MSD looks at high number of valedictorians, acts on budget

MEEKER I Meeker Board of Education (BOE) member David Smith reported during the board’s June 20 meeting that several people had asked him following the Meeker High School commencement what the deal was with having so many potential valedictorians for the Class of 2017. Nine 2017 students received mantles at the 2016 commencement.

Board member Kevin Amack asked his colleagues whether they thought it was OK to have nine potential valedictorians for next year.
Board member Dr. Bob Dorsett thought it was a fine reason to celebrate having so many excellent students in the Class of 2017, that all grading was fundamentally subjective and should not be relied upon to be objective.
Board President Bud Ridings, however, agreed with Amack that there’s got to be a way to decide on one valedictorian or maybe two, if there is a tie.
Superintendent Chris Selle said, “If you set a bar, and all nine kids meet that bar, then those nine kids all get the prize.”
The situation arises, in part, from the current grade-reporting system, he said. Any student now earning 89.6 percent and above is considered as having an “A” grade. Selle and the board agreed that the same system must be in place for all four years of a student’s high school career.
Any changes in the current grading system or other factors affecting the choice of valedictorians, which might be put in place this fall, would be for the entering freshman class.
Selle committed to circulating surveys to faculty, advisory boards, including parents and students for more input on this matter.
In other business last week, the BOE signed off on the preliminary $6.5 million budget for 2016-2017, projecting just over a $700,000 budget deficit to be funded by dipping into the reserve. The board believes the taxpayers, during the 2014 mill levy override campaign expressed the desire to have the board spend down their reserves to some extent.
For clarification, Amack asked for agreement on the summary situation being that the board would dip into their more-than $4 million reserve for approximately two years and, if it had to, use the state’s low interest loan fund to pay bills, before going back to the MSD taxpayers for any mill levy increased.
“The board wants to be able to find new funding sources by that time,” Amack said.
Selle pointed out in the budget discussion that savings from the four-day school week were noticeable. As an example, the budget line item for operation and maintenance of the physical plant is down $77,000 from 2015-2016 and $42,000 from 2014-2015. The line item for student transportation services is down $32,000 from 2015-2016 and $73,000 from 2014-2015.
Dorsett indicated that the dollars that the schools’ free- and reduced-cost lunch program are available throughout the summer. He wondered if the district or the Meeker community could find a way to offer those same kids the lunch program during summer months.
Selle committed to looking into the question further.
The board accepted the resignation of food services worker Janice Baldwin while approving the hiring of Apryl Newkirk as a fifth grade teacher and, for Barone Middle School, football head coach Jason Browning, assistant coach Clinton Kilduff and volunteer assistant coach Nick Smith.
It was also noted that classified staff (non-teachers) were undergoing evaluation by the superintendent, some perhaps for the first time in recent memory, or their memory, for that matter.
Selle reports now that the football field and track rehabilitation project continues to progress. The topsoil is back on the field and installation of the waterline to the town’s water main is underway this week. The sod, he said, will hopefully be back on the field within the next week or two.