While state education finance measures are still being debated in the Kansas Legislature, improvement in state revenues prompted speculation Monday among Marion-Florence USD 408 board members about possible staffing enhancements for next year.
“Over the past several years because of school funding, we’ve seen a continual decrease, and we’ve agonized over reductions,” Superintendent Lee Leiker said.
“As we start looking at next year, is it time to say we want to look at expanding some of our areas again?” Leiker asked.
Leiker cited examples in music, where cutting positions in music and art have necessitated reassignment of staff to cover significantly more grade levels than when fully staffed.
“To be asked to do elementary, middle school, and high school is a big demand,” Leiker said.
“I think you always start with 10 years before the deluge, what did we have,” board member Keith Collett said. “Those things were art in the middle schools, a full-time music teacher, we gave up most of an English position at the high school — we used to have three full-timers, now we don’t.”
Collett pointed significant cuts in foreign language instruction as well.
“We used to have a full-time foreign language teacher and a half, and now we’re down to a half. We lost the Spanish program at the elementary school, which was a loss,” Collett said.
“I’d like to get foreign language back, I’d like to get at least half a music teacher back, I’d like to get that English position back full-time,” Collett concluded.
Board President Chris Sprowls said feedback he has received from the community supports potential enhancements to staffing in art and music.
“In the comments I’ve received on the fine arts, that’s been one a lot of people have been talking about,” Sprowls said. “I think if there’s any way we can get some direction that way it would be appreciated and I think our kids would excel a bit more.”
Collett said restoration of support for district administrative functions deserves consideration.
“We also need to look at the administrative support staff. We have too few people with too many responsibilities here, and I don’t know how we can continue that. We’re doing it, but at what cost?” Collett said.
“There’s a lot extra on those three back there,” Sprowls said, indicating the building principals. “They’re all busting their tails here, and we’re grateful for it. We can’t add everything, but it would sure be nice to loosen up the noose a little bit.”
The board encouraged Leiker to develop more specific options to consider at a future board meeting.
Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon described 22 classes that will be added to the high school curriculum through the continuing development of career-technical education pathways.
The classes will support five existing career pathways and seven more that are being developed, Gordon said.
The courses will be offered through partnerships with other Marion County school districts, and will be conducted as interactive distance learning classes over TEEN and online courses on the Blackboard platform.
“How does that work with funding if it’s being taught from Hillsboro?” Sprowls asked.
“They’re taking the class in Marion, so it’s our money,” Gordon said. “We show on our enrollment, say, 10 kids taking a class, we get all the funding for it.”
In other business:
- The board accepted without discussion the resignation of Jim Versch as district art instructor, effective at the end of the school year. The board also accepted without discussion the immediate resignation of Shana Joliff as band instructor for middle and high school. Joliff will continue at the elementary school until the end of the school year. Darren Enns has been hired as a long-term substitute to complete the year at the middle and high schools.
- Michelle Flaming was hired as Title I curriculum coordinator.
- Marion Middle School Principal Missy Stubenhofer reported on the process for state assessments, which have started and will continue through mid-April.
- Leiker gave status reports on numerous education bills under consideration in the Kansas Legislature. Leiker said an overarching theme reflected in many of the bills is to transfer more funding responsibility from the state to local districts.
- The board approved two bus use requests. District buses will be used to facilitate parking and transportation for the attempted world-record marshmallow roast March 24 at Marion County Park and Lake. St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary was approved to use a bus for a trip to Abiline to tour Russell Stover.
- Parents as Teachers Director Lori Soo Hoo gave an overview of program services provided to district families. She presented a funding request for $6,325 for the 2012-13 school year. The board placed the request on the April agenda.
The next meeting of the board is scheduled for April 9.