Before getting down to business Monday, the Meeker Board of Education celebrated some student successes. There to describe their endeavors were Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state award winners Kolbi Franklin, Kirsten Brown and Jacob Slone. All three are headed to the FCCLA nationals in Atlanta, Ga., in late June. These students are competing in Students Taking Action with Recognition events. Franklin placed first at state in leadership, Brown placed first in job interview and Slone placed second in nutrition and wellness. Brenda Hummel is the teacher sponsor of Meeker FCCLA and will accompany the students to nationals. FCCLA is a career and technical student organization.
BEST Grant Denied
The primary business issue for board members was finding out Meeker did not receive a $19.5 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant on Friday. District Superintendent Chris Selle traveled to Denver to present the district’s case. The Board spent some time discussing options going forward as the district still has both a bus barn and high school in serious need of some $51 million in reparations as identified in the strategic facilities plan and analysis. (Please see Selle’s column, PAGE 5A).
Public Comment and Parent Concerns
During public comment, Kari Brennan, mother of a preschooler and first grader, spoke on behalf of herself and her husband Neil, to follow up on serious concerns they have regarding student behavior and class disruptions that may cause them to consider homeschooling their kids. She mentioned that other families were considering the homeschooling option as well.
Brennan has been helping in the grade school with the Children’s Health Coalition. She doesn’t fault teachers, and, in fact, lauded the teachers the district has. She thanked the district for the conversations she’s already had with teachers and administrators, and appreciates efforts attempting to deal with the issues, but said she’d like to see a more proactive approach.
The board discussed the matter at some length with board member Bob Dorsett being particularly concerned that policy changes be made as needed. Selle did not think any policy change was needed and explained the importance of leaving some flexibility in these matters for teacher and administrative discretion. The 2018-2019 budget, Selle said, includes funding for a couple more behavior specialists that can help in these situations. The district is required, of course, to provide an education to all students, within reason. The board will continue to work with the Brennans on the matter.
Board member Tom Allen reported on behalf of the Meeker Education Foundation that the applications for $500 level teacher need grants would now be accepted year round while the next deadline for larger grants would remain July 1. He said the fundraising golf tournament which was so successful last year is scheduled again for July.
The board reviewed the preliminary proposed budget for 2018-2019. Selle indicated the current general fund balance is the highest it’s been since he has been superintendent. Unanticipated revenues and some underspending continue to help grow the end of the year balance. The proposed budget, which the board must sign off on in June, projects about a $600,000 deficit. After some discussion, the board expressed relative comfort with the deficit given that they are intending to spend down their reserves and that the aforementioned unexpected increase in revenues and underspending have tended to greatly reduce projected deficits in recent years.
Financials and ESEA Application
Expenditure changes in this next school year budget include a six percent increase in health insurance costs, a 32 percent increase in liability insurance, STEP and a 1.5 percent cost of living raise for all employees, an extra part-time teacher in the middle school, an increase in utility, fuels and parts costs and a decrease in transportation capital expenses.
The board approved acceptance of the April financial reports and the district’s consolidated application for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) federal program funds. This application certifies district compliance with federal rules including the Children’s Internet Protection Act and that no district policy “prevents, or otherwise denies, participation in constitutionally protected prayer” in the schools.
On personnel matters, the board accepted the resignation of Paula Kracht who has served the district as an elementary school paraprofessional for the last four years, approved hiring Art Cox as a part-time groundskeeper, Brandon Grasmick as a volunteer middle school wrestling coach, Georgann Amack as a part-time middle school science teacher and Ana Moreno as a district English language learner paraprofessional.
Selle indicated in his report to the board, as confirmed by human resources director Jessica Browning, that the district is currently looking for two assistant high school volleyball coaches, an elementary school teacher and an elementary paraprofessional.