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HOME OF THE BRAVES AND THE TWISTERS

District Report on the Recommendation to Close Schools
and Reconfigure Attendance Center

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

            In August of 2013, the USD 417 Board of Education established three goals and directed the district leadership to develop plans to achieve these goals.  Goal 1 was to “Identify opportunities to increase revenue and reallocate resources to meet student needs and facility improvement”.  From this goal, a list of priorities was developed.  One of the stated priorities established by the Board is to provide long-term financial stability to our school district.  The Board defined long-term stability to mean at least 10 years or longer.  To this end, work that began discussing immediate needs for all of our children turned to include the idea of a broader look at efficiencies and resource allocation for our school district.  This report summarizes the data and information shared with the Board of Education from the past year’s work. 

  • The Board of Education and the district Superintendent’s primary responsibility is to provide for the educational and social/emotional needs for all children in the school district.
  • Money is the primary tool available to the Board of Education and Superintendent to help the district meet the educational and social/emotional needs of all students.
  • On Monday, November 10, 2014 the state of Kansas Consensus revenue Estimating Group released the following information:
    • The state will have an estimated shortfall of revenue for the current 2015 fiscal year amounting to $279 million dollars.
    • The state will have an estimated shortfall of revenue for the 2016 fiscal year of $436 million dollars.
    • Expenses for public education make up 50% of the state’s general fund budget.
    • Over 65% of the USD 417 funding for operating our school district comes from the state.
  • USD 417 has approximately $2 million dollars in capital project and transportation needs identified in the district’s 5-year maintenance plan.
  • USD 417 has had a declining student enrollment for over 20 years.  Current projections show this decline will continue into the coming years.
  • Our district per pupil spending in 2013 shows the following:
    • $10,026 per pupil at CGES
    • $7,984 per pupil at CGMS
    • $9,841 per pupil at CGHS
    • $11,917 per pupil at PHES
    • $12,198 per pupil at PHMS
  • Our students and teachers would benefit from restructuring our resources in the following ways:
    • Better paid teachers and staff
    • Additional counseling help
    • Full time technology coordinator and further investment in technology
    • Continuing our commitment to pre-school for all children and enlarging and recreating our after school program for our students
  • Proposed Plan
    • Close the Dwight facility and move our students to the facility in Alta Vista.  All teachers remain the same for these students.  Savings - $122,000
    • Close the CGMS facility and moving all 7th & 8th grade students from CGMS and PHMS to the Council Grove High School facility.  Potential savings - $52,000 
    • Make the CGHS a 7-12 facility.  Potential savings - $157,000

INTRODUCTION:

While it is not the only resource for public schools, money (finances) is the primary resource that makes virtually all other resources possible.  A school district’s resources are used exclusively for the benefit of students, whether that is for attracting and hiring licensed staff (teachers/administrators) or classified staff (secretaries, custodians, cooks, etc.), materials and supplies (textbooks, technology, paper & copiers, etc.), programs (curricular or extra-curricular), transportation, professional development, or facilities.  One of the primary responsibilities for both the superintendent and the Board of Education is to efficiently and effectively allocate these resources for the benefit of ALL students. 

I emphasize ALL because there are approximately 760 students in the Morris County School District.  Effectively and efficiently allocating these resources can have a significant impact on the educational and social/emotional development of our students.  Throughout this process of reviewing the allocation of financial and human resources, the BOE has spoken about our students on numerous occasions.  The crux of these conversations involved how the district can provide the absolute best opportunities for ALL students in what are financially difficult times.  Later in this document you will see specifically the choices the BOE has been weighing as they determine the best use of our financial resources.

OUR ALLOCATION OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES

PART ONE:  REVENUES AND BUDGET FUNDS
For the general operation of our school district, there are four primary sources of revenue.  These are the district’s general fund, supplemental (Local Option Budget), federal allocations (Title programs and food service program), and the capital outlay fund.  I will not address our federal funds as these are essentially out of our control.  The food service funding is based on meals served and the income levels of our student families.  It is a “user based” program.  We did make cuts to staffing this year to continue our efforts to balance this fund as historically we have subsidized the food service program from our general fund to the tune of $58,000 on average.  Our Title funding is also primarily a headcount and income based program.  I do want to say that our district is fortunate to qualify for a Small Rural School Grant that provides close to $25,000 for professional development activities for our teaching staff. 

