The school bond issue has failed but the quest to improve school facilities will continue, Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton told the school board Monday evening.
There may even be another bond election in the future, but not before 2020. “You can only do one bond per calendar year,” he said.
After the final results were available from last Thursday’s mail-ballot election, Thexton said, there were 544 more “no” votes than “yes” votes for Question One, which sought nearly $42 million in bonds for improvements of school facilities. A second question, seeking an addition $3 million for a new gym at Great Bend Middle School, failed with an overall difference of 1,271 votes.
Thexton said his next step will be to meet with the architects and with bond specialists Piper Jaffray and learn what other school districts have done in this situation. He said the administration also wants to get feedback from the community including “what would make them vote 'yes' vs. vote 'no'" on a future proposal.
He already knows the cost was a factor.
“We get it — we’re all taxpayers,” Thexton said. “We want to put together something that is agreeable to the majority of the community.”
As he did Thursday night, Thexton thanked community members who participated in the process and promised the district will continue to strive for excellence in educating students.
While the election outcome wasn’t the one the administration and board members wanted, Thexton said they learned a lot. The architects have done their job helping with the creation of a master plan. They have been paid and it won’t cost any more to have the firm continue to advise the district on the plan.
“We’ll come back to the board,” Thexton said, indicating there may be another bond proposal after more is learned about what is most wanted. “It’s all of us together trying to figure the process out.”
Board member Cheryl Rugan summed it up on a positive note: “So, we’re going to take a lesson from the Great Bend High School football team ...”
Thexton liked the reference to Friday’s GBHS 13-10 overtime football victory over the Andover Trojans. He nodded and finished her sentence ... “Don’t give up.”
Contributions and grants
In action items Monday, the board approved contributions and grants to the district:
• GBHS Future Farmers of America (FFA) received a $500 grant contribution from Smartsource Solutions for auto-darkening welding helmets.
• GBHS StuCo received a $1,000 grant contribution from a local business that wishes to remain anonymous.
• The GBHS Class of 1969 donated a total of $840 to three GBHS clubs. The Vocational Technology Club, Robotics, and The Panther Paw Shoppe will each receive $280.
• Park Elementary will receive $50 from Benefit Management LLC for the Park Drone Club; $22.40 from Great American Opportunities for fundraiser profit incentives; and $228 from Bill Zimmer designated for classroom supplies.
The board approved the purchase of three new fleet vehicles to accommodate travel for situations such as team travel and teacher travel to out-of-town professional events. A 10-passenger Ford Transit van was purchased from Marmie Ford for $32,349 and two nine-passenger Chevrolet Suburbans were purchased from Marmie Chevrolet Buick GMC for $42,613.64 each. Vehicles they replaced will be used elsewhere in the district.
Assistant Superintendent John Popp reported that all teaching positions in the district have been filled in some manner. There were no new hires on the agenda. Some of the positions were filled with long-term substitutes or with teachers who have provisional certification, and school psychologist positions are being covered by other support staff.
Popp said the district continues to provide new teachers with mentors and struggling teachers are also provided with tools and resources to help them become stronger and more effective teachers. That includes coaching support and extra professional development opportunities.
“We hope to minimize the turnover,” he said.
Popp described the pool of available teachers are “minimal” and noted the turnover rate for teachers in Kansas may be on the rise. Conventional wisdom had that rate at around 10% for many years, but USD 428 saw 11.69% turnover a year ago and 12.5% this past year.
Meeting at a glance
Here’s a quick look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting:
• The board approved the purchase of three new fleet vehicles at government rate quotes to accommodate travel for situations such as team travel and teacher travel to out-of-town professional events. A 10-passenger Ford Transit van was purchased from Marmie Ford for $32,349 and two nine-passenger Chevrolet Suburbans were purchased from Marmie Chevrolet Buick GMC for $42,613.64 each. Vehicles they replaced will be used elsewhere in the district.
• Great Bend High School Director of Band Grant Mathews and Director of Orchestra Isaac Enochs received permission for a trip to Kansas City, Mo., during spring break. The district will provide transportation.
• GBHS Cheer Coach Amber Lucchesi and Dance Coach Lindsay received approval for the GBHS spirit squads to participate in competitions.
• The board was informed and the public notified the Title VI B and ECH budget, which covers salaries for licensed special education staff salaries. The budget application will be available for public view at the Barton County Cooperative of Special Education for the next 30 days.
• Site council members for the 2019-2020 school year were approved.
• Assistant Superintendent John Popp and Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser gave reports on immunization requirement, Kansas Reading Roadmap,the district’s mentoring program for new teachers and other topics.
• Superintendent Khris Thexton discussed the bond campaign results. The superintendent’s report also included information on the start of school, school open houses, enrollment, the Attendance Awareness Campaign, Suicide Prevention Month and Week, Great Bend Reading Initiative Kick-off, Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet, Homecoming activities on Sept. 20, Kansas Association of School Boards Fall Regional Roundtable on Sept. 24 at Stafford, Fire Safety and Awareness Week and Bus Safety Week.
• Contributions and grants were approved.
• The board met in executive session to discuss an individual employee’s contract.