Almost immediately after being elected to the State House of Representatives last fall, Newton school board member Tim Hodge made his intention to resign known to district administration and his fellow board members. Given the comprehensive planning and potential bond project USD 373 was working through, though, he noted he wanted to do so when the time was right.
That time came on Monday night, as Hodge officially tendered his resignation as a board member near the close of the meeting.
"I'm sorry to say I have to resign. I just have too many hats," Hodge said. "I appreciate my time extensively on this board. It's been great. We've gotten through some hard times. We've helped out kids. We've helped out teachers. We've helped out the community, and it's been great. I've enjoyed it thoroughly."
Balancing duties in the State Legislature with those as a member of the Newton school board have created a difficult situation, and led Hodge to seek out the right moment to step down.
Hodge noted he is very grateful for the group he has gotten to work with, including fellow board members, school personnel and administrative staff, noting continual amazement at what they are able to accomplish.
"I've got three kids in the district. I've got a wife who works in the district. It's just incredible all the things the team does all the time, not just for my kids and family," Hodge said, "but for everybody. It does not go unnoticed."
Given the period of turmoil in which Hodge joined the school board back in 2011, dealing with the resignation of a superintendent, he noted it has been all the more impressive seeing the board and district staff grow together and face the challenges that have come in the following years.
Chief among those has been public school funding, and Hodge noted he will continue to fight that battle in his role as a legislator to, hopefully, continue to best serve the district.
"We've gone up and done and up again regarding school funding. We're trying to get that on track, given all the needs the public school system has, and there's a lot," Hodge said. "We don't have the luxury of picking our students. We get what we get and we educate them to the best of our abilities; that's what our teachers and our staff do."
To get on track, Hodge noted it is important not to fight amongst each other or "arrange the chairs on the Titanic." Rather, he said, those who are looking out for the school have to rally together against those who would oppose increases to school funding — something he intends to do as House Representative for District 72, and something which his fellow board members will continue to support.
"I appreciate your service on this board. I appreciate your continued service in the legislature, and I look forward to continuing to work together as we are able," said board member Steve Richards.
Unanimously, the board voted to accept Hodge's resignation and approve a notice of vacancy for his position to be filled no sooner than 15 days from publication, though it was agreed to address filling that position (a term expiring in 2020) as an agenda item at the next school board meeting.
In other business, the Newton school board:
Held a hearing on the construction manager at-risk process, with no public comment.
Heard a report on the Career and Technical Education Pathways from Melinda Rangel, noting the numerous pathways offered (including this year's new early childhood and development services and new web design class), college credit offered to students through the program, growing number of professional learning experiences and the continued recognition of both students (with nine CTE scholars this past year) and teachers (i.e. Kansas CTE Teacher of the Year Mike McConnell).
Approved the consent agenda, including the treasurer's report, personnel report and payment of bills.
Approved a new five-year agreement between Newton High School and Adidas America Inc. that require NHS athletics to exclusively wear Adidas uniforms during competition, though equipment purchased individually would be up to the discretion of student-athletes, who would also have the opportunity to purchase Adidas apparel at discounted prices through the agreement.
Approved the construction manager at-risk as the alternative delivery method on the bond project.
Approved a release for request for qualifications of construction manager at-risk services, in regards to the bond proposal, through DLR Group and public notice.
Approved filling the position vacated by former school board member Renee Erickson by appointing the top vote getter of the November 2017 election. If none of the elected chose to fill the position early, the board agreed to address the vacancy again after the November election.
Heard an update on the comprehensive planning and bond campaign regarding continued dissemination of information on the bond project and the speaking engagements Superintendent Deb Hamm has scheduled, including a formal presentation planned for 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the McKinley Administrative Center.
Accepted donations of $500 from the GenYouth Foundation for Slate Creek Elementary to support Fuel Up to Play 60 activities and $1,244.72 from the Northridge PTO for Northridge Elementary to purchase fitness bands for all students.
Learned of background checks USD 373 has started performing on volunteers in district schools.
Received information on an Employee Assistance program the district is looking into implementing to give staff the tools to resolve personal problems through confidential counseling.
Discussed reinstating the Employee Wellness Benefit program in the form of a $75 benefit toward membership at the Newton YMCA or Newton Activity Center, with an additional reduction to the joiner fee (specific to the YMCA), with the goal of promoting a healthier staff. Currently, 150 of 650 staff are members of the Newton YMCA.