Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education

The Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) met at 6 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the district office in Sabetha. Board members present were Leslie Scoby, Jim Scoby, Phillip Buessing, Stan Keim and Todd Grimes. Doug Renyer was present via Zoom. Also present was Superintendent Todd Evans, Board Clerk Deb Damman and Director of Student Learning Lisa Suhr. Not present was board member Kathy Lippert.

The board took a photo for the Sabetha High School (SHS) Yearbook Staff.

The board adopted the agenda as amended.

It was announced that Morgan Toedman would be the new SHS Student Council president.

Legislative Update

Evans gave a legislative update to the board. He said that SB 387 passed and included in that bill, there is an approximate 5.5 percent increase to the Base State Aid Per Pupil for next year. He also said that the two-year look back is being “taken away,” but this upcoming year, the State will allow school districts like USD 113, who have the two-year look back, to use an average of the one-year and two-year look back.

“Essentially for us, that means we will be getting approximately half the money from the students who were in our district two years ago. So for us, that is good news,” Evans said.

Evans also discussed how the state is supposed to fund special education at 92 percent. However, they are currently funding approximately 57 percent for USD 113. This number will gradually increase over time. However, for next year there will be about $100,000 additional revenue deposited from special education funding state aid.

Building Reports

The board received written reports from building administrators Nathan Bauman, Andrew Lillie, Matt Garber and Gay Frazee, as well as Director of Student Learning Suhr.

Axtell Public School: Frazee’s report included New National Honor Society Inductees; Eighth Grade Tour to the Highland Western Center; New OTL Track records set including Maggie Strathman for shot put with a put of 41 feet, 6-1/2” and Katelyn Detweiler with a throw of 112 feet, 1 inch; Defense Training from the Marysville Police Department; Bill Buessing presenting to the Character Ed Class; Landon Anderson and Cole Heinen earning the title of Word Millionaire; multiple donations; and upcoming events.

Sabetha High School: Bauman’s report included teacher appreciation week; student accomplishment highlights; and upcoming events.

Sabetha Middle School: Garber’s report included SMS being awarded the Wenger Marel Charitable Fund grant; teacher appreciation week; state assessment scores should be released soon; track teams finished their seasons; the SMS Art Show was well attended; the spring concert went well; the sixth grade track meet was held; the Eighth Grade Recognition was held Tuesday, May 14; Brent Hayden will be retiring; and the end of year incentive days will be held.

Sabetha Elementary School: Lillie’s report including the Spring FastBridge Screeners just closed; teacher appreciation week; activities that have been held in the past month; fifth grade concert and recognition; and upcoming events.

Director of Student Learning: Suhr’s report included information about the Kansas Education System Accreditation (KESA); Multi-Tiered System of Supports; federal programs; and mentoring. Suhr added to her report that two teachers, Yalana Edelman and Annie Wehner, completed a “significant professional development at the elementary level.” These two teachers completed a course called “LETRS (Language Essentials for Teaching of Reading and Spelling),” which assists in reading instruction. Suhr also said that approximately 10 others started the program in January and another eight to 10 plan to start the program in August.

“It’s good for us,” Suhr said. “It doesn’t cost the district anything to pay for the training. We support the teachers in paying for the time that they take to do it.”

Evans thanked Suhr for working hard to get the teachers this training.

Superintendent’s Report

Special Education

Evans mentioned the special education funding again, which will be an approximate $100,000 provided by the state. Evans also mentioned that USD 113 has received a “Level of Determination” for Special Education.

“It [Level of Determination] feels like it is a participation trophy, because you’re at the level of determination,” Evans said. “If you are not at this level, then that means that you are not in a good place. It’s a good thing.”

Solar Power

Evans said he went to a workshop on solar power and putting solar panels on roofs. He wanted the board’s feedback on if this is something they wanted him to pursue before he put more time and energy into exploring this if the board is “against the idea of looking into solar energy.”

“As you write grants, you can have roofs as part of the [solar structure] process,” Evans said. “I thought, we need some new roofs. Maybe that is something we ought to consider.”

Evans also said that there could be the potential to sell energy back if the school does not use it.

“I would assume that with the size of our buildings, there would be very few times that we would actually be able to send energy the other way,” Grimes said.

“What reinforcements do we need to do if we’re going to put them up there [on the roof]?” Grimes said. “ I’m curious what the lifespan is and what the projected replacement costs in the future. If we get a hail event, what is that cost? I guess I’m not personally opposed to it, but there is a lot of questions I would have.”

“I agree,” Buessing said.

