SENECA - It was a subdued Seneca Area School District Board Meeting Monday night.
The board discussed a possible raise for the school district staff. Due to the uncertain situation being created by the pandemic for the district and the larger economy, there was hesitation on the part of the board and district administrator to give a more substantial raise in line with the three percent raise last year and the two percent raise two years ago.
In alluding to the situation during the discussion, district administrator Dave Boland pointed out that the staff had received the substantial raises in the past and could probably understand a lower raise this year given the uncertain conditions facing the district.
Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson asked at one point in the discussion if there were any board members completely opposed to giving any raise this year. No one indicated they were opposed to a raise of some amount. It was acknowledged that given the current situation, the district was asking more of the teachers then is normally expected.
Johnson, who chaired the meeting, participated remotely from his home via computer, as did board member Larry Kelley. Both men have been participating remotely for months at this point.
Johnson made the motion to give all staff a one percent raise to their current salaries. It was seconded by Tyler Aspenson. The motion passed unanimously on roll call vote. Chad Sime and Charles Clark Abstained.
Another major item on the agenda was the future of the school’s football program for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Seneca has played football in a co-op team with Wauzeka-Steuben for the past four or five years. The Blue-Golds as the team is called, have won three conference championships in a row at this point.
This season, the Blue-Golds will play 11-man football again, but this time it will be in a special spring season a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the North Crawford Trojans, Kickapoo-LaFarge and Weston -Wonewoc will join several other teams in their first year of playing eight-man football this spring.
The question before the board Monday night was should Seneca remain in a co-op team with Wauzeka-Steuben or choose instead to play eight-man football on its own going forward.
Boland, the district administrator, announced the results of Google poll of families with football players at Seneca. There are about 24 such families and 12 answered the survey. Of those answering, seven families preferred to stay in the co-op with Wauzeka-Steuben, playing 11-man football and five others preferred to play eight-man football with only Seneca players participating.
After some discussion of the matter, including input from head coach Justin Goodrich and assistant coach Derek Joy, the board decided to have each member individually express their preference for the two alternatives–an eight-man Seneca only team or an 11-man Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben co-op team. The idea was to give Boland an idea of what the board favored, so he could communicate that preference to Wauzeka-Steuben.
Board member Charles Clark said not communicating well for the spring versus fall season led the two schools to pick opposite seasons. He felt improving the communication was vital this time.
Seneca Athletic Director Erika Clark on hand for the meeting offered the board more information about the choice. She noted that Seneca retained the old Seneca football uniforms and they were usable in the event a Seneca team was the choice.
Erika also noted that DeSoto had decided to participate in 11-man football for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but was switching to eight-man football in 2023.
In answer to a question, coach Justin Goodrich acknowledged that Kickapoo-LaFarge and Weston-Wonewoc Center had chosen eight-man football and were participating in their first year this spring along with North Crawford. Goodrich also noted the combined enrollment of Kickapoo LaFarge was 239 and they would not be allowed to play for the state eight-man championship because it has an enrollment cap of 198.
However, Goodrich was quick to point out that going forward facing declining enrollments the Seneca-Wauzeka co-op team could switch to eight-man football in the future.
In answer to a question about enrollment numbers, Boland told the board that in grades five and up the average class was 22 students, while in grades below fifth, the average class size was 17.
In favoring the co-op, Britney Joy, wife of assistant coach Derek Joy, cited the existence of a junior varsity team as distinct advantage of the larger co-op team.
The JV team allows younger and smaller players to grow into the program. On smaller teams, underclassmen must play varsity and there is often a mismatch between freshman and the more physically mature seniors.
Board member Rachael George agreed with Joy that the co-op team was the best choice for football at this point.
“As a mother, I am concerned about the safety of my son if he has to play seniors as a freshman,” George said.
Charles Clark, Mark Johnson, Larry Kelley and Tyler Aspesnon also voiced their support for continuing with the 11-man co-op team in the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Every board member except Chad Sime expressed a preference for the co-op.
Sime declared he wanted the team to return to Seneca players only in an eight-man conference.
The Monday night meeting was also the occasion for the board to approve a final budget that contained only minor changes from what had been presented at the annual meeting. As presented the final balanced budget has $4,026,419 in expenditures and $4,026,419 in revenue. The total fall, 2020 estimated all fund tax levy declined to $1,448,266.
As a result of less staff expense this year and the pension debt retirement, the budget has a smaller tax levy than last year’s budget resulting in the lower mil rate of 8.44 down from 9.77 last year.
However, Boland cautioned that as things return to normal going forward next year’s budget would probably have a higher tax levy more in line with last year’s levy than this year’s lower levy.
In other business, the Seneca Area School District Board:
• approved ‘Start College Now’ and ‘Early College Credit Courses’ for six students–noting there may be more applying in the coming month
• discussed the details of starting winter extracurricular activities-noting their importance to the students• decided the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award should go to three teachers who retired last year– including elementary teacher Miriam Oldenburg (41 years of service); business instructor Donna Aspenson (21 years of service); and janitor Cathy Boland (23 years of service).