Board approves bus purchase, discusses all-day kindergarten

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Unified School District 410 Board of Education approved the purchase of a 47-passenger bus for $55,838 at Monday’s regular meeting.

The Bluebird brand bus will be purchased from Kansas Equipment Co. Inc. That company and Midwest Bus Sales Inc. submitted bids that came $2,000 under the amount allotted in the current budget for the vehicle purchase.

District personnel Keith Goossen and John McMinn attended the meeting to answer questions about the specifications.

Hillsboro High School teacher Jim Robb asked the board to consider changing the make-up policy for absences from three days to a maximum of five school days.

Robb said the change would be easier to understand and administer than the current one, and “better control absences.”

He also recommended shifting from quarter to semester honor roll posting.

The introduction of technology for posting grades on the Internet would lend itself to that change, Robb said.

HHS principal Dale Honeck said the proposed make-up policy change was being tested in the high school with positive results.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn recommended Robb and Honeck bring a written proposal for a vote at the board’s next meeting.

Fred Miller, executive director for the Marion County Special Education Cooperative, reported on anticipated cash balances and reviewed the state of the cooperative report.

Miller reported that “salary increases will require additional funding from school districts unless state funding begins to increase.”

Contrary to a declining trend of past years, students in the MCSEC program have increased for 2004-05.

Miller said some research will need to be done to find out why this year is different.

Mohn reported that the district is in the process of establishing a computerized accounting system to track charges made by students.

He said the district plans to “write-off” about $1,300 in debt owed by 27 high school students who have been gone from the school for two or more years. All but one of the students withdrew before graduation.

Currently, monthly statements will be sent to those families with children in school who owe money, Mohn said.

Mohn also reviewed the 2005-06 staff and enrollment projections. He anticipates a decrease from 666 to 657 full-time equivalency enrollment.

“Unless the board wants to cut programs, I don’t see where we can cut teaching staff,” Mohn said.

The board will take a look at the list created two years earlier to consider where cuts can be made if needed.

Also, Mohn and Hillsboro Elementary School principal Evan Yoder asked the board to consider the advantages of offering all-day kindergarten.

“The more we can do for children at an early age, the greater chance of them being successful,” Yoder said.

Yoder listed both advantages and disadvantages to having all-day kindergarten. Costs would increase, he said.

“But there’s little doubt that all-day kindergarten increases academic gains for students,” Yoder said, adding that some students would do fine with half days.

The board decided to continue to explore this possibility. Several options could be available, Mohn said, but it will be important to get feedback from parents.

Rod Hamm and Gary Andrews attended the meeting to discuss concerns about liability coverage for the Trojan After Prom Party.

Mohn said it appears the event would need to be school-sponsored to be under the school’s liability insurance.

“I will do all I can to encourage coverage under the school’s liability coverage,” he said. “But I’m hesitant to have the school take on sponsorship.”

That would require that some school personnel be present and that school rules be followed, Mohn said.

A likely alternative would be for TAPP to purchase insurance coverage for that event.

“We don’t want to send a message that we aren’t supportive of the event,” Mohn said. “We can find some kind of money (this year) designated for after-school activities to help with the cost of insurance liability.”

In other business, the board:

n approved issuing a supplement contract to Brent Brockmueller to be an assistant baseball coach.

n approved renewing administrative contracts for Corey Burton, Max Heinrichs, Dale Honeck and Evan Yoder for a period of two years.

The board also went into executive session to discuss non-elected personnel. No action was taken.

Board member Doug Weinbrenner was absent from the meeting.

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