Dollars fly out of Mt. Pleasant School Board meeting
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Mt. Pleasant will receive $243,000 in one-time funding from the state during the current fiscal year (2 percent, one time allowable growth). The Mt. Pleasant School Board spent virtually all of it Monday night during their regular monthly meeting.
Most of the money (possibly as much as $160,000) will go toward funding for the new preschool.
Directors approved contracts with Grasshopper Green and the Little Bees preschools.
Under terms of the agreement, the school district will pay each school $135 monthly for a maximum of 35 students (slots). That would amount to a maximum of $42,525 to each preschool. The district has also hired a preschool teacher and a teacher/para-professional.
Tonya Strunk is the preschool teacher and will be paid $34,870.28. Caitlyn Jones is the para-professional (she, too, is a certified teacher) and will receive $13,173.85. Benefits for each bring the total salary package to nearly $67,000. Other district expenses are $5,000 for equipment supplies and $3,000 for food and snacks.
“They (Grasshopper Green and Little Bees) are good partners and stuck out their necks to go with us,” remarked Superintendent of Schools Mike Wells, who is also directing the preschool program this year. “We want strong community partners. It is a very good program that was put together quickly.”
Next year, the district will receive state funding (state funding is always one year late) for the program, which Wells expects to amount to around $270,000. “We actually will make money on it (preschool) this year,” the superintendent noted.
Wells said the district will appeal to the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) this winter for an increase in allowable growth which would increase the district’s spending authority. “That way we aren’t really out anything and don’t have to tax it back,” he said.
Some of that $243,000 in one-time money also will go toward hiring another district guidance counselor. Wells actually would like to add one counselor and share a half-time counselor with a neighboring school district.
Currently, the district has one elementary school guidance counselor serving four elementary schools, one junior middle-school counselor and one high-school counselor. “One counselor (for four elementary schools) can’t do it justice,” Wells said. “It is possible for one counselor to serve 600 (high school) students?” he asked.
Potential cost of adding 1.5 counselors would be approximately $75,000 and additional funding could come from district savings in not having a full-time media specialist.
“If we have a counselor who teaches classes, we could get between $8,000-$10,000 (funding) from the state,” Wells said.
Evidently, Wells has had some discussions with a smaller neighboring school district about sharing a counselor. “This small district needs a partnership and we want to be a good neighbor. This counselor could take care of Salem,” he said.
The board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to advertise for a counselor and continue sharing discussions with the other school district.
Mt. Pleasant’s media specialist from the 2012-13 school year has moved on, leaving the district without a media specialist, Wells told the board. State law requires that all schools have a licensed librarian. The district has advertised for the position but came up empty.
Wells said the Keokuk Community School District has offered to share one of their librarians (Amy Davis). Mt. Pleasant would have Davis one day a week (and 16 extended days to her contract) and pay Keokuk $24,419.05 per year for her services. The cost includes a pro-rated salary and benefits for Davis plus her mileage.
The sharing agreement would qualify for state funds under the state program “operational sharing contract.” Through sharing Davis under the program, Mt. Pleasant would be able to add 40 additional students in its certified enrollment.
Those 40 students would generate an additional $244,840 in state funding for this year (paid next year) and the program could be extended for five years. That means Mt. Pleasant could receive as much as $1,360,982 in state funding over the five years (figured at 4 percent allowable growth).
Directors approved the sharing agreement last night. Keokuk also will receive the same additional state funding.
Wells said he is confident that the district’s library para-professionals can pick up the slack. “Our library associates are outstanding, they could run the library.”
He said the additional state funding could be used to hire more guidance counselors.
In other agenda items, the board was receptive to Wells’ suggestion that the school board include a couple of non-voting students.
Wells told the board that at past school district he has had student body representatives serving as non-voting members of the school board. “They can either be appointed or elected by the student body. It is very nice when the board is making decisions impacting students and they can ask the students for their input,” he explained.
The administrator said he would prefer having juniors serving as the school board representatives. “After serving one year, they might be ready to get off,” he quipped.
Having student representatives, he said, is also important as the district moves forward with its strategic planning process. “It will be vital that we view things from a student perspective,” Wells noted.
Wells will move forward with adding two student representatives.
In personnel matters, the board approved contracts for the following individuals.
Mary Watson, food service; Cadey Nichting and Marie Stratton, high school one-on-one para-professionals; Jess Amos, bus driver; Samantha Francy and Amber Beard, middle school one-on-one para-professionals; Kelsey Warren, Lincoln second grade (long term substitute for the first semester;
Yesenia Sosa, Lynn Vanderham and Carol Giesel, Lincoln one-on-one para professionals; Orfa Foss, Lincoln para-professional; Skye Wellington, maintenance-grounds; Michael Beason, middle-school wrestling; Troy Mears, head varsity softball coach; Damon Loyd, high school assistant wrestling coach; Tonya Strunk, preschool teacher; Caleb Akey, seventh-grade boys’ basketball; Caitlyn Jones, preschool para-professional.
Resignations were accepted from Chris Whaley, bus driver; Diana Johnson, Lincoln one-on-one para-professional; Abby Housman, Lincoln second grade; Janice Ball, middle school para-professional; Jason Conner, maintenance; and Melissa Stewart, Harlan special education para-professional.
More news from the meeting will be published in Wednesday’s News.
Directors meet again in regular session Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.