Meeker board declares financial emergency

MEEKER I In meetings Feb. 2 and 16, the Meeker School Board discussed, among other items, the declaration of financial exigency and the possibility of a staff reduction, student expulsions, MAPS testing results, policy changes in interscholastic athletics and changes in personnel.
With a 10 percent decrease in state funding for the district’s budget, an “emergency financial exigency” was declared by the board at the Feb. 16 meeting. Superintendent Doug Pfau described the financial exigency as a “first step toward the possibility of a reduction in force (RIF).” Board member Ed Coryell said there were questions about the board’s timeline last time an RIF was discussed. He said that “a non-renewal policy is sent out every year, even though rarely is it the situation where there’s going to be an RIF.”
If a staff reduction does occur, it would happen in the spring by not renewing some teacher positions. The need for an RIF is not yet certain, nor how much of a reduction would be required to balance the budget.
While Pfau stated the district is still early in the budget cycle, the board discussed that some of the district monies remaining following the school construction could be used to pay off bonds. Pfau reported to the board earlier in the month that $1 million to $1.5 million should be left in the budget when the new elementary school construction is complete. The Minerals Leasing Act funded $71,000 to the school district, more than $40,000 than anticipated. Board member Coryell asked board president Mary Strang if U.S. Forest Reserve Funds had been received by the district this year: $28,000 was budgeted for the schools from this fund. Pfau reported that insurance benefit costs will increase next year by 2.5 percent — not 6 percent as anticipated — and provide the same kind of package to personnel as currently exists.
Regarding the executive session Feb. 2 to discuss expulsion of a student, the meeting was closed to the public to protect the identity and welfare of that student who appeared before the board in a private session. The regular board meeting followed the executive session. Two student expulsions were also discussed in a Feb. 16 executive session.
Jason Browning presented an overview and analysis Feb. 2 of ninth- and 10th-grade MAPS testing results to the board. Overall, both the ninth- and 10th-grade class scores demonstrate growth in critical-focus areas. The ninth-grade class scored above the national average in “thinking skills” and the 10th grade above the national average in “locating, selecting, and using information.” Both ninth- and 10th-grade classes as a group scored above the national averages in both math and science.
“The kids,” Browning said, “we need to focus on individually” in order to utilize MAPS as a testing tool that can monitor the strengths and weaknesses of critical focus areas for the student.
Brett Steinacher, high school industrial arts teacher, presented an analysis of MAPS and CSAP correlation data. While both classes have over time demonstrated an improving trend, he noted there is variation from each student season to season and subject to subject. The score predictor suggests that with the ninth grade 240 MAPS score, “52 percent would fall into proficiency” for the CSAP; however, Steinacher expressed optimism for at least 60 percent proficiency during the next testing year and noted that the accuracy of the score predictor is not yet known in the district.
Susie Goettel reported to the board that 48 students district-wide took the SELA (Student English Language Assessment) tests for English proficiency. While the regular CSAP will begin March 8, the alternative to CSAP testing is currently open. Goettel said the majority of academic testing should be completed before students are released for spring break.
In school personnel matters, Amy Slimp was welcomed by the board in her role as the Barone Middle School special education teacher. Slimp thanked the board for its support of the special education students and program.
“The support from the school district for special ed has been phenomenal, and this is especially important for special ed students to have this strong support system.” Slimp has been a teacher for two years; she joined the Meeker School District this year after her first year of teaching in Michigan. Kaylene Turner, in her role as the early childhood special education instructor for the preschool, was introduced at the Feb. 16 board meeting. Turner did her student teaching last year with the Meeker second-graders, and this year is “enjoying the 2-to-3-year-olds” in her first year of teaching. Turner is currently working on a master’s degree online with the University of Northern Colorado, and hopes to finish in the next year and half.
Superintendent Pfau read Andy Goettel’s retirement letter to the board. A motion was made and the board unanimously accepted the art teacher’s letter. Goettel’s letter reflected his long-standing commitment to sharing art as not just a subject, but a passion and life value, with his students. Goettel was a teacher for 34 years and spent 15 of those years in Meeker. A letter of resignation from Shane Phelan was accepted by the school board. Phelan was the high school head football coach for seven years.
A motion was made and the school board ruled on the interscholastic athletic team numbers that the superintendent recommended. The final numbers following a lengthy discussion on the policy of not allowing sixth-graders to compete for the wrestling team are as follows: 24 students for volleyball, basketball, and football; 16 for wrestling. Board member Jerry Oldland stated he believed increasing numbers for wrestling was positive for building the team as they advance through high school. High school coach Joe Gutierrez advocated allowing sixth-grade competition on the wrestling team.