Photo by George Lauby
After re-election as president of the North Platte school board Tuesday, Kathy Phares said she plans to take a longer look at the nuts and bolts of a plan to put all sixth graders in the Madison Middle School building. She expects work on that project will begin in the next month or two.
“We are going to get down to the nuts and bolts,” she said. “I want to know the details. I especially want to see that it is fiscally responsible.”
“We don’t know the staffing plan yet, whether we will be able to economize, retask or what,” she said.
Although transporting sixth, seventh and eighth graders will add to the district’s expenses, Phares said it might be that the district will save some money through reconfiguration.
“We just don’t know yet,” she said.
Phares said the board, which gave the green light to Superintendent Marty Bassett to begin planning the reconfiguration, will be involved in the process “as much as we want to be.”
She expects that Bassett will establish a committee of parents and administrators to work on the nuts and bolts. She said board members will probably rotate through those meetings.
And, she said the final reconfiguration plan will be formally presented to the board in about a year.
“It’s a delicate balance,” she said of the board’s role in the process. “We establish policy. The administrators carry it out. They set up the inner workings.”
Phares also noted that the district’s three-year process of school accreditation will end in January -- a major milestone. Associate Superintendent Tami Eshleman told the board that a report will be presented at a special meeting on Jan. 29.
Eshleman expects the final report to show things that need improvement as well as give kudos for good things.
She said a team of evaluators who are other educators will spend three days in North Platte before they report to the board.
Phares said it’s been a long and deep process, “involving a lot of thinking and data gathering. Whatever the report says, it will validate the direction that we need to go.”
Phares said the district aims to to improve low rankings in state tests. North Platte ranks around 200 out of state’s 249 school districts in reading, science and math, based on 2013 tests.
Phares said the sixth-grade reconfiguration should help improve the situation, along with more teacher collaboration on student achievement and less emphasis on the “craft of teaching” during inservice get-togethers.
She also said work is underway to align instruction with tests, so academic skills are taught in the same year that the state tests are given, instead of a year or two after, or before.
She also said each school is intervening when students are falling back, and enhancing the curriculum to increase learning, which she said is a continual process.
Also, the board will discuss facilities soon and begin to address the environmental needs of the 13 buildings, considering where utilities need to be upgraded, with an eye on air quality, Phares said.
The board will keep the same officers and committee assignments as last year. Kimberley Kaschke is the vice-president. Lisa Bianco is secretary, although school employee Sheila Furley is the recording secretary who calls for votes and keeps the minutes.
The votes were all unanimous, 4-0. Kaschke and Morrell were absent.
In other action, the board:
• Accepted the resignation of Joyce Kimzey at the end of the school year. Kimzey is the secondary special education coordinator. Applications will be accepted for a replacement next month, Eshleman said.
• During the financial report, Business Manager Stuart Simpson said income and expenses are on track. The school received federal grant money for special education and No Child Left Behind recently, much this year than last year. Simpson said the district is filing for salary reimbursement instead of reimbursement for other expenses, simplifying the process. He said the federal government is demanding much more documentation before reimbursing other expenses than in past years.
• Designated all banks operating in North Platte as potential depositories for temporarily holding school funds when available cash is more than the immediate expenses. Simpson said First National Bank and Nebraskaland National Bank are the traditional primary depositories.
• Kept the same board members on the same subcommittees as last year. Phares, Kaschke and Mike Morrell are on the finance and communications subcommittee, which meets at 8 a.m. on the first Tuesday each month. Julie Nielsen, Lisa Bianco and Jack Price are on the personnel, curriculum and Americanism subcommittee that meets at 8 a.m. on the third Tuesday each month.