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September School Board Reports — Week 2

Photo Credit: JoLynne Walz Martinez

Seventeen local school boards met last week.

Art Credit: JoLynne Walz Martinez

Kansas

Basehor-Linwood

Highlights:

  • Heard a School Resource Officer update
  • Heard an enrollment update (School funding is based on enrollment)
  • Considered proposed changes to district policies

Blue Valley

Highlights:

  • Approved a name for the 143rd Street campus. It will be known as the Blue Valley Hilltop Campus. Acquisition of this $9 million property was the district’s first expenditure of proceeds from the sale of school bond debt approved by voters this year. The campus will be home to the Early Childhood Education Center and will have adaptive facilities for use in early childhood special education programs.

De Soto

Highlights:

  • Discussed offering financial incentives to staff members in order to encourage energy savings. Utility bills are one of a district’s largest expenses.
  • Heard a report about interviews underway with school principals to determine what capacity each building has for classroom space and what buildings could be better utilized.

Gardner-Edgerton

Highlights:

  • Considered district administration’s request to approve bid contracts for building the new middle school. Funds to construct the new school will come from the sale of school bond debt approved by voters this year.

Kansas City

Highlights:

  • Routine responsibilities of governance

Lansing

Highlights:

  • Heard an update on the $73 million school bond election that the Kansas State Board of Education approved last month. In addition to approving the sale of these bonds, the state board granted approval for the district to exceed its debt limit. If voters approve the bond sales, property taxes in the district will increase.
  • Considered approving proposed changes to district policies.

Piper

Highlights:

  • Held an afternoon work session to discuss district administration’s proposal to ask voters to approve the sale of $3.8 million in school bond debt. Bonds would be used to add classroom space to make room for growing numbers of students. Projections show district enrollment exceeding building capacity by the 2017-18 school year. If voters approve the bond sale, property taxes in the district will increase.
  • Heard a report on district enrollment this fall. School funding from the state is based on enrollment.
  • Discussed the transition to Common Core Standards, which are supposed to be more challenging than the academic standards they are replacing.
  • Considered approval of proposed district policy changes on topics such as “Drug Free Workplace,” “Computer and Device Use” and “Truancy.”
  • Went into executive session to discuss property acquisition. Although school boards — as government entities — are required to conduct most of their business in public, there are some topics they are allowed by law to discuss privately. One of those is the purchase of real estate, in order to prevent sellers from raising prices in anticipation of a sale.

Shawnee Mission

Highlights:

  • Considered a proposal to save money for the district by refinancing existing school bond debt.
  • Considered revising district policies on topics such as “Staff Hiring” and “Reporting Child Abuse/Child Protection.”

Spring Hill

Highlights:

  • Approved paying WaterOne $23,600 to install a water main to connect the new Wolf Creek Elementary, which is currently under construction. Although the board approved this expense, board member Chuck R. Willis abstained and Chris King voted “no.”
  • Heard an update on construction at the Wolf Creek site as well as expansion at Prairie Creek Elementary and other district building projects.
  • Discussed the cost of establishing a private district police force.
  • Announced a public discussion of proposed district boundary changes. The public meeting will take place from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, prior to the regular school board meeting.
  • Considered revising district policies related to computer use as well as separate internet policies for students and staff.

Missouri

Belton

Highlights:

  • Considered revising district policies.

Excelsior Springs

Highlights:

  • Routine responsibilities of governance

Fort Osage

Highlights:

  • Considered revising a list of district policies such as “Reporting Child Abuse,” “Concussions/Brain Injury” and “Service Animals in Schools”
  • Heard a report on district enrollment. (State funding is based on the number of students enrolled).
  • Heard an update on projects funded by school bond debt approved by voters.
  • Set a date for the annual property tax levy hearing, which will take place Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 5 p.m.

Independence

Highlights:

  • Approved tuition rate for out-of-district students for current school year.
  • Considered recommendation from task force for naming new elementary school being constructed with proceeds from sale of school bond debt approved by district voters.
  • Heard update on all district projects funded by school bond sales.

Kansas City

Highlights:

  • Held property tax rate hearing.
  • Considered approving proposal to keep the property tax at last year’s rate
  • Considered revising a district policy regulating “Policy Compliance”

North Kansas City

Highlights:

  • Heard an update on Missouri’s new district certification program.

Park Hill

Highlights:

  • Considered the annual re-adoption of the district’s policy relating to “Board Member Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure”
  • Heard update on Missouri’s new district certification program

Raytown

Highlights:

  • Heard an energy savings report. Utility payments are usually one of the largest expense items for a district.
  • Considered spending $21,000 to hire a consultant who would assist the district in writing an application for a Race to the Top (RTTT)  grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly 900 districts are applying for 15-25 grants. Those districts winning this grant-application lottery would receive four-year awards in amounts ranging from $5 million to $40 million. According to Raytown Associate Superintendent Janie Pyle, this latest round of RTTT grants will go to districts demonstrating “how they can personalize education for all students and is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between teachers and students.” The grant writer under consideration is an employee of leading educational textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Applications are due by Tuesday, Oct. 30, and the federal government plans to announce grant recipients in December.

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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