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USD 428 buys activity buses
New Visa rewards going to parents
New_slt more bus side photo.jpg
This photo shows the style of bus purchased Monday by the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education. Graphics for two Panther activity buses will be added after they arrive in Great Bend in the coming weeks.

Two new “Coachliner-style” buses will replace older activity buses at Great Bend USD 428. The school board approved the $435,800 purchase Monday.

Superintendent Khris Thexton said the district received four bids but only two met the specs, which included increased seating capacity. Of those two, the low bidder was Master’s Transportation from Ozark, Mo., at $217,900 per bus.

The buses they will replace are 2000 and 2001 models that were purchased used in 2006. USD 428 Transportation Director Cody Schmidt traveled to Springfield, Mo., to inspect the buses and also managed to negotiate some upgrades, such as a black exterior and 19-inch seats vs. 17-inch seats.

Garden City and Liberal schools have similar activity buses and Schmidt said while the models “won’t win any races” they do fine on the highways for long trips. The seats have individual seat belts but it will be up to the board whether to create a policy that requires students to wear them. Other amenities include USB ports for wireless devices and screens that allow passengers to see the same view as the driver has through the front windshield.

The buses should be delivered in eight to 10 weeks and Panther graphics will be added here. The old buses will be sold by auction at Thexton said buses will be sold “as is” once the graphics are removed. “The parts are hard to come by and they’re very expensive,” but someone may want the buses, he said.

Money for this purchase comes from the capital outlay fund.

The other bidder that met specs was National Bus Sales in Tulsa, for $465,020. 

Athletes, board members recognized

Monday’s meeting began with recognition of school board members and student athletes.

Thexton noted that January is School Board Recognition Month and each board member was given a pie.

The athletes recognized were seventh graders from Great Bend Middle School. They were Western Athletic Conference champions in cross country, volleyball and girls basketball.

New Visa rewards going to parents

The board also voted to cancel a Visa account through Intrust Bank with four cards used for district travel, including making hotel reservations. The administration requested and received a board resolution authoring a new Visa card account issued from Bank of the West. The bank has a Great Bend location and also offers a cash-back reward that will work better for the school district.

“We looked for a card with better rewards, more flexibility,” Thexton said. “The more you use it, the more your rewards grow.” Bank of the West will cut a check periodically for the rewards and the district plans to use that money to offset the fee now charged to USD 428 patrons who use their credit cards for online enrollment.

Other action

In other action Monday:

• The board approved Katie Zimmerman to fill a teacher representative vacancy on the USD 428 Education Foundation Board of Trustees. She teaches special education at Jefferson Elementary and replaces Josh Allman. Tina Mingenback will fulfill the community member position vacated by MelEesa Stueder.

• The board had a first reading of policy updates and the 2020-2021 school calendar. Teachers preferred a calendar where school starts Aug. 22 and ends May 26. Thexton said the Kansas Board of Regents universities no longer take spring break at the same time, which makes scheduling difficult; the district will continue to take spring break at the same time as Barton Community College.

• The board approved a list of fundraiser requests from parent-teacher organizations for 2019-2020. The policy attempts to reduce overlapping fundraiser and prohibits door-to-door sales.

• Two contributions were approved. Insurance Planning Inc. donated $500 for “gifts and grants” and CUNA Mutual donated $2,000 to the Great Bend High School Vocational Tech Club for its electric car.

• The board approved a teaching contract from Kerri Batman, who came out of retirement this month to teach family and consumer science (again) at GBHS.

Assistant Superintendent John Popp reported that recruiting quality teachers in becoming more difficult. 

“We know we hire about 30 new teachers each year,” Popp told the school board. That is about 10 percent of the total number of teachers in the district. Until now, the district has only hired teachers when there was a specific opening. However, there is competition for good teachers and Popp said “the best candidates are hired early, between February and April.” Going forward, the district may offer a contract to, for example, an elementary school teacher even though a specific classroom does not yet have an opening.

“It’s a little bit of a different approach,” he said, as the head office will have more of the input that previously came from building principals.