Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education
The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) met at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, in the Wetmore Academic Center gymnasium. Board members present in-person were Anissa Bloom, Jim Scoby, Leslie Scoby, Phillip Buessing and Stan Keim. Present by phone was Kathy Lippert. Not present was Kent Saylor.
The board adopted the agenda as amended.
Members from the public spoke before the board regarding Wetmore’s campus viability. Those who spoke were Andrea Lagos, Andy Henry, Analyssa Noe, Ryan Kriegshauser and Matt Deters. More about this portion of the meeting can be found on Page 1 of the Jan. 11 Sabetha Herald paper.
Members of the Wetmore Student Council spoke to the board about what they have done and what they plan to do during the school year.
Wetmore Honor Society members also spoke to the board about events that are coming up.
The board received written reports from building administrators Nathan Bauman, Rusty Willis, Matt Garber, Rick Schnacker and Gay Frazee, as well as Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Gatz.
The board approved the consent agenda as amended, including the following: minutes from the Dec. 12 meeting; January bills for the amount of $1,083,856.03; December payroll for the amount of $793,240.90; approve payment to AHRS for the construction project from Capital Outlay for $441,695.74; first Read KASB recommended policy changes; add fourth Sabetha High School (SHS) baseball coach; reaffirmation that school board president and vice president elected the first meeting of the Board of Education in July 2022 – will serve in this capacity through the end of the FY23 fiscal year; pay Civium Architects from the contingency funds $4,879.22; resignations of Debbie Garber as Sabetha Middle School (SMS)/SHS ELA and HCC – effective at the end of FY22/23, Alanna Engelken, Instructional Support Staff (ISS) at Sabetha Elementary School (SES) – effective Jan. 4, 2023, and Rusty Willis as SES Principal – effective at the end of FY22/23; and contracts with Violet Cervantes-Bobo as SES part-time custodian, Hannah Dettweiler as SES ISS and Aaron Koch as SES custodian.
J. Scoby requested to pull out the agenda item to hire a fourth SHS baseball coach, for a C-Team, for the board to discuss. He didn’t want to see Sabetha doing extra spending while the other campuses in the district are having to make budget cuts. L. Scoby and Keim both shared their reasonings for why they like the idea of hiring another baseball coach. The board voted on whether they should hire a fourth baseball coach, and the motion was passed 5-1, with J. Scoby being opposed.
Superintendent Evans reported on year-to-date expenses and other topics as follows:
Expense Comparison: The expense comparison from July 1, 2022, through Jan. 9, 2023, compared with the same time frame last year, showed the district has spent $255,369 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 $1,801,178 more from the capital outlay fund, and $16,025 more from the special education fund.
Calendars: Evans let the board know that two district calendars are being worked on for the USD 113 staff members to choose from since next year is a leap year. Once one is chosen, the calendar will be presented to the board during the regular February meeting for the board’s approval.
HVAC: Evans told the board members that some HVAC units at SES and SHS needed to be replaced. Evans had already approved the purchase of these items.
Laptops: Evans said the district has finally received grant money for the majority of the cost of laptops for USD 113 ISS members that was applied for many months ago.
Radon: Evans confirmed with the board that levels of radon were found at the Axtell school after testing. The company USD 113 worked with to come up with solutions for this problem offered two solutions. If the first solution does not work, the district may need to try the second option if the problem is more extensive.
State Aid Per Pupil: Evans went over the amount of state aid USD 113 may receive per pupil during 2023-24.
LifeWise: Evans let the board know that members of LifeWise Academy purchased the house for sale across the street from SES.
A member of Greenbush, an education service center, reviewed work that has been done in the school district. He shared feedback from surveys that were given to students and staff members. He said the student response rate at USD 113 for surveys given is very high compared to some other districts Greenbush has worked with. He also went over a draft strategic improvement plan he helped develop for USD 113 that would last from 2022 to 2026.
The board approved the motion to accept the USD 113 strategic plan with all in favor.
Evans went over remodel/construction project updates at the campuses. He said AHRS has some things yet to be finished at Axtell. He also said remodeling is nearing completion at SES.
Campus Viability Discussion
The board members extensively discussed Wetmore’s campus viability. When there was some confusion from some board members, Bloom asked if the board is really ready to make the big decision to close a school when the board still has so much to talk about. She also went over questions that were asked by the Wetmore community.
Nearing the end of the discussion, J. Scoby brought up the idea of reaching out to the Jackson Heights school board to talk about the possibility of them accepting Wetmore into their district after he had heard from some Wetmore community members saying that Jackson Heights is interested in doing so. He said he welcomed the option transferring Wetmore to Jackson Heights in order to keep Wetmore open if Jackson Heights is interested. J. Scoby thought the board members could hold a special meeting to speak with the Jackson Heights school board for this purpose before the public hearing that will be held Saturday, Feb. 4.
When asked his opinion, Evans said he believed the district would be okay financially if Wetmore stayed open another year or two. Buessing asked why the board seems to be pushing to close Wetmore when the school is still viable and not financially in danger. Lippert thought it was unfounded to say the board is rushing to close Wetmore.
After further discussion, J. Scoby brought up Jackson Heights again. The board could not make a motion to set up a special meeting with the Jackson Heights school board at the time, because board president L. Scoby would have to ask Jackson Heights first whether they are actually interested in absorbing Wetmore as an open facility into their district. Discussion ended with L. Scoby saying she would speak to the Jackson Heights board president the next day to see if they’re interested in having a special meeting with USD 113 about Wetmore. At this time, no special board meeting has been scheduled and the results of the phone call have not been brought to The Herald’s attention.
Also at the meeting:
Board members went into a 10-minute executive session for personnel matters as allowed by KOMA. Present for the executive session were the board members and Superintendent Evans. No action was taken following the executive session.
To listen to the entire meeting on YouTube, visit https://youtu.be/UsVcAOG-jyQ. To watch Evans’ Superintendent report, visit https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c0V6DtVwZdM.
The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.