            Our capital outlay fund is the primary resource the district uses to address facility needs.  Our district operates 5 school facilities for approximately 760 students.  The district levies 5.996 mills for our capital outlay needs.  This generates $374,574, including state aid (note that there are other sources of annual income for the capital outlay fund as well), but this is a little misleading.  One mill was designated by the BOE to be used for technology needs for the district.  Additionally, this year the BOE increased the capital outlay fund by another 2 mills in order to generate an additional $125,000 in order to cover any potential state budget cuts due to insufficient state revenues (see attachment A).

A quick look at our capital outlay plan through fiscal year 2019 shows the following facility needs:

PHES - $363,952
PHMS - $177,749
CGES – $32,500
CGMS - $85,550
CGHS - $80,500
District Sports Complex - $417,000
District Transportation and Other District Property - $895,804

In addition to the projects associated with costs listed above, there are several other identified capital projects listed in the district’s multi-year maintenance plan that we need to be aware of as they are past their projected lifespan yet are still operational.  The total cost of these maintenance projects comes to an estimated $675,000.

            As stated above, of the 5.996 mills levied for our capital outlay fund, 2 mills were added this year.  This was done due to the fact that the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the state to fully fund the state’s required payment to the Local Option Budget (LOB) of all school districts.  By doing this, our district had an opportunity to shift 2 mills that were being used for our LOB to our capital outlay fund.  In doing this we were able to increase our general operational resources by shifting to the Capital Outlay fund payments for specific expenses allowed by the state.  The hope of the BOE in doing this was to prepare for any potential cuts made by the state to public education this year.

            This essentially leaves our general and supplemental funds to discuss which is the essence of the current work of the BOE.  It is from these two funds that our district’s general operating expenses and needs are paid for.  If new programs or additional staffing are to be added, the costs come from these two funds.  The general fund derives income from the number of students who attend school in our district and the needs or programs in which they are involved.  All of these funds are allocated by the state.  The supplemental fund (LOB) derives its income from the taxes the district levies for this fund.  There is state assistance to our district for the LOB based on a sliding scale formula developed by the state.  Our district levy for the LOB is at the maximum allowed by law unless the voters approve a tax increase.

            With over 64% of our general and supplemental fund dollars coming from the state, any financial problems at the state level can directly impact our school district.  To compound the control the state now has over local schools, this past year the state legislature changed the state law such that the 20 mills collected by every school district that helps fund the general fund budget is sent to the state who then holds these local dollars until the monthly disbursement time. In attachment A, you will see the current state of affairs for our state general fund budget.  It is important to know that education expenses make up at least 50% of the state general fund budget.  

PART TWO:  ENROLLMENT
Our district has had a steady decline in enrollment for 20 years (see attachment B).  A look at our district’s enrollment projection shows that the district will continue to experience a decline in our student population in the coming years. 

Building

2004-05

2014-15

10-year % Change

KASB Projections for 2018-19

PHES

72

69

-4%

76

PHMS

60

48

-20%

46

CGES

300

278

-7%

278

CGMS

138

115

-17%

142

CGHS

325

232

-29%

180

Headcount Total

895

742*

-17%

722


*  The reason the figure is 742 rather than 760 (as per our headcount) is that these numbers do not include the 18 pre-school students for whom the district receives no state funding. 

Our declining enrollment has created the condition that there are available classrooms at Council Grove High School and a need to consider the consolidation of staffing.  It is also the case, and has been for awhile now, that our students at Prairie Heights can be consolidated into one building.  Projected savings for such a move will be shown later in this document.

PART THREE:  INITIAL FINDINGS
Last year the BOE asked me to study the efficiency of our resource allocation, which included not just finances but also personnel.  There were two primary purposes for such a study.  First, there were leftover questions the BOE had from a budget study process that began during the 2009 -10 school year.  Discussion regarding the closing of a Prairie Heights school occurred during this time period.  The second was based on identified needs that will improve the educational experience for ALL of our students which I shared with the BOE.  These needs were prioritized by the Board along with a couple of items they felt needed to be included on this list.  Let me address each of these topics separately.

