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District dicusses transfers, teacher shortages, classroom numbers PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 August 2017 11:34

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of the story recapping the most recent meeting of the USD 480 school board Monday evening and will cover comments from the floor and the subsequent discussion. The second part will cover discussion of the 2017-18 budget approved by the board. 


Boundaries continue to be an issue for parents of USD 480 students, and one parent was on hand Monday evening to show his concerns before the USD 480 school board. 

“My wife and I are presenting this information to the board after having a school transfer issue, with our third grader, Gus,” local citizen David Riley began. “We built and have lived in our home three miles north of Liberal since 2003 knowing as our family grew, we would be at MacArthur and West. Our two children have always gone to MacArthur Elementary. Supposedly, this year, things are changing. We were told by our principal during a PTO meeting Gus may have to attend Meadowlark if they changed some of the school boundaries. My wife discussed this with administrator Sheri King, who said we would be grandfathered in and stay at the school we have been at, and we never heard another word about it until filling out the InfoSnap enrollment page online in July. Our sixth grader was slated to attend Seymour Rogers with our third-grader going to Meadowlark. When contacting school personnel, we were told our sixth grader’s was a mistake because our address wasn’t recognized when it was entered online, and that has since been changed to Eisenhower. However, we were told our third grader’s was not a mistake and we would have to ask for a transfer at enrollment. Having gone to MacArthur for the past three years, I felt it important for us to make that happen.”

Some of the concerns Riley detailed included the relationships with both staff and fellow students that would end upon going to a different school as well as issues with transportation and childcare after school. 

“Our daycare picks up a group from MacArthur and Eisenhower, and if she is unavailable, we use Judy Owens, who we’ve known for years, as after-school childcare, and she only picks up at MacArthur,” Riley said. “Weather permitting, my sixth grader and an eighth grade cousin would walk to MacArthur with some other students and then walk to my sister’s house, which is close to MacArthur. That may occasionally happen if car transportation is unavailable, and I have no option for after-school care at Meadowlark. I deliver four children to school and have for the past several years. I will deliver two to Eisenhower and two to MacArthur. There is not enough time in the morning to deliver to three schools when they only open the doors 30 minutes before classes start. With the chaotic drop-offs, we will be lucky to get them delivered on time to only two schools.”

Upon requesting the transfer, Riley said it was denied during last week’s transfer meeting and then denied again by Superintendent Renae Hickert after the numbers at both schools would not allow the transfer to happen. Riley then posed several questions to the board, including the number of third grade students before the transfer meeting, the boundaries for students living out in the country, and the possibility of moving interim instructors into the classrooms. He also raised concerns regarding if policies were followed correctly regarding having information available to parents and changing the boundaries. 

“It’s my personal opinion this is a corrupt administration that doesn’t follow procedures, and you do as you please,” Riley said. “We thank you for your time and consideration regarding Gus and his dilemma.”

After Riley’s comments and a couple other reports, the board took on a lengthy discussion regarding several of the points Riley made during his presentation, including average class sizes at the schools and whether or not to think about moving interventionists into classrooms. 

“What do you feel is driving us to go over these benchmarks more?” board member Delvin Kinser asked. “Would you say it’s teacher shortage, population, a combination of both?”

“I would say the primary reason, I believe, is teacher shortage,” Hickert said. “Yes, we have interventionists, yes we have coaches. But I will say I’m more comfortable keeping them where they are, especially interventionists, because they help us keep students from falling through the cracks. Say we put some interventionists in the classrooms, our class sizes are still going to be above the board benchmarks if we do that, unless we want to eliminate all interventionists, but then we wouldn’t have any support for those students who need it. Coaches, we have two coaches for every school, but this year, above all else, those buildings need a lot of support because we’re going into bigger buildings and everyone’s getting to know one another, so that extra support will be great, especially this year, it’s an interesting year. And I want you guys to also remember 80 percent of our grade school students are either in a new building or in a building that’s been reconfigured – 80 percent. Fifty percent of our middle schoolers have been moved to a different building. I would have loved to honor every transfer we had requested, but we weren’t able to do that. But we’re continuing to monitor enrollment, and we will have to because we can’t let some of those numbers get any bigger.”

Director of Federal Programs Sheri King then offered some comments to the board. 

“Regarding our interventionists, as a Title 1 school district, we’re required to have Title 1 comparability, so if we have something at one school, we need to have something comparable at another school or else it’s not as equal,” King said. “I have to report to the federal government each year of if we’re spending an equal amount of funds at each building, and the way those funds are spent can vary. This year, we are fortunate because we did have the number of staff we could place where needed. If we took one interventionist from one building and sent them to another, it wouldn’t be equal.”

Discussion continued with this topic for several more minutes, with Hickert saying work is continuing regarding boundary issues and teacher recruitment, and staff will be continuing to work hard to resolve those issues. 

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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