ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DONNA HAJEK
A room full of concerned parents were present at the May 10 USD 408 meeting. Board members were questioned about their recent decision to cut the baseball-softball program from Marion High School activities.
“Marion’s baseball complex is second to none for a city our size” said Casey Case to USD 408 board members at the Monday night meeting. Case, speaking in behalf of many concerned patrons that were also present, has been a member of the Marion REC program for a number of years and has been involved in the summer baseball and softball program.
Requesting board members to reconsider their decision, Case said he felt the summer program showed strong support and merited the school activity to continue. He said, “Keeping the program would give students a chance for scholarships.” He noted that many participants now anticipated the opportunity to play high school baseball or softball.
In regards to funding and financing, Case predicted Marion could not afford to cut the ball program. “State funds for 2.5 students would fund the $17,000 program,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose students that would go to a district offering the baseball program.”
Several supporters of the program voiced opinions in favor of keeping the program.
Russ Cain, also a member of the Marion REC program, said, “The number of players and involvement are there.”
Parent Laura Legg said her choice to live in Marion was due to the high school offering the baseball program.
Keith Collett said, “We have made cuts regarding our teachers, if we keep an activity with low participation, are we not slapping those individuals in the face?”
Sarah Coop addressed the audience and said she “appreciated the letters, phone calls and public input.”
Coop said she did not want to see the program dissolve, but “we need to not lose focus. Our purpose is providing the best education we can for the students, extra-curricular has to take a hit as well.”
Board members agreed to reconsider implementing baseball and softball with considerations of co-op agreements with area schools, perhaps an activity fee being incorporated and cutting expenditures for all extra curricular activities.
Stan Ploutz, Marion Elementary principal, introduced a plan to incorporate a transitional first grade for recommended students who will need additional help to learn reading and math skills.
Presently, he noted, it would involve seven students who would benefit. These students may otherwise be recommended for retention to kindergarten, would be able to benefit in a regular first-grade atmosphere. The goal is then to learn the necessary skills and advance normally.
Gerry Henderson, superintendent of schools, said this would be a budget asset as a transitional first-grade student would count as a 1.0 student, whereas if a student were to repeat kindergarten that child would count as a half student.
Judi Stewart will teach the 2004-05 class.
The transitional first-grade option passed 7-0.
Ploutz also requested the board to consider a fifth- and sixth-grade teaching combination. Proposing one teacher for each of the five core subjects: math, science, reading, social science and writing.
Ploutz said the transition times would be minimal and homeroom time would focus on instruction and behavioral needs of the grade levels. He felt the departmentalization would better serve the special education needs of the students.
Board member Collett questioned problems that might occur during each transition movement and asked, “Are we sacrificing the intimacy of the student/ teacher relationship?”
Board members agreed the proposed schedule would need to be revised, but the recommendation for the departmentalization passed 6-1, with Collett voting no.
The board gave years-of-service awards to the following people.
— 10-year award honorees were Tammy Jirak, Judy Versch and Jane Whitwell.
— 15-year awards were given to Betty Ehlers, Anita Hancock, Mary Alice Hiebert and Lois Smith.
— 20 years to Mary Griffith.
— 25 years to Judi Stewart and Becky Summerville.
— 30 years to Linda Allison.
Ken Arnhold, Marion High School principal, presented an activity shirt proposal to the board. He recommended the shirt cost of $25 for the 2004-05 school year to be sold at enrollment. The shirt, when worn, would allow students into games and other school activities requiring admission at no cost. Arnhold informed members the new MCAA league proposed a dollar per person increase for activity admissions, “the shirt promotes getting the kids to home activities,” and would only be sold to MHS students. Shirt sales would be a Student Council activity, but not a fund-raiser.
Janet Killough introduced the MHS Forensics team who recently took fourth place at State. Killough said Marion missed third by seven points, “this is the highest rating MHS has ever placed.” She also commended Terry Arnold and Ken Arnold for their support, leadership and assistance.
Board members passed the proposal 7-0.
Other matters included were:
n Request from the Marion REC for school bus transportation for swim team. Henderson pointed out the district does not get reimbursed for this; it is a service to the children. Action passed 7-0.
n Approval passed on the request from Prairie View for transportation to the summer camp in Hillsboro, in which the district is reimbursed.
n Quality Performance Accreditation requests from Marion Elementary, Marion Middle School and Marion High School were approved.
n Approval of the request from Martin Tice, business manager, to dispose of the 1992 Suburban to the highest bidder.
n A request for Doug Regier Memorial Scholarship to MHS graduates available for next year students was approved. Guidelines as other approved scholarships would be followed, and would have a minimum life of four years.
n Recommendations for scholarship recipients were approved and to be announced May 19th.
After an 80-minute executive session, the resignations from Elaine Shannon, MES media specialist and Ginger Robert, MES sixth grade teacher were approved.