            When the BOE set a goal to study the efficiency of our resource allocations (2013-14 BOE Goal 1) I was presented with a question.  The BOE wanted to know what “the trigger” was that would cause them to make the decision to close a school.  This was the lingering question from their work and decisions made in the 2010-11 school year.  In essence, the BOE did not have a clear picture of how much the district brought in through revenues and spent for each school and on a per student basis.  I then went to work on breaking out revenues and expenses for each of our schools based on the last full year of data available, the 2012-13 school year.  I will not go into the methodology in detail as this has already been covered on several occasions at BOE and community meetings.  What I will say is that expenses and revenues where broken out on a per pupil basis when appropriate, on a staffing basis when appropriate, and for services or purchases directly attributable to a specific school.

            The table below illustrates the information derived from this work.  It illustrates the difference in total revenue and expenditures on a per school and a per students basis.  As I stated at every meeting, I have been working with school budgets for over 20 years in the capacity as a superintendent of schools.  I believe that my figures are accurate based on the data in the accounting system the district had in place for the 2012-13 school year. 

 

CGES

CGMS

CGHS

PHES

PHMS

Difference per school

$227,081

$165,477

-$92,018

-$99,063

-$201,476

Difference per student

$952

$1,075

-$406

-$1,436

-$3,535

           
             Keep in mind that this is a look at a single year.  However, based on the fact that most of the expenses for our schools are in facility and personnel costs, any variance in other years would tend to be not that different.  For how many years this variance has occurred is hard for me to say.  My estimate would be at least since the state cut school funding due to the national recession in the fiscal years 2008 through 2010.  Prior to these massive state cuts, it most likely did not make much of a difference, as there were ample funds to operate 5 schools, even in a district experiencing a declining enrollment.

            So, let me clarify what this table illustrates.  The difference in revenues and expenditures on a per school basis is shown in line one.  In the case of CGES and CGMS, these buildings generated $227,081 and $165,477 more than what was spent at these locations.  Conversely, the difference for CGHS was -$92,018, at PHES was -$99,063, and at PHMS was -$201,476.  Meaning these schools essentially spent more than the revenue generated by their respective students. 

This same information was broken out on a per student basis for the BOE.  As you can see in row two in the above table, at CGES and CGMS the difference between revenues generated and expenditures on a per student basis was $952 and $1,075 respectively.  Conversely, the difference for CGHS was -$406, at PHES was -$1,436, and at PHMS was -$3,535 on a per student basis.  The short summary on this data is that in the 2012-13 school year, the district spent more to educate students at CGHS, PHES, and PHMS than we did for students at CGES and CGMS

PART FOUR: THE NEEDS OF OUR DISTRICT AND STUDENTS
            The second part of this study had to do with providing resources to help the district meet identified needs that would benefit ALL students in the district.  The top seven of these needs are as follows. (Please note that preparing for possible state cuts is not listed here but is a concern for the BOE). 

