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USD 408 considers league realignment

Staff writer

Marion-Florence USD 408 Board of Education learned Monday the Heart of America League could be in for some changes which would affect membership and league-sponsored activities from sports to music.

Superintendent Lee Leiker and Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon spoke to the board about discussions at recent league administrator meetings driven by league member Canton-Galva to expand the league and create two divisions, based on school size.

“Canton-Galva brought this to the league as a proposal,” Leiker said.

Gordon said the proposal by Canton-Galva, the smallest high school in the league, with 111 students, is driven largely by a desire to be competitive in league activities.

“They’re too small, and they’re not competing,” Gordon said. “It all comes down to the fact you want your kids to be successful.”

Gordon said districts in four leagues — Wheat State, Central Kansas, Central Plains, and Heart of the Plains — could be recruited to create a 14 to 16-member Heart of America league with two divisions. Larger schools would be in one division, smaller schools in another.

“I talked to Little River the other day, and they’re not happy with their new league (Wheat State),” Gordon said.

Centre, Peabody-Burns, and Goessel also belong to the Wheat State league. Hillsboro is a member of the Central Kansas league.

Without expansion and realignment, Canton-Galva and perhaps Bennington would likely leave the league for one in which they would be more competitive.

“There has been so much instability in high school leagues the past 15 years it’s been like a butter churn,” board member Lyle Leppke said.

Board member Keith Collett expressed reservations about the relevance of leagues in the current competitive landscape.

“With the rise of state championships dominating everything, what is the purpose of leagues?” Collett asked.

Board member Jan Helmer suggested the proposal, which in its current form applies only to volleyball and basketball, does not address implications for other league-sponsored activities. Helmer offered two examples.

“I wonder why they’re not worried about baseball and softball,” she said.

Any changes would likely not occur until the 2014-2015 school year, though schools could choose to make some accommodations before then.

“Unless you’re breaking contracts, you’re scheduled for two years,” Gordon said.

Board President Chris Sprowls thinks USD 408 is in a good position with its standing in the HOA league as proposed changes are examined.

“It’s better to be on this end of it,” Sprowls said. “If they’re looking, let them look.”

Career and Tech Education

Agriculture education teacher Mark Meyer gave a presentation about changes in career and technical education for the district to provide career pathways for students leading to employment or postsecondary education after graduation.

Several additions to five current career pathways are being considered, including one in health sciences.

“That’s a great career opportunity that’s in high demand — we’re kind of missing the boat if we don’t do that one,” Meyer said.

“Robotics and pre-engineering are high on the list — those are classes a lot of kids would like to see,” Gordon said.

Meyer explained that career pathways are created by establishing specific introductory and technical courses in the high school curriculum that meet criteria established by the Kansas Department of Education. A pathway may lead to a nationally recognized certification, or provide a head start into a program at a university or college.

“There are some situations where colleges are allowing students to transfer in as many as 12 credits because they’ve completed that career pathway in the high school,” Meyer said. He gave an example of students who have taken welding courses at Marion High School who can bypass the introductory course and get three hours of college credit if they enroll in the welding program through Butler County Community College.

Leiker said expansion of career pathways is responsive to budget issues and No Child Left Behind proposals at the state level.

“The governor’s funding proposal heavily weighs on career-tech ed exploration and expansion. I think school funding will be tied to this next year and in future years,” Leiker said. “Part of the recommendation from our state to see if they can get out of NCLB is tied to career-technical education.”

In other business:

  • The board approved the purchase of 10 Promethean smartboards for classroom use at a cost of $12,488. Leiker said the purchase takes advantage of a match from the manufacturer that will save the district 50 percent on the list price of the boards.
  • The board approved contract extensions through the 2014 school year for Gordon, Marion Middle School Principal Missy Stubenhofer, and Marion Elementary School Principal Justin Wasmuth.
  • Lucas King and Thane Schwarz were hired as co-coaches for the golf team.
  • Coaching resignations were accepted from Rebecca Hofer, junior high girls’ basketball, and Michelle Adkins, junior high volleyball.
  • Geniece Barger gave a presentation about the district’s use of iHigh, a free website for schools to post information and videos about sporting events, school activities, and other school events.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Mar. 12.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2012

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