With the proverbial clock ticking on the Newton Board of Education, structure of the community vision team — as well as input sought — was addressed at a work session prior to Monday's board meeting.
Looking at a schedule targeting Oct. 22 as a date having a bond issue (with paperwork ready to be submitted to the state) together, there is a condensed amount of time for the board to meet with the community vision team. For that reason, DLR Group architects Kevin Greischar recommended joint meetings between the board and team to streamline the flow of information shared.
Before those meetings are held, the makeup of the community vision team has to be decided. While a model of representation was put forth at the last board meeting, names and nominations were asked for on Monday in order to put that group together prior to the first proposed joint meeting on Aug. 27.
District staff and the Newton branch of the National Education Association both submitted their recommendations, while Superintendent Deb Hamm said both the Newton Chamber of Commerce and city commission will be meeting later this week to select their nominees.
Additionally, Hamm said she had updated members of the previous vision team about current work and four (Liz Gunn, Mallory Morton, Stacey Musser and Molly Schauf) had responded back with an interest to continue those efforts. With the board having two nominations itself, both Morton and Musser were put forth as candidates to serve on the vision team — though seeking out the "naysayers" of the bond was also encouraged to bring some balance to the process.
"I don't want this just to be our cheerleaders," said board member Angela Becker.
Seeking a good cross-section to represent the community, Jason Mitchell and Joe Solomon were added to the board's list of nominations — as both raised numerous questions during the last bond issue — as well as Barbara and Larry Lee.
Given that list, Hamm noted she will reach out to the nominees and see how the vision team can be put together (along with the other nominees and perspectives the board wants to be represented — i.e. members from each level of schools) prior to the first joint meeting scheduled for Aug. 27.
Meeting with the vision team jointly, the idea is for all members (board and otherwise) represented to outline their top priorities on a bond issue to shape what will ultimately be submitted from USD 373. Ideally, Greischar said those priorities could be outlined at the first meeting, with the idea that once a construction manager at-risk is hired prior to the next meeting (Sept. 10) that party could help attach a cost figure to those priorities to help shape the bond issue even further.
"One of the big three things in the post-mortem survey was everyone wanted to feel more comfortable about numbers, about design," Greischar said. "If you start laying out priorities, there is a cap on the dollars you're going to spend."
From there, Greischar said the board and vision team could work towards a target date to get the community on board with a narrowed down list of the top five priorities that fit within a dollar limit agreed upon to be acceptable — though any action taken this year will likely rely on bond failures in the upcoming general election this November (with a number going to vote in school districts across the state).
If a number of bonds do fail and USD 373 is ready to submit its bond issue to the state by Nov. 7, then Greischar predicts the district will be ready to head down the campaign pathway in 2019.
Class size and the future of Walton were some potential priorities brought up by the board leading into the start of work with the vision team, while how much those priorities are set before discussion starts was also addressed. Given the feedback the board has heard through Railer Roundtables regarding needs at the high school and safety/security measures, there was a thought that those get slotted in as the top two and a good starting point.
"After that, we can kind of work with the community vision team on other priorities," said board president Matt Treaster.
"I just want us to keep an open mind about what priorities we are going to discuss," Becker said.
Being open to that input is seen as key in helping get to another bond issue, while board members also requested a way to reach the entire USD 373 community (via survey) to get feedback once this process starts to add to the data the school board is working with moving forward — almost a pretest, as Toby Tyner put it, to gauge the direction the board is heading and if it lines up with community expectations.
Right now, the school board is heading towards an initial meeting with the community vision team at 7 p.m. Aug 27.
In other business, the Newton BOE:
Heard a budget report from Director of Business Services Matt Morford and approved the 2018-2019 budget for publication as presented.
Approved the consent agenda, including an athletic services agreement, Slate Creek cabling upgrade, disposal of Cooper Early Education Center items and more.
Approved the 2018-2019 handbooks for Newton High School, Chisholm Middle School and classified staff, as well as substitutes.
Approved the board policy changes as recommended, tabling two items until next month and retaining the board's current policy on professional development.
Approved a gift request of $5,000 to Walton Rural Life Center from Central Kansas Community Foundation for student and building needs.
Approved the new Parent Educator job description as presented.
Discussed an appointment to Newton Recreation Commission following the recent resignation of James Wimmer, who vacated a four-year term expiring in 2019. While it was noted current policy is to have an employee of the district serve on the NRC board, the question was posed if a school board member could fill that term, with the item designated to come back before the board on Sept. 10.
Heard an update on a potential joint meeting with the Newton City Commission, with commissioners requesting to meet with two board members prior to discuss a potential agenda for the meeting.