  1. Increase teacher and classified pay.  The short summary is that both of these classifications of employees are underpaid when compared to area schools and for teachers when compared to the state.  Our base pay for teachers in 2013-14 ranked at 214 in the state out of 286 school districts.   I am encouraging our BOE to try to get our teachers to the state median or the average as our people deserve to at least be paid at this level.  Establishing competitive pay and benefits allows for quality staff to be attracted to our district and encourages them to stay in our district.  On a side note, the BOE did commit the funds for a $750 increase to the pay scale base for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.  This cost the district approximately $67,600 for each year.
  2. Provide long-term stability for USD 417.  The BOE would like to put our district in a position where we do not have to keep revisiting this budget issue every few years.  This is not healthy for our communities, parents, staff or students. The Board’s stated goal is to find a way to make the necessary moves to find relief from this issue for at least 10-years or more.  The reality of this goal will certainly rest on the decisions made in the next couple months as well as decisions made at the state level in regards to the state’s shrinking revenues. 
  3. Optimize staffing efficiency.  Personnel costs comprise around 80% of our district budget.  In the years when the state first cut school funding, the school board and the superintendent at the time did a wonderful job making the district lean when it comes to spending.  However, opportunities exist to add programs and to heal the district.  In order to do this though, the key is looking at staffing efficiencies in order to get the scale of savings needed to meet our needs or to avoid program cuts if the state starts cutting spending.
  4. Add counseling help for our students.  Our district’s at-risk population has grown since our country’s recent economic downturn.  We have a need for more counseling to help children with various problems that they bring to school and which interfere with learning.  Further, state mandates calls for more counselor attention being paid to college and career planning.  We have 2 counselors for 760 students. 
  5. Conduct a thorough study and create a tech plan that can contribute to the academic achievement of our students and preparation for their future.  In addition to this, with the amount of technology that is now present in the district, we need a full time tech director, one who has network training.  We currently have a half-time tech director.  She does a good job but we also use our two school librarians and a classroom teacher to help with our school’s tech needs.  They do a wonderful job but our district would be enhanced with a full time tech director.
  6. Keep our facilities in good condition through planned and proper maintenance, upgrades, security systems, etc.  Again, the current work of the BOE is an attempt to put USD 417 in a position to meet the projected maintenance needs for our district.
  7. Add more opportunities for students to attend our PreK program and after school programs.  Changing the focus of our after school program could make this a dynamic learning opportunity for our students as well.  We will be surveying our parents to see how many children are in need of after school assistance that are currently not being served.  On a side note, for the 2014-15 school year, the BOE added an afternoon PreK session at a cost to the district of approximately $30,000.  Our goal is to provide all parents with a pre-school option if they already do not have their child in a pre-school program.

PART FIVE:  THE FORMULATION OF A PLAN
It is important to understand that the lack of the above mentioned opportunities for ALL of our children is a choice.  The cost for operating 5 school facilities and not seeking staffing efficiencies is to not provide these services for our students.  This has been understood, I believe, for many years by this and other USD 417 Boards of Education.  Throughout much of the work I did with the current BOE, the initial focus was on closing one Prairie Heights school and possibly moving our Prairie Heights students, grades 7 & 8, to the Council Grove Middle School.  The projected savings for these moves amounts to approximately $122,000 or more for the closing of a school and approximately $42,300 (reduction of one teacher) for moving our 7th and 8th grade students to CGMS.  These would be annual savings – not a one-time savings.  In talking with other superintendents, when closing a school there typically are other savings to be had that are not initially identified.  In addition to identifying these savings, I also shared with the BOE that with the projected decline for CGHS there were potential staffing efficiencies that could result in additional savings.

Once the BOE prioritized not having to address the possible closing of a school for the next 10 years, I suggested that the BOE consider reconfiguring CGHS to become a 7-12 facility.  The potential annual savings for closing the CGMS facility is approximately $52,000.  This plan would also result in the reduction of one administrative position for an annual savings of approximately $65,000.  There is also possible savings through consolidation of our teaching staff. 

In addition, there are various other benefits derived from such a configuration.  These include the possibility of developing elective programs for our 7th and 8th grade students (which could help generate additional funding from the state for our Career and Technical Education classes), accelerating course sequences (think algebra or geometry in math), and opportunities for cross-grade tutoring and other forms of academic assistance.  There are certainly concerns as well, foremost among them, from a parental perspective, is merging these age groups into one facility.  However, this is a pretty common school configuration for rural schools so the positives must outweigh the negatives or we would see schools vacating this configuration.

All of this has led the BOE to move to propose the closing of the Prairie Heights Elementary School facility, moving these students to the facility in Alta Vista, and moving the PHMS 7th and 8th grade students to the CGMS for the 2015-16 school year.  Further, the BOE authorized the formation of a committee to study the concept of a 7-12 configuration of the CGHS and to outline what the district would need to do if the BOE chooses to move in that direction.

THE PLAN TO MORE EFFECTIVELY USE RESOURCES TO THE BENEFIT OF ALL OUR STUDENTS

PART ONE:  CLOSE PRAIRIE HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ($122,000 ANNUAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS; TO OCCUR BETWEEN BOE DECISION AND AUGUST 1, 2015)
            When looking at the efficiency of our district’s resource allocation, it seems clear that one of the considerations has to be fewer school facilities for a district our size.  The BOE is very aware of the implications this has for rural communities.  However, a quick look at the facts tells the story as to why the Dwight school facility is the first choice for the closing of a facility.  The table below illustrates a review of census data for the Dwight, Alta Vista, and Manhattan communities.  I include Manhattan as at the last BOE meeting, a statement was made that we should hold off closing any school facilities as the NBAF project in Manhattan may well provide population for our district’s communities.  While I am not saying it won’t, history would tell us that this is unlikely. 

