USD 408 in ‘good shape’ for Leiker’s final year

“This is where I wanted the district to be when we made the change in superintendency. I want someone to enjoy the quality of the school system we enjoy and I am proud of it.”<p>—Supt. Lee Leiker
“This is where I wanted the district to be when we made the change in superintendency. I want someone to enjoy the quality of the school system we enjoy and I am proud of it.”<p>—Supt. Lee Leiker
After years of declining enrollment, USD 408 Super­intendent Lee Leiker said the district is stabilizing with an increase in students for both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

“I think we will maintain our enrollment at or in the area of 510 students,” he said. “Our staff continues to be a strength. They were last year and are again this year.”

Leiker recognized people in many school roles, ranging from the custodians who keep the facilities in good shape to the secretarial and teaching staff.

“We don’t have anything padded as far as budget numbers, but because of our dedicated teachers, the district was recognized for the second year in a row by Newsweek as one of the top schools in the nation,” he said.

The ranking is based on graduation rate, percentage of special education students and wealth as it relates to families in the district, he added.

“Newsweek largely bases the rankings on scores with the student population academically,” Leiker said. “These scores are a credit to staff and the board of education, which does a such a great job based on what’s best for children.”

Leiker said he believes the reason why negotiations each year go well and why the district operates smoothly is because the board focuses on the safety and success of children.

“Board members are focused on the right thing all the time,” he said.

Partnerships

One area the district has capitalized on is its willingness to develop partnerships in the community, during Leiker’s 13-year tenure. He said these partnerships with different agencies are healthy for the district and the community.

“In my opinion, the school district has a good relationship with the city, whether it’s sharing facilities or working together (in other areas),” he said.

The district’s partnership with Butler Community College is another mutual strength, he said.

“It’s great to have them on our campus,” Leiker said. “We continue seeing what they have done with tuition for students and the courses they offer.”

Another great partnership is with Tabor College and its swim program, he said.

“The philosophy of working together is going to make everybody better—that’s what we have been trying to do,” he said.

The district also wants to see how it can help local businesses.

“Businesses have done a lot to help the district, and we want to help them as much as they have helped us,” Leiker said.

Other highlights

During the past year, one of the best developments at Warrior Stadium was overhauling the press box, Leiker said.

“We had tremendous community support and it was done with all volunteers,” he added. “Gene Winkler was instrumental in the project, doing background research on the windows (and other features).”

The Kansas State Trans­portation Review Board gave the district its highest rating based on documentation for safe transportation of students, paperwork and maintenance operations.

USD 408’s Performing Arts Center hosted Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss and Justice Marla J. Luckert (at podium) from the Kansas Supreme Court for a presentation about the state’s legal system to several hundred students from eight area high schools in early October.
USD 408’s Performing Arts Center hosted Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss and Justice Marla J. Luckert (at podium) from the Kansas Supreme Court for a presentation about the state’s legal system to several hundred students from eight area high schools in early October.
“Not a lot of districts get this, with less than one-third of districts in the state receiving it,” Leiker noted.

The district went to a new Internet phone system, which Leiker said in the long run will save money because the old system required periodic upgrades.

USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center and the Performing Arts Center continue to be recognized across the state.

The two facilities were completed in 2007-08 as another partnership with other entities in the city.

“We share SAC with city recreation, summer swimming and community activities like water aerobics,” Leiker said.

The Performing Arts Center can host 550 people, he said, and many city and county departments use the facility for a variety of events.

A virtual program was started in the 2015-16 year through the Technology Excellence in Education Network.

The four school districts involved in the program are Marion, Hillsboro, Peabody and Herington with online curriculum for students facing special circumstances or adults who didn’t graduate, he said.

Capital outlay, budget

Leiker said no significant amounts of money were spent on capital outlay projects last year, other than roofing the Marion Middle School hallway.

“We try to deal with things every year, and plan for the big expenditures,” he said.

As for the budget, Leiker said most districts experience a high percentage of fixed costs.

“We know we will have salaries, transportation costs, food service and utilities, leaving the district with not a lot of discretionary movement.”

With the state talking about a 5 percent cut in state funding this year, Leiker said that’s going to mean even less leeway.

“With 70 percent of this school year completed, that leaves only a small portion,” he said.

Unlike some years when the district has new programs or other expenses, the 2016-17 school year was more about maintaining what it has.

Overall health

Leiker will be stepping down as superintendent after this school year, and he believes the timing is good.

“Our district is in good shape,” he said. “We have very solid facilities, solid staff and are solid financially. It is an opportunity for the new superintendent to come in and be successful, and not a situation where someone will have to come in and make tough decisions.

“This is where I wanted the district to be when we made the change in superintendency,” he said. “I want someone to enjoy the quality of the school system we enjoy and I am proud of it.

“I am excited to work with Aaron Homburg, who was selected as the new superintendent.”

Homburg signed a two-year contract effective July 1, and is currently serving as the K-12 principal and superintendent in USD 399 Paradise-Natoma-Waldo.