USD 410 board hears early feedback on proposed cuts

Unified School District 410 faces the fiscal dilemma encountered by school districts across the state?making significant budget reductions that likely will impact personnel, operations and extra-curricular activities.

Superintendent Steve Noble told board of education members at their regular meeting March 8 that the district may have to reduce its budget by $475,000 for the next school year.

While part of the reduction can be accomplished by using $175,000 of operating reserves, Noble said, the remaining $300,000 would need to come in the form of cuts.

Noble presented budget cutting considerations identified by the leadership team totaling $360,300. (See Page 6A for a complete list of possible cuts.)

?None of these cuts have been decided,? Noble said. ?They are up for discussion.?

Among the potential cuts are reductions in instructional materials and equipment purchases, technology support, transportation and personnel positions, as well as possibly eliminating several athletic programs.

Members of the public attended the meeting to express concerns about potential cuts, including Scott O?Hare, who teaches science and coaches wrestling and golf at Hillsboro High School.

Hillsboro Middle School wrestling and HHS golf, as well as boys? and girls? tennis, baseball and softball are cuts under consideration.

O?Hare spoke to board members about the impact cutting sports programs could have on students whose motivation to stay in school is directly tied to their participation in activities such as wrestling.

O?Hare asked the board to consider the number of students served by wrestling who don?t have alternate outlets. Eighteen students participated in HMS wrestling this year, he said.

When asked, activities director Robert Rempel said he doesn?t agree with cutting sports programs because he also is concerned about the impact on at-risk students and questions whether eliminating programs will affect student enrollment numbers.

Parent Angie Welch said she?s heard para-professionals may be cut, and expressed concern for the impact that would have on student learning, in particular her son, Austin. Austin also attended the meeting and requested the board not make such cuts.

Karen Fryhover, who is employed by Head Start in McPherson, asked the board to maintain the district?s program for at-risk 4-year-olds.

?These are real issues that are affecting Hillsboro and USD 410,? Noble said about inevitable cuts. ?At some point, we?re not going to be able to do the things we?ve known our schools to do for decades.?

The board, which made no decision regarding budget cuts at last week?s meeting, and Noble are planning to hold a ?town hall conversation? with the public at Gordon Mohn Center at Hillsboro Elementary School April 8 with Rep. Bob Brookens in attendance.

Special ed co-op

Budget woes also plague Marion County Special Education Cooperative, said board member Debbie Geis, who represents USD 410 on the MCSEC board.

The MCSEC board is working on the budget situation for next year. She said the board would meet later in the week, with the state special-ed director present. The board would conduct the MCSEC director?s evaluation, she added.

Noble said the state board will hear in April Peabody?s request to be removed from MCSEC.

He said USD 410 could consider at least three options to provide special education services for students in the future:

? Maintain MCSEC as is with four schools instead of five.

? Dissolve MCSEC and form a new organization with interested districts. The existing building in Marion would need to be sold, Noble said.

? Join with the McPherson County cooperative at a cost of $280,000. Noble said issues such as transportation would need to be worked through. Currently, being part of MCSEC costs the district $310,000, he said.

If the coop is restructured, Peabody is willing to look at what that might look like, he said, adding the plan is to have something solid in place by April.

?The focus is to keep services in our county,? Noble said.

For this month?s learning showcase, Hillsboro Elementary School teachers Vera Isaac and Elynne Wiebe explained the Multi-tiered System of Support program used in their building.

Isaac said MTSS uses three levels of learning groups to focus on strengthening reading skills. Wiebe reviewed data from DIBELS?Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills?which documented improvements are being made in students? skills.

Other business

In other business, the board:

? approved the district-wide technology plan, which will be revised once every three years.

? approved preliminary assessment of $7,3670 by USD 410 for Parents as Teachers of Marion County.

?It?s a worthwhile program,? said board president Eddie Weber.

The program is not identified as a possible cut, Noble added.

? met in executive session to discuss personnel issues.

? accepted resignation of Ralph Janzen, a 20-year employee with the district.

? approved Option 2 for the 2010-11 school calendar, which has classes beginning Aug. 13. Noble had recommended Option 1, which had an Aug. 9 school start.

? approved district expenditures up to $2,065 for the purpose of providing the hotel room and meals for the sponsor at the national Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America leadership meeting in July in Chicago. A school vehicle and fuel also will be provided for transportation.

Board member Rod Koons said he has some trouble with the national trips because of the cost per student and would like to see money spent that benefit more children. Next year, Noble said, board funding for trips would not be available.

? heard announcement of training for interest-based bargaining from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 27.

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