School board offers retirement incentives

News editor

Marion school board voted Monday to offer retirement incentives for teachers.

The board approved offering $200 a month toward health insurance for a single plan or $300 for a family plan for any teacher who submits their retirement notice by 4 p.m. March 25. A person can only take the family plan if they already get a family insurance plan through the district.

The board also voted to extend a $1,000 cash incentive for early notification of retirement until the same time. Initially the incentive was offered through Feb. 15.

The teachers association would have to approve the added incentives as part of the current-year negotiated agreement. The board approved the incentives after an 80-minute closed session to discuss personnel and negotiations.

Retirements by experienced teachers could save the district much of the money it needs to make up for an expected continued decline in state aid from enrollment, whether or not the district fills the positions created by retirements.

A teacher at the top end of the district’s salary schedule, with a master’s degree, 24 hours of continuing education, and 35 years experience, makes $53,150 a year. A first-year teacher makes $33,200 a year, almost $20,000 less.

The district has already planned at least one teaching cut-back. With Myrta Billings retirement as family and consumer sciences teacher, the district advertised the position as a part-time teaching position, Superintendent Lee Leiker said. So far the district has received only one application.

Senior Lauren McLinden spoke in support of the FACS program. She said FACS classes cover many essential life skills that aren’t taught in other classes, like personal and consumer finance and career skills. She also said she knows a student at the high school who will have 12 hours of free college credit from FACS classes.

McLinden said she understands if the district cuts the FACS position to part-time as a temporary measure, but she said the district should have specific plans to restore it to full-time in the future.

Billings and others also spoke in support of keeping a full-time FACS program at the high school. The district receives extra career and technical education funding for FACS classes from the state, although it doesn’t entirely cover the cost of the program.

Leiker said the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on Friday that the legislature must restore equalization funding for schools with smaller tax bases could give the district flexibility to keep it as a full-time position, depending on how the legislature responds.

Parents voice displeasure

Mark and Sheri Austin spoke to the board about how upset they were about their 7-year-old son, Conner, walking home after getting sick on the bus from Florence before school Feb. 25.

“It was terrifying to me, and I didn’t find out until later that evening,” Mark Austin said. “Something could have been seriously wrong with him.”

He said he didn’t feel like anyone from the district was listening, and that was why he spoke to the Marion County Record and Wichita television stations.

“I would prefer to have a new bus driver,” he said.

Board president Chris Sprowls told him board members take the situation very seriously, and Leiker said the district is taking steps to avoid something like this from ever happening again.

Calendar approved

Contingent on negotiations with the teachers association, the board approved a 2014-15 school calendar that begins class Aug. 14 and ends school May 22.

The last day of school before winter break would be Dec. 19, and students would return Jan. 5. The calendar also includes a full week of spring break mid-March.

The calendar calls for 178 days of school and nine teacher in-service and work days.

In other business:

  • Marion Middle School received a governor’s achievement award for being in the top 5 percent of schools in math and reading exams. Only 10 middle schools in the state received that recognition, Leiker said.
  • Lori Soo Hoo with Parents as Teachers gave a presentation. PAT currently serves 23 families and 26 children in USD 408. Soo Hoo anticipates the district’s share of costs for the next fiscal year will be $7,025. She invited board members to sit in on a home visit.
  • Special education cooperative director David Sheppard spoke about the co-op’s situation. The expected cost to provide insurance for para-educators, mandated by the Affordable Care Act, isn’t looking as dire as it previously did.
  • Wrestling coach Chad Adkins spoke about his team’s regional championship and success at the state tournament. He also recognized manager Rachel Neil for assisting with the team the past six years. Neil will attend the University of Iowa in the fall and will be a manager and statistician for its nationally prominent wrestling team, Adkins said.
  • Tabor College swim team will begin practicing at the aquatic center in April, Leiker said.

 

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