The Newton USD 373 Board of Education approved adding two positions, including a position in the district office.
The district will move forward with hiring a communications director/public information officer — a position that went unfilled several years ago.
Six years ago, upon the resignation of the public information officer, the recommendation was to not fill that position. At the time, the reason cited was the state financial condition and the outlook for continued budget cuts. The district simply did not refill the position when it was vacated.
“Considering the times we were in, we were a budget-cutting time,” said Deb Hamm, superintendent of schools. “I felt it was something we could have handled it in-house. The needs of the community and social media have done nothing but increase.”
Last year the board discussed the hiring of a communications director. At that time, no recommendation was made and no action was taken. Administration chose to revisit the issue with the board this month, in part due to recommendations from a comprehensive planning process, a communications audit and feedback from the community on the November bond election.
Hamm contacted local agencies and nearby school districts to ascertain local wages for like positions. The wage range for the City of Newton is $33.81 to $45.75. At Andover, the position is paid approximately $65,000; Maize is $66,807; and Haysville is $76,007.
“Where is this money coming from, how will it affect the budget,” asked Jennifer Budde, member of the board. “We talk a lot about communications. I want to make sure that by hiring this person we are not slapping a band-aid on a problem.”
After assistant superintendent Russ Miller resigned at the end of last year, positions and duties were realigned. There is funding available as a result. Adding a communications person would not require new funding.
The district will begin the process of advertising this position with the intent to hire a person for the position sometime between May and July 1.
In addition, the board approved hiring a groundskeeper — filling a position that was not necessarily cut, but unfilled. The groundskeeper would maintain the exterior grounds for eight buildings —Cooper, Northridge, Slate Creek, South Breeze, Sunset, Walton, Santa Fe, and Chisholm. Last year, a custodial position was realigned to provide a groundskeeper for Newton High School.
Additional summer help for maintaining the grounds during the growing season will support the position. A salary range was not discussed at the board meeting.
In other business the board:
• Met in executive session to discuss non-elected personnel.
• Approved the transportation guidelines and enrollment form for 2018-19.
• Approved the 2017 Math Standards.
• Revised Board of Education meeting dates for the remainder of 2017-18.
• Received an update on academic redesign efforts at Chisholm Middle School.
• Accepted a donation of $500 from SME on behalf the Newton High School RaileRobotics program for competition expenses.
• Accepted a donation of steel valued at $3,500 from Kuhn-Krause, Inc. on behalf of the Newton High School agriculture shop classes.
• Approved Student Fees for 2018-19, which will remain the same as they were in 2017-18.
• Discussed Railer Academy and alternative school options in the district.
• Approved the adoption of 9-12 English language resources at a cost of about $36,263.
• Approved the use of an arbiter to pay sports official
• Approved the Parents as Teachers program to provide mental health consultation services to parent educators who serve parents/caregivers in need of such intervention. The district will enter into an agreement with Prairie View to provide services for up to three hours per month, every other month, at an amount not to exceed $125.00 per hour. Funding for this agreement comes from the district’s Parents as Teachers Grant. Administration will present a final recommendation to the board at the April 9 board meeting.
• Met in executive session to discuss negotiations.