USD 413 held its annual welcome dinner for new teachers to the district in conjunction with the Board of Education’s regular September meeting Tuesday evening at Chanute Elementary School.
Chanute High School’s culinary students served the dinner. The CES fifth grade leadership class was also introduced to the board by CES assistant principal Brooke Wire. The fifth graders had to go through an application process to be let into the class, having to get teacher recommendations as well as applying. CES Principal Eric Hoops said that last year’s leadership class selected the new students themselves, going through 58 applications for what ended up as a class of 12.
A focus of the meeting was preparing for the long-term future, and putting plans in place to allow for consistency.
Dustin Avey, managing director of public finance investment banking for Piper Jaffray, presented the possibility of refinancing some bonds since interest rates have dropped. He said that using conservative estimates at the current rates, the district could net approximately $435,000 in savings after expenses over the life of the bonds. The board unanimously approved authorization for the firm to move forward to get a bond rating for the district, secure final interest rates that will include the final savings, and market the bonds to investors. Results of the bond offering will be presented at the Oct. 7 meeting of the school board.
The authorization will allow Avey’s company to lock in a final rate. In the event that rates change and the savings of refinancing would be less than the current 3.73 percent, the firm would ensure it still made sense to refinance.
Superintendent Kellen Adams said that it would create more financial flexibility in the future for the district.
“It creates options down the road about what’s possible in 2023,” he said. “We will have more options paying it forward with decisions like this.”
Assistant Superintendent Matt Koester discussed safety matters with the board. He said that the communication and security systems in the schools were becoming out-of-date. He would like to see a comprehensive system that would include building paging, bell schedules, security systems and alarms. A cohesive system could potentially also have remote access for emergencies and ease of use. Revamping the exterior doors to the schools would also be an upgrade that Koester would like to see to improve safety. The last upgrades were done in a manner that had some cost savings in mind.
“It’s not hard (to do the upgrades),” Koester said. “It’s time consuming and costly.”
Adams noted that the upgrades would take money, but felt that there was nothing more important than safety on which to spend money. Board members unanimously agreed, with board member Ross Hendrickson mentioning that with how much pride USD 413 took in its buildings, they should have the security systems in place to match.
“We should be a leader in the state of Kansas when it comes to handling security,” he said. “It is time to be aggressive with a macro approach to the safety of our schools, not a band-aid approach.”
Koester also presented a draft of a new out-of-district transfer packet. He and fellow assistant superintendent Tracy Maring developed the packet after a situation early in the school year showed that the current process for incoming transfers was not working. In the past, administrations in the districts had been consistent enough that it had not been an issue for them to do things as they always had, according to Koester. With all of the changes in administrative staff, it became apparent that a consistent system needed to be put in place.
“We want processes that outlast our people,” Adams said. “We are looking for consistency.”
Maring demonstrated the next step in assisting students to plan their futures with new software Xello that will replace the system the district used previously. It is a website designed to imitate social media, with options for students to personalize their profiles. Students can take quizzes that gauge their interests and learning styles and help match them with potential careers. The site has information regarding those careers, as well as profiles on colleges and technical schools. There is also a portfolio aspect for the student profiles where they can add experiences such as volunteer work, and the software helps students write a resume they can use for employers and colleges.
Maring said that students will have access to their Xello profiles for the rest of their lives. Board member Cassie Cleaver suggested that parental communication about the program be considered.
Adams also asked the board for appointments to the negotiation committees for early retirement and supplemental contracts as outlined in the negotiated agreement between the board and the teachers union. He and Rose Fox, the teachers union president, will be co-chairs for the committee. He proposed nominating the high school athletic director for the supplemental contracts. The committees plan to meet once a month to discuss the contracts.
“There will be a lot of work to be done between September and March,” Adams said.
No other nominations were made at the meeting, with board members requesting time to think about it.
The board also requested more time to consider a paraprofessional evaluation tool that is more in line with the rest of the district’s classified staff. They requested feedback from the paras themselves, in addition to exploring what other districts use.
USD 413 adopted a policy in 2011 that prohibits teachers receiving pay to tutor or provide private instruction at school unless first approved by the board. Mendy Burnett wrote the board to request permission to use her classroom for morning and afterschool piano lessons, and Teri Lund requested the use of the RMS gym for fitness classes. Both were approved.
The board accepted the retirement of Royster Middle School Teacher Heidi Bolt. Ryan Bearrick resigned as the forensics assistant and Julie Dillow resigned as a paraprofessional at CES. The board voted to employ Janzen Hall as the head cheerleading coach for Chanute High School. Wendy Jones will take over as the CHS chess club sponsor and Molly Smith will sponsor Kays at RMS.