Location

1990

2000

2010

% increase/ decrease

Dwight

362

330

265

-25%

Alta Vista

477

442

444

-7%

Manhattan

43,081

44,831

52,281

+21%

For further consideration, since the year 2000, Ft. Riley has seen perhaps its largest period of growth since the Vietnam War build up.  So, the facts say that while both Manhattan and Ft. Riley were having unprecedented growth, the population of Dwight declined 25% while the population of Alta Vista essentially stayed the same. 

There is considerable competition among communities surrounding Manhattan for the growth due to come as a result of NBAF.  Several communities/rural areas east and west of Manhattan have seen similar growth statistics to that of Manhattan.  All of these areas are developing the infrastructure for their anticipated growth due to NBAF.  Will this growth spill our way?  Will the K-177 project make a difference? 

Maybe, if we are willing to become very proactive to compete against Manhattan and these surrounding communities.   But I would venture to say that if there is a community in the Prairie Heights area that stands to benefit, it will be Alta Vista as it sits at the intersection of K-177 and Hwy. 4.  Ease of access to major highways and affordable property will be a key factor for businesses and people looking to locate outside of Manhattan.   So too will be the opportunity to purchase gas and food locally.  While I do not speak for the Board or any BOE members, I believe the decision to keep the Alta Vista PH building open is based on where the school age population resides in the Prairie Heights area, the historical census data, and the potential for future growth.  I will say, in my opinion, that the absolute best hope to be able to keep a long-term elementary school presence in the Prairie Heights area rests with consolidating and reconfiguring our two Prairie Heights schools.

According to Mrs. Schrader, Principal for our Prairie Heights Schools, there is room to have K-8 students at the Alta Vista location.  The sacrifice that will have to be made, I believe, will be closing the library or finding another location for music classes.  In a review of staffing for the district, there is no reason for any teacher to lose their job over the closing of the Dwight PH building.  Essentially, all elementary    students will have the same teachers they would have as if there was no school closing.  Further, the school leader will be the same as well.  The sole change is the facility.  On several occasions I have heard parents ask why we would close an award winning school.  While we are very proud of the work of our students and teachers at PHES, the facility does not cause academic achievement.  It is the work of the people who work and attend school at this school that causes this success.

In the case of the classified staff, there are job opportunities for both the custodian and the cook, whether that is at Alta Vista or elsewhere in the district.  Let me be clear on this, I will communicate with staff as to their preference of placement based on seniority.  If one or both people in each position decide they do not want to come work at one of our Council Grove schools, then that is a choice they can make.  There will be work opportunities however in the district.  The one position that the BOE will have to make some decisions regarding is the secretarial position.  There are options for the BOE to consider.  I will not expand on these options until the BOE has the opportunity to review and discuss. 

I have projected the moving costs for the BOE.  We will move the playground set that the PTO purchased for our students to Alta Vista.  I projected this cost at $5,000 - $8,000 based on the installation costs of $2,250 listed on the bill for the original installation (this figure represents “installation assistance” rather than the company doing the full installation).  This may be a little low but it was a conservative estimate.  I have projected paying teachers to pack and unpack their rooms; paying the custodians a stipend for the extra work that they will have to do in making this move; and there are funds to hire up to five people for additional help.  I projected these costs to be approximately $23,000.   If the BOE would like to reduce some of these costs, they can choose to let students out of school two days early so teachers can use these two days to pack.  Such a decision as to release students at PHES early would have to be done at a BOE meeting no later than March.  There will be costs to rent one to two vehicles for this move which will run approximately $250 for one day plus fuel costs.  Total cost, at the high end would be $32,000 for the move from Dwight to Alta Vista.  During the spring of 2015, administration, teachers, district food service director, custodian, and the head of the after school program will determine all items that are to be moved.

