Superintendent Corey Burton announced at the regular meeting of the USD214 Board of Education May 8, the budget for next school year is expected to decrease by $120,000 due to declining enrollment numbers.
“We’ve been operating for quite a few years where we have been pulling our base enrollment number from two years prior,” Burton said. “Next year, we’re not going to have that option. Since we’ve continued to drop enrollment, we’re going to see a bigger drop next year.”
Burton said changes will have to be made moving forward to accommodate the decrease in budget. The budget bill in Topeka is yet to be completed and signed by Governor Laura Kelly.
USD 214 Board of Education members met to discuss and review a packed agenda during their recent meeting, which included:
■ Hickok Elementary School Principal, Marcia Raines, took the floor with information about Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training. To acquire the training, teachers must endure a heavy dose of study, which has pushed back completion. Raines shared alarming statistics and said that only 35 percent of fourth grade students are proficient in reading in Kansas.
“There’s a huge disconnect. Something’s not right,” Raines said. “If 95 percent of students can learn to read but only 35 percent of fourth graders are reading proficiently, we’ve got a problem.”
Raines also shared that only 51 percent of universities were providing adequate instruction in teaching reading. According to Raines, all these factors have created an issue with American high school students graduating with low reading skills. The State of Kansas began offering LETRS training to K-5 teachers at no cost to the district. Last year, Raines approached former Superintendent Dave Younger, proposing a stipend for teachers that complete LETRS training. In total, teachers can earn a $5,000 stipend upon completion as established by USD 214. Ulysses is one of the few Kansas districts offering a stipend. Raines gave hopeful data on the future.
“At Hickok, I have 13 teachers coming back next year that are committed to volume one and two,” Raines said. “I have three additional (teachers) starting next year with volume one.”
In the fall, teachers from Sullivan and additional Hickok teachers will begin the first volume of training. Currently, only three teachers have completed the training: Marcia Raines, Ginger Hartman, and Nancy Mangels. Raines is optimistic of the impact LETRS will have on USD 214 elementary students.
■ The BOE dove into action items, starting with a proposal from SFE Food Service. A motion to accept the proposal was moved and approved. A CMAR contract from McCowen and Gordon was passed unanimously. A motion to approve Ulysses High School and Kepley Middle School student handbooks for next year was approved. Kepley Middle School will be receiving new cafeteria tables after the BOE accepted a bid for $23,568.12 from Green Guard. UHS will obtain an agreement with BSN Sports to acquire new sports attire and equipment. The three-year agreement will span from July 1 to June 30, 2026. A $1,000 branding package will be included in the first year. A signing bonus of $1,500 will be used to purchase coach apparel. A ten percent kickback will be awarded for purchases through the major sporting brand, Under Armour. Overall, a 35 percent discount will be given on sporting apparel. Most importantly, uniforms can be afforded for girls’ basketball, wrestling, and track. BOE members passed the motion for the agreement to purchase Under Armour gear.
■ Ulysses High School English Language Arts teachers are exploring a new avenue to increase student engagement. ELA teachers, Misti Becker and Jodi Pfingsten collected surveys from students asking them about their preferred genres. Each English course will include research, speaking, writing, short stories, novels, and non-fiction.
“They’re going to be getting all the standards regardless of which class they take,” said Becker.
UHS Librarian Jennifer Burns, has assisted ELA teachers in finding resources for reading versus purchasing textbooks. The BOE approved the list of new UHS ELA classes for the 2023-2024 school year. Pfingsten and Becker are hoping the new approach will create a more successful and driven learning environment.
“Jodi and I have already spent a lot of time working on this. If it helps the kids, it will be worth it,” said Becker.
Margaret Obholtz from Impact Ulysses approached the BOE concerning the organization’s partnership with the Grant County Health Department to develop a survey. Residents will answer approximately 25 questions to assess community health needs. Participants will receive a voucher as an incentive for their input. The anonymous assessment will go live from June 5 to June 18. Lucy Watie, Denise James, Ludivina Gonzalez, and Marieta Hauser have been selected to head the planning committee for the survey.
“This survey will provide us to see what resources are available and what we can to do to make sure we effectively and efficiently meet these needs,” said Obholtz.
The community health needs assessment was made possible by the Pathways Grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Board of Education members then approved the following resignations:
Ashley Partin, Hickok Elementary Teacher; Sabrina Hughbanks, Hickok Elementary Teacher; Ryan Partin, USD214 Band Instructor; and Cory Bixler, Ulysses High School Science Teacher.
They approved the following contracts:
Shelby Hermann, Ulysses High School Art Instructor (Long Term Sub); Sandra Rodriguez, Hickok Elementary Teacher (Long Term Sub); Kristi Bohl, Kepley Middle School ELA Instructor; Josh Hickok, Ulysses High School Business Teacher (Long Term Sub); Carol McAtee, Sullivan Elementary School Assistant Principal; Cade Albert, Kepley Middle School Summer Strength Coach; and Sophia Rietcheck, Kepley Middle School Strength Coach.
The next meeting for the Board of Education will be at 7 p.m., Monday, June 12 at the Central Office.
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