Coming back up for final approval, the Newton Board of Education addressed Capital Outlay requests for 2018-2019 in the first meeting of the new year on Monday.
Going over the items included on the list, Superintendent Deb Hamm noted both the superintendent's council and support team met before and after the winter break trying to make the final rulings on what should ultimately be funded and put into the final recommendation to the school board.
Making those decisions, Hamm noted five key points were focused on including life safety, infrastructure, equipment, impact and instructional usage.
Director of Business Services Matt Morford noted there was a genuine effort made to make sure all district buildings got something through Capital Outlay — a goal which was met — with a common theme emerging.
"As usual on the list, it's tech heavy," Morford said.
For 2018-2019, $2,088,082 was budgeted for Capital Outlay requests. While the bulk may have been outlined for items like wireless infrastructure upgrades and new devices, Morford noted once final revenue numbers are received from the state and the county — and any savings from actual versus projected costs can be applied (which he said is likely with competitive bidding on tech items) — some of the unfunded projects could be revisited by the board.
Potentially, Morford noted the school board could also use some of the those funds and start looking down the road at some bigger picture needs that could be funded through Capital Outlay.
"Another option that we have this year is we could use whatever we say from the $2 million that we have budgeted and start to earmark that for a new track surface out at the middle school and/or a new practice field out at the high school since those wouldn't be covered in a bond issue," Morford said. "We could start to build those up over the next three to five years and address those needs."
New board members did raise questions about potential overlap regarding funding through Capital Outlay and through a bond issue as an alternative means of action. Specifically, Angela Becker asked if some of the items denied funding — like requests for new bleachers in the Ravenscroft Gym at Newton High School — through Capital Outlay could potentially be addressed through a bond issue
"As long is it's used for classroom space, those things can be included," Hamm said.
Hamm did note there were several items the council had a tough time given up on — but items like what Becker brought up were tabled because of the potential to be folded into a bond issue.
What comes of a potential bond for USD 373, though, could play a major role in the look of Capital Outlay requests in years to come. Hamm noted many safety and security items were weighed on the merits of what needed to be purchased immediately as compared to what could be delayed — but the district may not have that same luxury as early as next year.
"If we do not move forward with a bond or are not successful, we have needs at the high school and from other areas that just need to start being a priority," Hamm said.
Clearly, as Hamm pointed out, there is not a lack of projects for the district to work on funding. Board member Toby Tyner also questioned if there were any opportunities for partial funding of projects to help meet more requests.
Morford noted that approach was used in regards to a push for security cameras at Chisholm Middle school — with funding being allotted for four instead of the requested 12, due to lighting issues — and said the district could easily tack onto minor, underfunded projects once the final revenue numbers are received. Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the recommended Capital Outlay request for 2018-2019.
In other business, the Newton Board of Education:
Heard a report from Rep. Tim Hodge on the first day of the Kansas Legislative session, noting a rough timeline is being established to drive action on the issue of school funding.
Received certificates honoring the commitment and service of school board members, as part of School Board Recognition Month.
Learned how district teachers who attended the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference this summer are applying some of the lessons learned — ranging from online tools and resources to the maker movement and more — in the classroom and among fellow educators.
Heard a report from NEA President Cathlina Bergman on the discussion of upcoming projects as well as a looming vote on the newest version of the negotiated teacher salary agreement slated for Jan. 15.
Approved a membership for the district with the South Central Kansas System of Cooperating Libraries.
Approved Allen Jantz as the board representative to serve on the vocational advisory board, Jennifer Budde as representative for the district wellness committee, and Angela Becker and Toby Tyner as representatives for the negotiations team.
Discussed goal-setting among the new collective board on priorities for the district's comprehensive plan. It was also noted that electronic surveys to get feedback on the bond vote are now available online and will be live until Jan. 19.
Set dates of Jan. 19 and Jan. 29 as options for the board retreat to host members of the Kansas Association of School Boards and gain more information on potential key topics like goals, roles, communication/trust, team-building, etc.
Entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Newton Murals and Arts Project to assist in the initiative focused on the beautification of downtown Newton.
Approved a donation of $1,742.29 from the Newton Booster Club to Chisholm Middle School for new wrestling uniforms, as well as two $500 donations from Seed Research Equipment Solutions and Cox Machine and a $1,000 donation from Park Aerospace to RaileRobotics for competition expenses.
Learned of the current review and analysis that has been ongoing regarding potential adjustments to the 2017 Kansas ELA Standards, with Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Sheila Wendling noting some minor tweaks are under consideration.
Heard the initial numbers of the Kansas State Department of Education audit from Morford, who noted using last year's head count the enrollment numbers are slightly down, with full-time equivalency down 7.4 students in 2017-2018. However, Morford noted the majority of that decrease (calculated through weightings of vocational, virtual school students, etc.) was due to a shift in the number of at-risk students, making it a fairly clean audit overall.
Received a number of potential options from the calendar committee for the 2018-2019 school year, with final approval being recommended by February.