Marion board cuts eight positions to reduce budget

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DONNA HAJEK
USD 408 Marion-Florence board members met Monday night faced with budget decisions and a packed room of spectators.

The crowd, primarily elementary teachers and a few patrons, also included newly elected board members Chris Sprowls, Sarah Cope and Kathy Meieroff.

Before the evening was over, the board approved cutting eight positions because of declining enrollments and state funding.

After a 90 minute executive session, the board announced the following positions to be cut are: (1) Marion Elementary School counselor position; (2) Elementary Spanish (3) one first grade teacher; (4) assistant middle school football coach; (5) assistant middle school track coach; (6) assistant high school volleyball coach; (7) one MES teacher aide and (8) one half-time bus driver.

The cuts were approved, 7-0.

The board also accepted resignations from Keli Chisholm, second-grade teacher, Crystal Ware, fifth-grade teacher, and Ginger Robert, middle school girl’Æ basketball coach.

The board voted to non-renew Anthony Zappone, MES Spanish teacher, and Kerry Dees, MES counselor, as a result of enrollment and budget reductions.

The board approved the addition of one section of half-day kindergarten and one hour to Deanna Thierolf’s contract to become a full-time teacher. The board also approved extending by 20 days Phoebe Janzen’s contract as MHS counselor.

Patrons voiced concerns about the budget cuts. Some asked if cutting costs in athletics or administrative had been considered.

Audience member Beth Watson asked, “How much did the positions cut tonight save us?”

Martin Tice, BOE business clerk, estimated the cuts saved between $80,000 to $90,000.

Board member Rex Savage told the audience that January is when administrator contracts are renewed and “they’re looked at two years in advance.”

Missy Stubenhofer, curriculum coordinator, introduced the purchase of new science material to coordinate with the new curriculum. The board voted approval of the purchase 7-0.

Stubenhofer, along with third-grade teacher Julie Trapp, presented information to the board for the purchase of new reading material. Trapp said there is “100 percent backing” on the new program from all K-6 teachers.

Stubenhofer and MES Principal Stan Ploutz, also in favor of the material, confirmed the support. Stubenhofer said, “There are a minority of teachers liking what they use now.”

Trapp noted the new reading program would include spelling and grammar. Trapp added the new reading material “is on grade level,” has supplemental text, and ôchallenges above reading levelsö.

Stubenhofer said though “this is not the year for reading replacement,” she would encourage the board to consider the purchase request for $45,000. Stubenhofer and Trapp said the program material supports the current benchmark standards.

Trapp said the package expenditure included teachers’ guides, also stating the publishing company offers educating and training service at an extra expense.

The board decided to consider the request for purchase at a future meeting.

Stubenhofer proposed a change in graduation requirements. She said students need the change enforced “to better prepare for college and the work field.”

Superintendnent Gerry Henderson recommended Computer Applications class be a required full credit. He and Stubenhofer said students presently in high school may complete Computer Applications I and II or Computer Application I and Investigation of Technology to complete the requirement.

The board passed the proposal 7-0.

Stubenhofer also presented the summer school program, which was met with questions.

Keith Collett questioned the five planning and evaluation days, noting the same number of planning days were given each teacher whether they teach 7.5 or 14 days.

Roger Hannaford III expressed concern about the proposed expenditure of $23,644. Hannaford agreed with the need for summer school, but felt the proposal was high in this “budget crunch” time.

The 14-day summer school, June 30-July 18 would involve seven teachers, one aid and one coordinator (Stubenhofer).

Stubenhofer agreed to “take another look” at the planning time issue and have the teachers document their time.

The proposal passed with this provision, 6-0, with Hannaford opposed.

Elaine Shannon, media specialist, and Lana Fahey, kindergarten teacher presented, as co-chairpersons of the Marion Elementary School Building Improvement Team (MESBIT), the committee’s concerns about budget-cutting issues.

The co-chairpersons expressed the MESBIT mission statement was “to excite, empower and encourage life-long learners.”

Fahey said the “student focus” and “student improvement was the primary goal.”

Shannon asked the board to take another look at raising the local option budget, charging for incidentals, and cuts in equipment and maintenance purchases. She also suggested grant writing for funding.

Shannon ended her report with a plea “not to make anymore personnel judgments that are going to make a negative impact at Marion Elementary School.”

In other action, the board:

approved the school calendar, 6-1, with Collett opposed. Collett said 8.5 days of no school out of a 22 days from March 10 to April 12 was too many.

approved a equest from the city recreation ommission for swim team transportation.

approved Kansas Association of School Boards membership of $5,429 and the $900 legal assistance fund.

approved the TEEN (Technology Excellence in Education Network) interlocal agreement for an additional five years.

approved three students for a work-release program for next year’s second semester. Emily Davis will work as certified nurse aide at Marion Manor for two hours each day, Hannah Eis will work at Don’s Studioin Hillsboro for two hours each day, and Steven Bowers will work on eBay self-employment sales for one hour each day.

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