Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce members at the investors’ meeting on Wednesday heard about North County School District’s plans for operations, athletics and academics for the upcoming year.
Dr. Jeff Levy, superintendent of schools, said when he interviewed for his position last spring, the board said they hoped to identify district goals. Levy said he and the board honed in on six goals to carry the district into the future, pertaining to academics, student success and well-being, district facilities, communication, finance and human resources.
The first goal, academics, is already on a good trajectory, Levy said.
“We’re measured through an annual performance report, and last year we got a 99.6% out of 100%, so according to the report, we’re doing great things for the kids,” he said. “I wish I could tell you that at the end of this year, we’ll get close to that, but the Department of Education is doing away with percentages (as a rating system). So now we’re going to be getting a different kind of rating. We’ll make sure we share the results, when we get them.”
The second goal, student success and well-being, will particularly address student hunger through the district’s backpack program, as well as expanding literacy opportunities among preschool children.
“Research has shown that literacy initiatives for kids ages 0 to 5 have a lasting impact on school success later,” Levy said.
The third goal involves coming up with a master plan for district facilities.
“We want to know what our facility needs are, we need to create a master facilities plan,” he said. “We want to work with architects to tell us what’s happening with our existing structures, what we need to do, and what we need to plan for in the future.”
Levy said the goal isn’t necessarily to build new buildings, but assess what they’ve got and how it can be best maintained.
“We want to make sure, when we’re ready to move forward in asking our voters to approve a no-tax-increase measure, that we can be transparent about what we plan to do,” he said. “It’s a real testament to our maintenance staff, I’ve been blessed to work closely with them, and we have some HVAC units that are 30 years old. Why? Because the staff does amazing work in keeping them running. But obviously in time, we’re going to need to replace those pieces.”
The fourth and most immediate goal, Levy said, is communication.
The district has formulated an electronic survey they want as many stakeholders to fill out as possible. The survey is available on the district’s website at https://www.ncsd.k12.mo.us/, at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJGGPSZ, on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ncraiders/, or through a special QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone.
“We feel we’re at a point that, we use social media in different ways, we have a website, we’re coming to community events and meetings like this one, but we really want to connect with our population and receive feedback,” Levy said. “We want to make sure we’re sharing information with our community, but we also want to make sure we hear from our community. We want to get input.”
Levy said the survey will be open until Oct. 25.
The board’s fifth goal concerns the school’s finances.
“We’ve had some financial ups and downs, but we want to make sure we’re fiscally stable, responsible and transparent in our actions,” Levy said. “We want to make sure we’re working within the revenues we’re getting.”
Levy said one major component in this fifth goal is to address the district’s unrestricted reserves.
“We need to get our unrestricted reserves to a healthy balance. There have been times when the state has withheld payment. We want to make sure we have enough in reserves to operate during those times,” he said.
Levy said the district currently has a reserve of 7.13% of their current operating cost, but the current budget was looking at a deficit of $900,000, which would drop the unrestricted reserves to about 5%. But, he said, they’re addressing that challenge swiftly.
“Working with our CFO we’ve already addressed a big chunk of that and have gotten it down to $500,000, so just by cutting supplies we’ve cut $400,000 out of that,” he said. “When we start school next year, we’re going to have to make some hard choices because we have to operate within a balanced budget.”
The sixth goal deals with supporting current personnel and attracting talented new personnel.
“We want to attract and maintain the very best employees we can find,” Levy said. “We want them to immerse themselves in our community and be part of our school’s success. So we want to make sure we have practices and policies in place to help that happen.”
North County Athletic Director Chad Mills also addressed the chamber members, thanking many in the crowd for their support of the various athletic programs and providing a status report on wins-losses among the nine sports.
“A year ago, we came to the Bonne Terre Chamber and spoke, and we hadn’t had a game yet. I was able to say, things are great at North County! We’re undefeated, haven’t had a parent call yet, things are great!” he joked. “But this time … we’re well into the school year … we’re not undefeated … and having nine sports, you can imagine we’ve gotten a parent call or so, and that’s just how it is with being an AD.”
Chamber members laughed.
Mills said some of the school’s sports had gotten off to a “rough start.”
“Football team is not winning the way they would want to be winning right now, but they’re working every day, they’re getting better every day, and that’s all we can ask,” he said. “Cross country is maybe not placing as high as they want to place right now, but again, that coaching staff is working, they’re trying to get it back.”
But several sports are doing quite well, he said. Softball is 14-4, volleyball team is 8-5, tennis is 6-3, and soccer is 4-2.
“We have a lot of good things happening, and even the programs that are not doing as well as they’d like, folks, I can promise you, we’ve got good coaches who are working every day trying to get better and teach then the right stuff,” he said.
Mills said he was particularly grateful to many in the chamber audience who supported the athletic program through money, equipment and other donations.
“Folks, I see a lot of people in this room who mean a lot to us in our activities. We need you. I see folks here who have donated money and equipment to our programs, and we really appreciate it,” he said. “Without your support, we would really struggle.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.