So what is to become of the Dwight PH facility and shouldn’t plans be made before the school is closed?  I will answer the second question first.  In a survey that I conducted, 16 superintendents who have recently closed schools responded to this question.  Of these superintendents and their respective boards of education, 10 did not have any plans at the time of closing.  Of the 6 who did have plans, for three of these districts the plans made initially did not occur. So, making such plans is not a prerequisite for closing a school. 

The options that are available to the USD 417 school board regarding what to do with this facility are as follows:

  • Lease or rent the building to the community or to someone who is interested in the property.  Under this circumstance, the agreement would have to include a provision that all repairs and upkeep fall to whomever leases or rents.
  • Sell the building.  There are companies who have been known to purchase rural schools and to develop the school into apartments for low-income or elderly tenants.  I have no idea if this is a location that might interest a company, but I do have contact information to pursue should the BOE move to close the school.  It might also be the case that the City of Dwight might want to purchase the facility.
  • Shutter the school, sell as much of the grounds as possible and make arrangements to take care of whatever grounds remain.
  • Tear the building down and sale the land.  I have no cost estimates for this option.

PART TWO:  MOVE PHMS GRADES 7 & 8 TO CGMS ($42,300 ANNUAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS; TO OCCUR BY AUGUST 1, 2015)

The initial reason for making this move for the 2015-16 school year involves the potential savings from the reduction of staff.  A second reason for considering this move for the 2015-16 school year is that if the ultimate decision is to move to a 7-12 facility, moving the PHMS 7th & 8th grade students can be made this year with no personnel losing their job.  The fact the district has received an early retirement notice from one of our high school social studies teachers allows for the one position that would have caused us to release a teacher to be avoided.   Should 7th and 8th grade students remain at the Alta Vista PH building for 2015-16, the likelihood that we would hire a social studies teachers only to turn around and release that social studies teacher in 2016-17, should the BOE move to a 7-12 facility, is high.  A third reason to do this now is that it keeps the school from relocating a library or music room for one year (or perhaps permanently), again assuming the final decision is to move to a 7-12 configuration at CGHS in the 2016-17 school year.

Currently we have around 50% of our Prairie Heights 7th and 8th grade students making the trip to Council Grove to participate in extra-curricular activities for a large portion of the school year.

Sport Season

2012-13

2013-14

2014

Total PHMS 7/8 students

 

22

 

22

 

23

Fall (football, cross country, volleyball)

 

12

 

11

 

12

Basketball

14

12

14

Wrestling

2

3

?

Track

11

8

?

I wanted to illustrate this point so that people are aware that we have many students making the trip from Alta Vista to Council Grove throughout the majority of the school year to participate in athletics with our CGMS students.

The costs for moving staff from PHMS to CGMS would run no more than $6,500.

I fully understand that this initial plan, originally discussed to close a single building, hurts patrons who have a lifetime invested in the school located in Dwight, Kansas.  In the district’s continued search for efficiencies, the idea of moving PHMS 7th and 8th grade students to CGMS in order to save roughly $50,000 annually (though this should be thought of as an additional reallocation of resources) compounds this hurt.  However, USD 417, assuming all of our efforts are not simply about covering for potential state cuts, has opportunities to enrich the educational experience for ALL children.  It is from this thought that the idea of a 7-12 configuration was offered to the BOE.

On another note, there has been a concern expressed by patrons at two recent BOE meetings regarding the quality of education students might receive at CGMS.  I believe that ALL of our students have the opportunity for a high quality education.  In fact, the hallmark of our work as a district should be how our students end their education at USD 417.  A quick look at the CGHS top 20 students in class rankings and ACT scores since 2008 shows the following:

 

PHMS in Top 20

CGMS in Top 20

Other

PHMS ACT 21 or Higher

CGMS ACT 21 or Higher

2013 Grads

3

15

2

1

12

2012 Grads

2

17

1

1

12

2011 Grads

3

17

0

2

14

2010 Grads

4

16

0

4

15

2009 Grads

5

15

0

3

13

2008 Grads

5

14

1

4

14

            Let me reiterate the point I am making here, ALL of our children have an opportunity to receive a quality education at ANY of our district’s schools.  When we look at the end of our 13 years of educating ALL of our students, there is clear evidence that ALL of our students perform very well!

