Board members also approve tax rate, get construction update
SARAH HAAS, firstname.lastname@example.org
The North St. Francois County R-1 School Board, at Thursday night’s meeting, approved an unchanged tax rate and a variety of service contracts and heard an update on summertime construction projects. The board members also discussed and approved the district’s goals, an annual housekeeping effort. The school year began on Monday.
Superintendent Kate Bockman said the district’s goals hadn’t changed much from previous years.
“These are pretty simple to write because we know what we need to do,” Bockman said. “It’s on the daily, actually meeting those goals and surpassing expectations.”
The five goals are: Recruit and retain highly qualified staff; maintain a fiscally responsible budget; Continue revision of curriculum to meet our M sub six requirements; update and improve district facilities; and Improve communication efficiency and effectiveness.
“We’re always going to want to recruit and retain highly qualified staff,” Bockman said. “We had started a program last year through our grants that we were awarded from the state and we were able to recruit highly-qualified staff.
“It was really exciting to see those new teachers, those teachers are with us tonight, and we welcome them and look forward to Monday,” she said, joking, “Don’t leave on Tuesday.”
Bockman said fiscal responsibility was always the aim of the district, especially when it comes to spending the rest of the bond issue money that was approved in 2020 and will be exhausted in 2024. Proposition S was passed for capital and security improvements throughout the six buildings of the district.
“There will be some projects that will continue. Of course many projects are done, as you can see around the district. We’ve done many improvements, added many safety factors that will come in handy come Monday,” she said.
The goal for effective and efficient communication was demonstrated by the previous week’s open-house attendance throughout the district buildings, Bockman said.
“We want to stay in good communication with our community with our parents and stakeholders and also with our staff. I see it, because our community was out in force this week at several of our open houses,” she said.
Board member Allen Gremminger said, “I think the high school open house was probably the best-attended I’ve ever seen.”
Bockman replied, “Over half of their students were there. That’s pretty good, for high school. Middle school had over 300, and the primary school was packed, too.” Dr. Brandon Gregory, who oversees the middle and high schools and UniTec Career Center, said only 57 students were missing from the middle school open house.
“It helps when it’s not 100 degrees,” said board member David Mallow. Bockman agreed.
School board president James “Jebo” Bullock read the rollback resolution and asked his fellow board members to set the tax rate for 2023 at 4.4258%.
“The important part is that it’s not changing from last year, we’re keeping the rates the same and we had about a 4% increase in assessed valuations,” said the district’s chief financial officer, David Schoenbeck.
The board was given the opportunity to review a hefty document outlining the district’s compliance plan for IDEA. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
“I will tell you shortly and sweetly that our determination score was four out of four again this year,” Superintendent Katie Bockman told the board, referring to the district’s grade on special education. “We’re very proud of what we do for our special needs students and I think that our special education department goes above and beyond. I think that we have that reputation for a reason. Our kids are very important to us and this shows you that DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) agrees.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brandon Gregory, in his report, said he was excited to get the new year underway.
“It’s a little hectic right now, but I’ve been very impressed with the way people are working together. The buildings are all pulling together and I hear stories of people saying, ‘Hey, we should all do this better.’ ‘Let me help you.’ ‘Let me show you how to do this.’ ‘Let’s work through this,’” he said, “and it’s been great. I’ve just been thoroughly impressed with how people are pulling together this year.”
He reported the Athletic Hall of Fame committee met to vote on the 2023 inductees, and even though they were down one bus driver – Gregory is also over district transportation—a substitute was found and they’ll make do. North County has the most miles to travel of any school district based in St. Francois County.
Bockman, in her report, thanked custodial, technology, and maintenance staff for their hard work over the summer.
“We had a huge to-do list this year, but everyone took it on,” she said. “They were able to complete almost everything.”
Bockman also praised the high school food service staff for feeding faculty and staff during back-to-school convocations. She said when she complimented one of them, “they looked at me and said, ‘No, this is fun, we like doing this,’ and all I could think was, I hate cooking breakfast.”
She also singled out Assistant Principal Lori Lamb, Instructional Coach Eric Bryan and High School Counselor Lori Kohm for wrestling with the new Student Information System the district transitioned to.
“It’s not easy, as you can imagine, but they’ve been relentless, and the staff around us has jumped in and helped,” Bockman said. “Nobody has yelled or screamed or cussed to our faces. That’s excellent, because it is frustrating and it’s hard to learn something new, especially in August when you’re preparing for all these students to come in.”
The board also:
- Approved an occupational and physical therapy rehabilitation agreement with NHC Rehab for special-needs students, as well as for some speech therapy services.
- Approved a separate annual contract for intensive speech therapy services.
- Approved an annual contract for student vision services. It provides assistance for students with severe vision impairments.
- Approved a policy/procedure update to MSBA 2023C.