USD 408 super highlights gains amid state cuts

LeeLeiker002School started Aug. 14 for students at USD?408 Marion-Florence, and Superintendent Lee Leiker told Marion Chamber of Commerce members Friday that a lot is happening in the district.
?We are a better district now than we have ever been, and we continue making that our focus and with less (money)? he said.
Some of those successes include athletic stadium improvements, Chromebooks for all students in grades fourth through 12th, wireless Internet accessibility on activity buses and identification badges serving as building keys.
Leiker also talked about previous budget years, comparing those numbers to what the district has today.
In the 2006-07 school year, the base state aid per student was $4,316. In 2008-09, it was at its highest amount of $4,400.
?But then (the state) started whacking away until we are down to $3,838 (base state aid) per pupil,? he said.
Leiker also said Marion?s general fund lost more than $1 million over the past decade.
Although a major hit to the school budget, Leiker said: ?It is OK because it creates great opportunities (for USD 408).?
Money has been lost through the years, but Leiker said the budget is now bouncing back a little with the local option budget.
?The LOB was significantly raised $205,000 and, yet on the tax statement you won?t see any increases in taxes from the school district,? he said.
Athletic stadium
During the meeting, Leiker said he wanted to ?brag a little bit? about the good news.
In wanting to be the best district it can be, Leiker cited the example of the athletic stadium upgrade.
?Weather helped a little on this one, but we have a brand new scoreboard and paid a little extra to get the best we could,? he said.
The scoreboard is comprised of LED lights and will be used for football and track and field. A new sound system will also be installed.
In a couple weeks, work will start on re-surfacing the track in a bright red color.
?Everything will look fresh and new,? Leiker said.
The district bought 350 Chromebooks and a laptop that runs the Chrome operating system, Leiker said.
?We have been looking at it for a few years and took a huge step (by purchasing the Chromebooks).?
Wireless Internet
Another goal for the district, he said, is making the activity bus wireless-Internet accessible.
?We have a football game in Meade this year and (students) will leave during the middle of school,? Leiker said. ?Wouldn?t it be cool if students could get on this going down the road and still be in Gary Stuchlik?s calculus class??
Identification badge
New ID badges will serve as keys to get into district buildings.
?We changed all exterior locks to our buildings,? Leiker said. ?If you want to get into our building, it takes one of these (badges).?
The badges are also a safety precaution.
?If our staff sees you don?t have one, they can also ask questions because we want to know why someone is in our buildings,? he said.
?If someone loses their identification, we can program the card out of the system and another card can be issued.?
The doors can also be controlled electronically.
?This is an investment in security, not only for facilities, but also for students.?
Common core curriculum
Bob Brookens, former state senator, questioned Leiker about the Common Core curriculum.
Brookens asked: ?What do you think of Common Core??
In response, Leiker said he is concerned about it, but also thinks it has some great things.
?I think it is being pushed without a lot of input from the people in the trenches?our teachers,? he said.
Leiker added that he is also concerned about having to get rid of things in the current curriculum that are important.
While it will differ from teacher to teacher, there is much to be accountable for in a short time.
?It will be difficult,??Leiker said.
On the upside, common core creates some commonality across the state the country for students.
?I continue to be so proud and excited about our teaching staff,? Leiker said. ?They have worked extremely hard and they say, ?OK, if that is what we are going to do.??
Brookens also said he has heard about improper use of the common core curriculum.
?I haven?t seen anything improper,? Leiker said, ?but I can?t say I have looked all the way through it at that level.?
Enrollment numbers
Although the district lost a large graduating class, 48 students, last year, Leiker was positive about current enrollment.
?We are making a turn and looking at being higher this year,? he said. ?Our kindergarten class has 52 (students).?

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