TASKS TO CLOSE A SCHOOL AND POSSIBLY RELOCATE OUR 7TH & 8TH GRADE PRAIRIE HEIGHTS STUDENTS        

  • Between when the decision is made and March 10, the USD 417 BOE will need to decide how to address the issue of our sole employee who, at this time, would not have a similar position open in our district.  Also, the BOE will need to decide whether to release PHES & PHMS students two days early in order provide time for teachers to pack up their classrooms or whether to pay for this work to be done directly after their contract is completed for the school year.  The BOE will also need to decide what to do with the building and land at the Dwight location.
  • Between when the decision is made and May 1, I will meet with principals and others as needed to make sure that plans are solidified for summer work and for getting the 2015-16 school year started as smoothly as possible. 
  • Summer 2015, the district will move not only our PHES teachers but also any other teachers at PHMS to rooms assigned by Mrs. Schrader (the costs for these teachers to pack and move are included in the already mentioned dollar amount allotted for moving).  During this time we will have contracted for the movement of the playground, any kitchen equipment, custodial equipment and sullies, and any other items needed for the new school.
  • Starting shortly after when the decision is made the superintendent, in conjunction with the BOE, will begin the work addressing what we do with the building located in Dwight.

MOVE TO A DISTRICT CONFIGURATION WHERE THERE IS A K-6 SCHOOL AT PRAIRIE HEIGHTS AND COUNCIL GROVE AND A 7-12 FACILITY AT COUNCIL GROVE HIGH SCHOOL.  ($117,000 ANNUAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS; TO OCCUR BY AUGUST 1, 2016-17)

            The coming decrease in the student population at CGHS in particular, and the rest of the district in general, causes us to look at our staffing and general efficiency on a long-term basis.  Here is a projection provided by the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) of what may be happening over the course of the next 5 years. Note, I have also shown the % enrollment decrease for the past 10-years as a reference.

 

Building

2004-05

2014-15

10-year % Change

KASB Projections for 2018-19

PHES

72

69

-4%

76

PHMS

60

48

-20%

46

CGES

300

278

-7%

278

CGMS

138

115

-17%

142

CGHS

325

232

-29%

180

Headcount Total

895

742*

-17%

722

 

 

*  The reason the figure is 742 rather than 760 (as per our headcount) is that these numbers do not include the 18 pre-school students for whom the district receives no state funding. 

 

            The projected decrease in our high school student population means that our district would do well to prepare for over-staffing issues and to use our Council Grove facilities more efficiently.  We have more teachers than what will be needed at the secondary level should projections hold.  With an overall declining population and the fact there are empty rooms at CGHS, opportunities to eliminate another district facility exists.  It is this facts that led me to propose the idea of a 7-12 facility.

            Having a 7-12 facility is actually common in rural school districts though moving to a K-12 configuration is also increasing.  There are several benefits to a 7-12 configuration, other than financial, that I will not go into at this time.  However, the nature of rural America today is that the K-12 school age population base continues to decrease. 

            So when the BOE defined “long-term stability” to mean 10-years or more, I knew there needed to be more to the already discussed plan.  Simply closing one school and maybe reducing teaching staff by one teacher by combining grades 7 & 8 in one facility likely will not produce the long-term stability being sought by the BOE.  By moving to a 7-12 configuration, the district can close a second facility, the CGMS building, at a cost savings of approximately $52,000+.  Doing this would also allow the district to consolidate the administrative staff at a cost savings of approximately $65,000 (maybe less) depending on which position is eliminated.  It is also very possible that the district could reducing teaching staff at the 7-12 level by at least one and possibly 2 teachers.  This could be another savings of $45,000 to $90,000.  All told, moving to this configuration could potentially save the district $162,000 to $207,000.  This figure added to the savings from the closing of the facility at Dwight can produce an opportunity to reallocate resources of up to $330,000.  This assumes that a portion or all of this does not end up helping us to alleviate state budget cuts that could come due to the state’s financial picture.

The problem with this proposal is that it was first introduced all of four months ago.  These types of moves need a little time to be studied and discussed.  The idea of closing a school at the Prairie Heights location has been on-going for several years now so our communities are well aware of this option. 