“I am rather hesitant for you to spend an awful lot of time, what I’ve looked into it, the ROI [return on investment] is pretty slim,” J. Scoby said. “Putting it on top of the roof, I would guess you would have to look into the structural integrity of our roofs and possibly increase it, which would increase your costs, which would push back the payback a number of years.”

Evans said that other states have pursued this option, but there is not a school in Kansas that has. Evans also went over how to pay for it.

“Costs without incentives,” Evans said. “You just can’t do it without incentives.”

“You have to have the government and honestly, if the government is paying for it and incentivizing it, I have questions on it,” J. Scoby said.

Grimes also said that he didn’t know if a solar field to the south is something he would want to see visually.

“I know that renewable energy can be controversial, but I can go ahead and sign us up to give us additional information,” Evans said.  “It won’t cost us anything and I’m not doing the leg work on it.”

The board agreed to sign up to get more information.

Electric Buses

Evans said there are grants for electric buses, and he asked if the board wanted him to pursue this and spend time on it.

“Personally, no,” J. Scoby said.

“Can Brian [Jones] work on electric buses?” L. Scoby said. “The cost of the battery…”

“The cost of the battery is more than the vehicle,” J. Scoby said.

“It’s 2028 that the EPA has thrown down a mandate that big machines, trucks, buses, they have to have certain capabilities in that field, so it is going to cost more to make a big truck, a big bus to be capable. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be, but it’s going to cost more,” Keim said. “As far as biting off something like that, I’ve learned the hard way. If everything did have to go electrical, I would love to be grandfathered in and let everyone else be the guinea pig.”

It was decided to not pursue this option.

Land Transfers

Evans said that the two land transfers with USD 113 and USD 380 and USD 335 would be on the State board’s consent agenda for Wednesday, May 15. He said he anticipates the items to not be pulled out of the consent agenda. Evans also said that Scott Gordon would be providing his recommendation about the USD 115 Petition at the June meeting and that recommendation would be released approximately two weeks prior to that meeting.

Nemaha County Democrats

Evans said that the Nemaha County Democrats have invited the Prairie Hills BOE to listen to Governor Laura Kelly speak at 5 p.m.  Thursday, June 13, at the Nemaha County Community Building in Seneca.

Negotiations Meetings

Evans asked when Grimes and Keim were available for negotiations meetings.

T-Mobile Payment

“I wanted to share that there is a revenue source that you may not be aware of,” Evans said. “We get payment on an electronics tower. This is something that was given to schools, I don’t know when, maybe 1970s or 1980s, and we have been able to hang onto it for this long. A lot of school districts have lost sight of it and if you don’t renew the lease, then it becomes theirs.”

Evans said the board receives approximately $10,000 per year and the tower is somewhere in Atchison County.

Consent Agenda

The board approved the consent agenda as amended after J. Scoby asked to pull out the approval of the Health Textbooks. The approved consent agenda included the following: minutes from the April 8 meeting; financial reports from APS, SHS, SMS, SES and USD No. 113; April bills for the amount of $1,203,457.35; May payroll for the amount of $405,630.53; accept donations from: Axtell Booster Club, floor Scrubber, $547.38; USD 113 Foundation Fine Arts Support Fund, Sound buffers SES Music Room, $14,360; Sabetha PTO, additional support for the SES turf/playground project, $5,000; USD 113 Science and Business Fund, Architect fees- Science Room, $1,187.47; USD 113 Extra-Curricular Activities Fund, Girls’ Volleyball, $2,163.65; Brad Broxterman, Purchased drinks/treats for every student, $1,000; Eagle Booster Club, April donations, $3,728.83; and Jay Herrmann, SHS Golf Team, $507.60; SES Carpet bid of $10,480; BOE Office Carpet bid of $1,403; resignations of Jacklyn Miller as AES Teacher, Trevin Edelman as Student Council sponsor, Brandi Lybarger as Axtell Cheer, and Alex McAfee as SHS Assistant Football Coach and as Sabetha Summer Weights; permission for SHS classes to install steps from the SHS north parking lot to the greenhouse; designate Saylor Insurance as the 2024-25 USD 113 Insurance Agent of Record; leave requests requiring BOE approval including Nicolas Richardson, Katie Aberle, Tim McCoy, Briana Evans and Garrett Michael; contracts with Braden Plumlee as SMS Assistant Track Coach, Joseph Claycamp as SHS Custodian, Kaleb Moeller as SHS Head High School Football Coach, Ross Bruggeman as SHS Assistant Football Coach, Brian Rieschick as SHS Student Council sponsor, Jobi Wertenberger as SHS Assistant Boys Basketball Coach and Angel Mong as Axtell Elementary School Teacher; summer school: JaChel Atwood, SHS Summer School Facilitator; summer custodial help including Kaitlin Shafer, Kay Duncan, Spencer Perdew, Korbyn Stinnett and Alliyah Lybarger; and summer school teachers.

