School Board Extends Principal’s Contract, Hears Valuation Report from Commissioner

By REX ZIMMERMAN

The U.S.D. 255 Board of Education met in regular session Monday evening, February 8, with six members present: Mike Anderson, Dooli Rugg, Mark Pollock, Deb Helfrich and Melissa Simpson- along with board president Steve Allen.

In opening business, the board approved bills in the amount of $404,726.24, previous minutes and the agenda.

Tax Revenue Takes a Hit

Barber County Commissioner Paul Harbaugh visited with the board concerning county valuation figures, and the news wasn’t good. Commissioner Harbaugh said that in the 2013-2014 taxing year, a large oil producer in the county, Woolsey Oil, protested its taxes on 26 wells in the county. He said the county and Woolsey had reached an agreement as to the amount of taxes to be paid, but at the last moment Woolsey took the case to the state board of tax appeals. The company won the protest, which will result in the local school district receiving nearly $100,000 less than was projected. Since most of the oil play was in the southern part of the county, the most affected groups will be U.S.D. 255, the local hospital district and area townships.

Commissioner Harbaugh added that this year’s valuation figures should be available in about 45 days or so to help the district with budgeting for the next school year.

The total reduction to the school district for this coming June’s tax appropriation, Harbaugh noted, would be around $98,000. He also said that Barber County has joined the Kansas Legislative Policy Group with several other Western Kansas counties to take the tax issue to an appeals court. He said he would keep the board updated on any decisions.

Weight Room Decided

In a matter discussed at length at the January meeting, an agreement on usage of the school’s weight room facility between the school and the South Barber Recreation Commission was approved after fees and access rules were adopted.

In the agreement, a $25 non-refundable application fee would be required for a pass key card with extra cards to cost $10. All users and guests will be required to sign a release for use of the facility.

Contract Extended

After about a 30 minute executive session, the board voted to extend the contract of 7-12 principal Brent Shaffer for two years.

A search for a new PreK-6 principal also continues, said Superintendent Dr. Andi Williams, with around 22 applications received so far. Application deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 17, and the board plans to start interviews for the position the first week of March.

Food Service Info, P1 Plan

Superintendent Williams also discussed studies into the district’s food service and believes she has found a way to save the district around $35,000 per year while providing better and more enjoyable meals. By joining Opaa! Food Management – which is a partner of the Kansas Assn. of School Boards – the district could receive better food and better pricing which will hopefully encourage more students to eat the school lunches.

Superintendent Williams also said she is doing insurance comparisons for employees to hopefully provide better options.

P1 Group will begin its district master plan study this month. Dr. Williams said she had a list of community representatives she plans to invite to be a part of a focus group at a “working lunch” at the Central Office on Thursday, Feb. 18, from noon to 1:15 p.m.

Building Reports

PreK-6 principal Marcia Cantrell reported on various activities this past month at the building and the professional development of teachers and staff.

Upcoming events include a tour of the building by P1 Group on Feb. 18, and kickoff of the Red Wheel fundraiser project on March 2.

7-12 principal Brent Shaffer was not at the meeting as he was attending a junior high basketball game. His report noted that Scholar Bowl ended its season last week and went 3-6 at Regional.

A student teacher, Mr. McCartney, has begun his duties working with Mr. Roberts. Nineteen students also plan to compete in the HOPL Academic Olympics on Feb. 22 in Pratt.

Forensics is underway and Kolby Pavlu is the first state qualifier as he placed first in poetry at the Kingman meet.

The Drama Class has selected “Murder at the Pie Auction” for its spring play to be held April 9 and 10.

The HOPL High School Music Festival will be held March 8 in Norwich, and junior high cheerleader tryouts for next year will be held on February 27.

In other board action:

  • Mary Ann Risinger, Alva, was approved as a substitute teacher.
  • An auction of district surplus items will be held on Saturday, April 30, in the high school parking lot.
  • Approved use of the district’s bus that has a lift, which it is currently not using, by North Barber County school district on a temporary basis.
  • Heard a report from Dr. Williams noting that the leak in the roof of the Central Office had been temporarily patched.
  • Heard a report from board member Deb Helfrich on a two-day seminar she attended to help school board members with testifying at state or other hearings if needed. She noted the recent proposal to consolidate all schools in a county under one superintendent as an example of when those skills might be needed, but added that fortunately that proposal never made it out of committee. She also showed a video showing what the school district of Eudora is doing with their Facebook page to help keep patrons aware of what is happening in the legislature.and urged citizens to contact their state legislators with their concerns.