To this end, we have formed a small committee to help the district identify the concerns our community might have with a 7-12 school configuration and to help with suggestions on how to design a 7-12 school to alleviate these concerns.   This is a representative committee with parents and teachers from all parts of our district involved.

The following is a timeline for looking at a 7-12 configuration: 

  • Starting in November 2014, the 7-12 study committee will meet.  When we feel we have met the objective laid out for this committee, a report will be presented to the BOE.  The work of this committee will include visits to schools with a 7-12 configuration, reviewing research, seeking feedback in regards to the thoughts of parents, and the development of report to the BOE that focuses on what the district must do to make such a configuration successful and ease concerns.  While we want to be prompt in our work considering all of the decisions that may be based on the report, it is important that the work be done correctly.
  • Now through January/February, I will work with an architect to scheme what options might be available for developing a 7th and 8th grade section of the CGHS building that could become their designated education center.
  • When the committee has finished its’ work, we will report to the BOE.  At that time, the BOE will determine if there is a desire to continue with moving in the direction of a 7-12 facility.  If the BOE chooses to move forward with this concept, the remaining months through December of 2015 would be spent developing a class schedule that meets the needs of all students and our MTSS programs.  A work timeline to prepare for the inclusion of 7th and 8th grade students will be developed and work will proceed where possible to get rooms prepared for this change.  Some work could be accomplished in the summer of 2015 but much of the modification, facility preparation, and moving will take place in spring and summer of 2016.
  • I am certain that there are many things not considered in this plan but there is time to think through these things, particularly after the committee accomplishes its work in January/February. 

TWO IMPORTANT NOTES:

            NOTE ONE:  Of one thing I am certain, our organization cannot close two schools, move multiple classrooms and other items, and reconfigure another school, including building an effective schedule, in the course of one summer.  Further, there is a tremendous amount of work taking place in public education right now.  Our “regular” school business takes a great deal of energy and time.  We have a very good school district and we want to provide the quality education that our parents expect from us.  This is one of the reasons that I have been saying to our community and to the Board of Education that we cannot accomplish all of this in one semester and a summer of work.

I also want to make sure that time is taken to adequately answer the questions and concerns surrounding the change to a 7-12 configuration.  Look, the fact that there are school districts larger than USD 417 who have this type of configuration and many others of similar or smaller size should help to alleviate fears.  Like so many things in education and just as in the private sector, the success or failure of such a move will rest with our people; our teachers, classified staff, administrators, and our parents.  This is and has always been the case.  I have a tremendous amount of faith in the adults who work for USD 417.  In their skills and the commitment that they have for our students to ensure that our children will be well cared for and well educated.  Because such a change will have to take place over a two-year period of time, this will take a lot of trust among ALL adults who are part of our school district.

            NOTE TWO:  I do want to make it clear to all concerned that it is the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools to close the Dwight facility and the CGMS facility and move to a building configuration consisting of two K-6 facilities, one at Alta Vista and one at Council Grove and a grade 7-12 facility at CGHS. 

  • I believe that this will provide the best opportunity for our district to have a K-6 school presence in the north end of our school district for many years to come. 
  • I believe this will support the the Alta Vista community which has the best potential for future growth of the two communities in the north end of our district. 
  • I believe that should the state cut school district budgets, which I believe will happen, that these changes will help us in two ways.  It will help us from having to cut existing staff and programs and it will help us to keep a presence in the northern portion of our district.  If we do nothing and the state renews cuts to education then this conversation will begin again only with a heightened sense of urgency from all of our communities.
  • I believe that if the looming state budget cuts are not too devastating, the district will be able to meet several of the BOE priorities listed in this document. 
  • I believe that for the long-term health of our district, both in regards to our budget and in regards to our relationships, that the sooner we move to our future the better we will be able to serve our students and to build trust.

 

        Kansas Division of the Budget and Kansas Legislative Research Department (attachment A)

        Unified School District No. 417 Enrollment History (attachment B)

        USD 417 Does Not Move to a 7-12 Configuation (Proposed Timeline)  

        USD 417 Moves to a 7-12 Configuration (Proposed Timeline)

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

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