When the new Unified School District 428 School Board takes over July 1, there will be two familiar faces absent.
During the board’s Meeting Monday night at the District Education Center, Jean Cavanagh and Dave Holste said they will not seek another term. Cavanaugh, who is retired, has served for 32 years and Holste, a local accountant, for eight.
"I’ll just bug you from the sidelines,"Cavanaugh said to those she leaves behind. She’s enjoyed about 98 percent of her time on the board and 98 percent of those with whom she’s worked.
"We haven’t had the fights like they have had in other communities," she said. "People here feel free to speak out."
Also, she commended the residents of the district. "The community really supports this school system."
"It’s been very educational," Holste said. Serving has given him an insight into education. "It has really opened my eyes."
"You both have contributed greatly," board President Dwight Young said. "This is a volunteer position and it does take some commitment."
Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said county offices will remain open for board candidate filings until noon Jan. 25 for the election to be held April 15. If there are enough filings in a particular office that a primary is required, that will be held on March 1.
In other action, the USD 428 School Board:
• Heard an update on the possible challenges USD 428, and other school districts in the state, could face due to the state’s budget crisis. Estimates are that Kansas could see a $550 million shortfall. Schools could see funding cuts this year (possibly as much as $358,500) and even more next year (up to nearly $1.5 million). USD 428 is looking at tapping reserves and other cost-cutting measures.
• Heard a report on the recently approved Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which is designed to promote more healthful meals and increase the number of students who have access to meals. In order to meet the act’s federal mandates, USD 428 will have to raise its full-paid meal prices 10 cents each year until the total makes up for the difference between paid and free-meal reimbursements rates.
• Continued its discussion on the possibility of establishing seventh-grade competitive sports at Great Bend Middle School. As it is now, seventh graders have only instructional, intramural sports, which cost about $32,000 for football, volleyball and basketball. Competitive sports at the eighth grade level cost over $50,000 (including meals, travel, coaching and equipment). There are problems with finding teams to fill out a schedule and with finding times and places to practice. However, the matter and other options (such as allowing seventh graders to play on eighth-grade teams) are being studied. It was also mentioned that it may be hard to justify the additional cost at a time when funding is tight.
Some parents brought up the idea to the board in December, saying it would improve high school teams.
• Approved the district audit done by Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball. The financial statements earned an "unqualified opinion," the highest possible. The district did a good job of increasing cash balances. There were a few minor problems, such as the timely depositing of activity receipts and an outstanding uncashed payroll check, but these matters are being addressed.
• Approved the look of a plaque that will contain the list of names included in the small brass plaques placed at GBHS Memorial Stadium when it was first built in the 1950s. The new 4x8-foot sign will contain all the names (including many veterans), a picture of the old bleachers and a short description of what the names mean. It will be located in the covered hallway between the Panther Athletic Center and the weight room on the south side of the stadium. The small plates were sold to raise money for the original stands.
• Presented Board Assistant Clerk Patty Vratil with a Recognizing Outstanding Support of Education Award for her service to the board. She prepares minutes, notifies the media of meetings and acts as a go-between for the Board and district administrators.
• Learned teachers and administrators will put more emphasis on students taking and doing better on the American College Testing (ACT).
• Learned of a grant that will provide two-and-a-half days of free training to district personnel on how to combat bullying.
• Was told the district is looking at the possibility of offering at least one virtual (on-line) course to Great Bend High School students to give them an idea about what the future of education might hold.
• Approved the federal E-Rate funding, which helps pay for Internet and telecommunications costs schools. Last year’s discount was 76 percent, but the total for this school year has not been determined.
• Approved accepting a $2,000 gift from Mike and Margaret Sheppard to be used by the GBHS Activities Department.
• Approved an amended Barton County Cooperative of Special Services Agreement, covering special education. The co-op service area had included Claflin. However, with Claflin consolidating with the Lorraine school district forming Central Plains USD 112, the newly formed district is seeking to have the Salina coop handle special education. The new agreement excludes Claflin.
• Approved a revised policy on reporting child abuse.