transportation Director that thanked USD No. 113 for sending a mechanic to repair the Caney Valley school bus tires on Friday, Nov. 11.

Remodel/Construction Update

Evans let the board know that SES has received most of its rooftop HVAC units but are still missing two units. AHRS workers are planning to install windows at SES during the week of Nov. 21. After receiving a question from one of the board members, Evans also let the board know that a wall in the SES library will have to be repainted, because the color that was chosen ended up being too bright.

Campus Viability Discussion

Evans shared information with the board about a valuation study that was done on the Kansas school districts in 2015. He showed a map of school districts around USD No. 113 that are marked for valuation. Evans asked that the board members consider having another valuation study done this year. The board members were indeed interested in having another valuation study done.

Evans went over the KSDE Form 0-135-150, which consists of information on weightings and the estimated 2022-23 General Fund Budget. He also had the KSDE Form 0-135-155 on the agenda, but the board members decided that Evans didn’t need to review that document.

Gatz talked to the board about 2022 fall student online courses for each campus. Some students at each campus are taking online classes either through Edgenuity or Highland Community College.

Evans brought up the final Ken Kickhaefer audit and asked the board members if they have any questions on the document.

Evans also showed information that compares USD 113’s supplementals to neighboring school districts. This was requested by the board.

Special Board Meeting

Lippert made a motion to set up a special BOE meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, in the SMS commons area for continued discussion of campus viability.

Buessing expressed his disinterest in having a special board meeting to continue talking about campus viability. He didn’t think another meeting would be necessary and would cause more work for those involved in gathering information. Buessing also thought another special meeting on viability would be “a waste of time.”

A. Bloom shared her concerns about having a special board meeting only a week after their regular meeting. She thought it would be best to gather all factual information first before having a special board meeting where they might discuss made-up scenarios related to campus viability. A. Bloom believes a conversation about scenarios with non-factual information could spread misinformation and start rumors that could have a negative effect on the schools — Axtell and Wetmore schools specifically. A. Bloom insisted that they wait to gather all the proper information about campus viability they need before having a special board meeting.

After receiving a second on the motion, the board approved the motion 4-3 to schedule a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, in the SMS commons area for continued discussion of campus viability, where public comments will be open and members of the public will have five minutes each if they wish to speak before the board. Bloom, Saylor and Buessing were not in favor of the motion.

Also at the meeting:

Board members went into a 10-minute executive session for the purpose of discussing actions that adversely or favorably affect student(s). Present for the executive session were the board members, Superintendent Evans, Wetmore Principal Schnacker and SHS Principal Bauman. No action was taken following the executive session.

The board entered into a five-minute executive session for personnel matters. Present were the board members and Evans. No action was taken following the executive session.

To watch the entire board meeting on YouTube, visit https://youtu.be/0efm4ZiHSy4.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12.

Erin Herrmann74 Posts

Erin Herrmann is a reporter at The Sabetha Herald. She specializes in school board reporting, features and advertising design.

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