After approval, L. Scoby individually recognized everyone who made donations to all of the USD 113 schools.

Health Textbooks

Evans explained that the health textbooks have been discussed for several months and board members have had the opportunity to review those textbooks.

J. Scoby said he looked it over and said that there will not be a “perfect” textbook for everyone.

Suhr explained why the committee selected this health textbook.

“The health teachers did have a part of the conversation,” Suhr said. “They [Malorie Manche and Jason Tynon] have had opportunity to review the materials and teach some pilot lessons from the content.”

Suhr said this is a smaller textbook company that the district has not worked with before.

“They specialize in textbooks for vocational programs for the most part, so it’s kind of a niche company,” Suhr said. “There is a portion that Malorie Manche wants to use in her women’s health course.”

Grimes thanked her for sending the guidelines for selecting health textbooks. J. Scoby said a lot of the material goes back to how the teacher presents the information.

“The textbook is not the curriculum,” Suhr said. “The next step is to have continued meetings with the teachers to align what are the standards and what are the parts of the resource that we are going to use and not use.”

The board approved the new health textbooks, 5-1, with Renyer opposed.

Transportation Policy

Evans discussed the updated transportation that he has been working on. He said sometimes the district gets requests from outside groups that want to rent a bus or a vehicle. He explained that he had bumped up the costs of renting a bus.

Todd explained that there are different categories in the policy to explain certain trips, such as if Grains for Hope, Elementary Band, KMEA, etc., wants to take a bus somewhere. Evans said there are also times when there are summer athletic camps that coaches will take athletes to. Along with the categories listed in the policy, the policy also states that these requests would need to be approved by the superintendent.

Evans said sometimes kids will drive themselves to attend an event and it would be safer for them to travel together rather than individually. However, he does not want to use the vehicles overnight or for events that are farther away. Therefore, the policy would allow the superintendent to use their discretion for each trip individually.

Renyer asked if this was a liability issue, because he was confused, since Evans was saying he did want to allow the trips, but there are trips he didn’t want to allow.

Evans said that is a “grey area.”

“As a Board of Education, we are not telling teams they have to go to tournaments or do weekly summer leagues, but I’m telling you, if there was an accident on the road, attorneys when they first file a claim, they list everybody, and USD 113 would be on that claim, whether there is liability there or not,” Evans said.

The board discussed the policy more in depth and with a 60-mile maximum trip length, but J. Scoby said he doesn’t feel like he can support the policy.

“I don’t think it’s right when a coach says there is a camp I think you should go to,” J. Scoby said. “That is coercive and should not be tolerated.”

After more discussion, the board approved the transportation policy, 4-2, with Renyer and J. Scoby opposed.

2024-25 Parents As Teachers

Brandy Edelman was present for questions regarding Parents as Teachers. Evans said he believes the group helps a lot “long term with our kids.”

“I think we wouldn’t have a good program if it wasn’t for the people running it,” L. Scoby said.

“You guys do a great job, however, I don’t think this is a job that the government needs to be involved in and that the churches should be doing,” J. Scoby said.

“I will say we are simply education and support system and although I can see your point of view Jim, it might get a little hairy if we have to decide which church decides on those things,” Edelman said.

The board approved the Parents as Teachers program, 5-1, with J. Scoby abstaining.

Also at the meeting:

The board unanimously approved the USD No. 113 Crisis Intervention Handbook.

The board unanimously approved Evans to make a decision on behalf of the board for the SHS Science Room Concepts. The estimate from Civum Architects for the project, including alternates was nearly $200,000.

The board unanimously approved a bid of $25,800 from AHRS to fix the concrete entrance at the bus barn.

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

The board reviewed changes to the 2024-25 handbook including compensation for bus drivers and substitutes, the board unanimously approved the USD No. 113 2024-25 Handbook.

The board entered into a 25-minutes executive session relating to actions adversely or favorably affecting a student. No action was taken following the executive session. Present for the executive session were the board members, Evans and Bauman. Frazee would be called into the executive session later. There was no action taken following the executive session.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, June 10, at the district office in Sabetha.

Heather Stewart98 Posts

Heather Stewart is one of two co-editors for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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