The Goessel school board talked with consultant Jim Cain during its Sept. 10 meeting about the possibility of renovation projects at the junior/senior high school and the elementary school.
Noting the urgency for such a project, Superintendent John Fast said Gov. Sam Brownback has announced that he wants to repeal the state aid for bond money that is currently available to schools. If he does so, poorer schools wil be affected. It was mentioned that the governor talks about local control; however, that only works for wealthy districts, not smaller, poorer districts.
Fast said Goessel is a poor district, and currently the state would fund 35 percent of a bond project.
“If we had a $1 million project, we would get $350,000 in state aid that local patrons don’t have to pay. If it were a $2 million project, it would be twice that amount,” he cited as an example.
Without that aid, he said local patrons would have to pay the full amount of any project.
“If our state aid is taken away,” Fast said, “doing any kind of capital project becomes exceedingly expensive for our patrons.”
Cain said the legislature “lost seven moderate senators” who had worked to keep state aid. Without them in the legislature, schools have been warned to expect that the state aid will be taken away. Therefore, the board felt a sense of urgency to act on projects that have needed attention for some time.
Cain said the bond election would have to be held prior to July 1 in order to make use of state aid bond funds.
“You have some needs,” said Cain said, who had toured the schools with Fast. “We’re talking about instructional space,” Fast said, and safety.
The elementary school needs a storm shelter.
“The current storm facilities are inadequate,” Fast said. “We had a tornado a half mile from here within in the last six months.”
Fast also mentioned needs at the high school: science labs, family and consumer science lab and vocational agriculture building. He said the building itself is deteriorating and needs tuck-and-point masonry repair.
Board member Lynnette Duerksen said, “It’s not a sports complex; it’s instructional and safety issues. Something has to be done.”
Board member Kelly Booton added: “It’s not a choice of whether or not we want to do this; we have to.”
Referring to the 35 percent state aid, board chair Dan Miller warned, “I really believe it will be gone.”
Board member Eric Schrag agreed. “That’s a lot of money to leave on the table,” he said.
Added board member James Wiens: “It’s hard to say no…. It seems prudent to me to pursue it.”
Fast reminded the board that interest rates are at a record low right now, and that helps maximize the investment. He also said the tax levy would not go up since the current 20-year bond project is nearly paid, and the small amount that remains would be rolled over into the new project, “much like refinancing a house.”
Board clerk Patsy Schmidt was the only person at the meeting who had worked with the previous bond issue. She said it took a year and a half for the process, which included informational community meetings before the vote. Now, however, there is not much time until the election in April.
Fast acknowledged it would take a large commitment from the board and administration.
Cain, the consultant, is also a pastor. He grew up on a farm in Indiana and has been principal of a school of 1,400 students, but he prefers smaller schools.
“Consolidation is not better,” he said. He began consulting work in 1992 and has worked with many schools, including Moundridge and Canton-Galva. He encouraged involving senior citizens in the bond process.
“They are an important part of your community,” he said. “Involve everybody that you can involve in this process.”
Retiring clerk affirmed
The board honored Schmidt for her 23 years of service to the school district.
During the early years of her employment, Schmidt was also the high school secretary, along with board clerk duties. She is retiring from her position. Schmidt said she is looking forward to more time with her grandchildren.
An Oct. 2 staff reception is planned for Schmidt. Former superintendents have been invited. Fast expressed appreciation to Schmidt for her many years of service to the school district.
During her years as the board clerk, Schmidt said meetings were held at the grade school, then at the high school, the “white house” across the street from the high school, back at the high school again, and currently at the grade school.
Schmidt has already been training Joni Smith as the new board clerk.
In other business, the board:
• listened to a report from new junior high English teacher Brittany Hiebert. Her curriculum also includes reading and writing. She is the junior class sponsor and the junior high student improvement team chair. She will coach junior high girls basketball.
Hiebert grew up at Goessel and graduated from Goessel High School. She is a 2011 graduate of Bethel College. She completed her student teaching in Chicago, in the biggest elementary school in Illinois but prefers a smaller school.
“I really want to pass on to my students my love of learning,” she said. “I don’t want to stop learning.”
She is married to Garrett Hiebert, who coaches football, basketball and track at Goessel.
• listened to a report from Tyler Schroeder about a new interactive media business class he has initiated this school year. The class is operating on a PIE system, which stands for “promote, inform and excite.”
The class hopes to provide video information for the school, he said, and would like a flat-screen for the wall in the lunchroom. They would broadcast birthdays, current events and video updates from past exchange students. They also plan to showcase current students, staff and the community.
As students and teachers hear about the project, they are offering ideas,” he said. One teacher would like to provide a video historical tour of the school. The hope is also to show local ball games as they are happening so those who are serving concessions in the lunchroom can follow the action.
Schroeder said they want to keep the project “budget friendly.” He said they do not need a computer in the lunchroom because the school now has wireless infrastructure.
The school technology committee will discuss the issue further.
• heard Booton report that the Marion County Special Education Cooperative voted to demolish the east part of the co-op building that has not been used. It needed substantial upgrading; it has asbestos, and there have been problems with the sprinklers and other systems.
• heard Wiens say in his legislative report that No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress are changing to “common core curriculum.”
• heard Fast report the school had been designated a “Title I Reward School.” He commended the teachers, students, cooks and custodians.
• heard from Fast that two students had received reading awards from the governor. He credited city librarian Laura Dailey for the summer reading program and also the school librarians.
• discussed home Internet access for students. Fast said that a year ago, 30 percent of children in second through fifth grades did not have Internet access at home. Board chair Dan Miller said the public library has Internet access available to the public.
• heard from Scott Boden, junior/senior high school principal, that school would not be held at that building the following day because of a city water leak; no water would be available at that school.
• approved the audit report as presented by Dale Clark of Knudson and Monroe. He said there were no violations and commended Schmidt for her work. He also acknowledged Smith’s work.
• heard from Fast that the open house at the grade school had been well attended. National Eat Dinner with Your Family day will be Sept. 24, and parents are invited to join their children for lunch that day. Parents need to notify the school if they wish to participate.
• heard from Fast that total enrollment is at 261 students this year compared to 265 last year. The enrollment four years ago was 245.