The Miller School Board held its regular December meeting December 9.
During the financial report, board members questioned the capital projects fund, which shows a minus balance. Board chair David Fremark replied the balance reflects the district “didn’t borrow enough” for the elementary building project. “We borrowed $5.6 million, which was what we were told we needed,” he said. “But that did not include ‘soft costs,’ such as paving, landscaping and other amounts.”
Superintendent Mike Ruth said monies had been borrowed from funds that had a substantial surplus, and tax monies coming in should rectify the problem. He commented that Roy Fauth of Kohlman, Bierschbach & Anderson, LLP, who completed the school’s audit October 31, did not indicate concern about the finances, but the board agreed to not undertake large projects until more funds become available.
Elementary principal Tammy Caffee said the Elementary Student Council saw a $250 profit from T-shirt sales. She is about two-thirds down with formal teacher evaluations.
Caffee said she and the elementary teachers examined the “Smarter Balanced” assessment system, which will be part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Caffee said the sample items and performance tasks are intended to help implement the CCSS and prepare for the Smarter Balanced assessments, and commented it will take study to get used to the system.
She also commented that students seem to be healthier this season, basing her view on the number of tissues the students have used, and said the new school environment may play a role in her observations.
Secondary principal Steve Schumacher reported semester tests will be given December 19 and 20, and the second semester will begin January 6. Winter sports are underway. Miller students participated at the state oral interp contest, and the FFA State Leadership CDEs had just been held at Pierre. Several students participated, and Tate Ketelhut placed first individually in the ag sales category.
The student WEB Leaders will be holding a food drive for Helping Hands. A tutoring program has been implemented, and Schumacher said results seem positive.
Supt. Ruth acknowledged students with Rustler Rah-Rahs, including those who had attended the FFA State Leadership CDE and placed; besides Tate Ketelhut, Tia Pawlowski placed eighth in ag broadcast/journalism, and the ag communications team (Ashley Bertsch, Hiedi Hoftiezer and Kendra Krosch) placed fifth in ag communications. The cross country team were region champions and placed fifth at the state meet, and Cole Sargent placed 10th and Mason Breitling 11th individually. Kristen Peterka and Jamie Mentzer were named to volleyball all-conference, with Denae Schlechter receiving honorable mention; Devon Gnat and Paul Waring were named to first team football all-conference, with Luke Simons and Josh McEwen receiving honorable mention. Students who participated in state oral interpretation were Sylvia Wieseler, Martina Kittelson-Caviness, Brooke Fawcett, Clayton Keck, Ashley Gaspar and Trey Waldrop.
Ruth discussed the possibility of an alternative calendar, a four-day school week for the 2014-15 year. He reported teachers had voted in favor of moving forward to consider the change, with 63 percent in favor and 37 opposed. In the long run, the school board would make the decision.
A lengthy discussion followed, and finally the board determined the present calendar already includes many four-day weeks, and shortening the days students attend class even more could be detrimental regarding getting material covered. The consensus was to leave the calendar as is.
Ruth said the Governor’s budget address calls for a three percent increase in school funding. There will be some discussion about one-time money allocated for the coming year, and he said some are hoping the funding might be raised above the three-percent mark.
Because school was closed due to weather December 4, the planned bullying assembly will be held January 6.
Ruth said the staff Christmas party would be held December 13, at 4 p.m. in the commons. A ticket would be purchased for any staff member wishing to attend the Holiday Jam concert that evening. The concert is to raise money for the community center. Some money originally earmarked for a meal/party will also be donated to the Ben Christiansen family, who lost their home in a fire. The board will again donate their December meeting salary toward the Christmas party fund.
The Building Committee reported the surplus auction items at the old elementary school brought in $1,700. The school board will sign over the old school to the city with a quit-claim deed, and will help with interim cleaning and maintenance.
Regarding the request from Jerry and Lynn Johnson and Lee and Cleo Kleinsasser to purchase land from the school to the north of their residences on Donlin Street, the committee reported Pierce & Harris Engineers are working on the survey and plat, which must be approved by the Hand County Commissioners. The next step would be to offer the land at auction, by sealed bid or through a realtor.
Also discussed was the status of the wrestling room renovation. Ruth said there are materials totaling $7,900, and about $13,238 still allocated toward the project. The board felt wrestling coach Ryan Resel should bring a plan to the board for consideration, and look into plans further at the January meeting. Chairman Fremark said, “We don’t want this to be a short-term fix. I think we need to do it right.” Board members agreed the work should be a summer project, with completion by fall 2014.
Board member Jonathan Hurd represented the board at the Associated School Boards of South Dakota Delegate Assembly in late November. He said discussion items included the Common Core Standards, school funding, capital outlay flexibility, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Hurd said an extended school year was also discussed, which might generate more funding from the Legislature. Four priority resolutions were passed, along with 31 additional resolutions.
Hurd proposed that the board hold a strategic planning retreat to discuss priorities, concerns, long-range planning, etc. Chairman Fremark supported the idea, adding that all board members need to be present. Planning will continue at the next meeting.
Superintendent Ruth presented forms for the school board and school staff, for the purpose of evaluating the superintendent. Fremark commented that Ruth is the only superintendent he knew that asked for evaluation by staff, as well as the board. Board member Natalie Bertsch stated she felt evaluation by staff was good, and allowed them to express opinions anonymously. After discussion, it was agreed to ask for evaluations by classified and certified staff for another year, and then consider how many return the evaluations.
For action items, the board approved the Miller School District’s audited financial statement for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013. The work agreement was approved for Aaron Zeller as a special education aide, at $9.40 per hour. Fees were waived by On Hand Development Corporation for the Holiday Jam concert December 13, and for a youth wrestling tournament to be held in January.
The next regular meeting will be held Monday, Jan. 13 at the new elementary library.