Discussion of advertising mediums and positive promotion of the school district turned into a lengthy conversation for board members and members of the public at the Boscobel Area School District School Board meeting Monday evening.
The new business item on the agenda simply listed as “Advertising Newspaper” was entered by board vice-president Chuck Owens, who explained that the item came in response to Baird and Associates representative Mike Clark’s explanation at the October annual meeting that the school needed to entice enrollment, since losing students had the largest impact on school funding.
“What are we doing for Open Enrollment, what serves us best?,” Owens asked. “Is it internet, radio, or newspaper? What are we required to do?”
Owens explained that given the need to make budget cuts, the board needed to begin looking even at the smaller items. Making advertising more efficient, along with other small items, could add up over the course of the year, while retaining and attracting students could help create revenue.
As the board and audience began discussing advertising venues and regulations, district operations advisor Steve Wacker responded that a narrower directive would be needed for him to be able to respond since state statute regulated some aspects of the topic, board policy others.
A man in the audience asked why students were enrolling in other schools.
It was explained by Owens and Board President Todd Miller that state law prohibits the district from asking parents who choose open enroll their students in other districts. For the school district to ask would be a violation of the student and their family’s privacy, but for an individual of the public to ask the student or family was not.
“What people don’t seem to realize is that our district is high needs,” Miller said.
Because the district has a higher proportion of special needs students while also having higher poverty rates, expenses are more intensive and revenues lower, Miller told the audience.
Owens also noted to the crowd that several years ago, when the school fund balance was around $3 million, the auditor had told them it was too high and should be kept closer to $1 million.
“Part of the reasoning, as I recall, was that there was some thought that the state might start looking at fund balances when they calculate funding,” added board treasurer Roger Knoble.
Funds drawing the fund balance prior to the current year had been used for projects that helped keep the school current and competitive, Miller added, referencing the fiber optics installed in the district buildings for around $100,000.
The conversation veered to youth sports and coaching, before director Derek Zimpel suggested that the school’s teachers were doing an excellent job given the challenges the district faces, and that promoting the positive successes of the district was important to its future.
Addressing the initial topic, one gentleman in the audience suggested condensing employment ads, so that multiple positions appear in a single ad, rather than in several individual ads.
“I see other districts doing that, and I think it would save some money,” he explained.
Queried later by a woman in the audience about the billboard that used to promote the school district on the edge of town, Miller said he would look into finding out how much it would cost.
Owens asked that the policies on how and where the district advertises be provided at the next meeting.
Elementary Principal Rick Walters reported that over 96-percent of parents with elementary students enrolled in the Boscobel School District attended parent-teacher conferences. Walters also reminded board members of the upcoming holiday dinner on December 16, inviting board members to attend.
“I believe our new music instructor is planning to have a holiday concert with our little ones, probably in the afternoon,” Walters noted.
Middle and High School Principal Rodney Lewis also reported on parent-teacher conferences.
“We had only positive comments,” Lewis said, noting that one in particular praised the new teachers at the school.
Lewis presented the board with a sample discipline policy for the board’s review.
“I think it would fit well with our seventh through 12th grade students,” Lewis said.
The policy if implemented would require the students to read and sign the document, which details infractions, how they would be treated, and what steps would be taken.
The document is in review, Lewis said, and would be cross-referenced with the student handbook. The principal would like to see the document in place by next year.
Wacker reported that he had been busy working on the budget report. He also noted that he was working on the crisis intervention plan for transportation.
There is an issue with the radio frequency being used by the school, which would be addressed the next day, Wacker said. Questioned about the use of radios, Wacker explained that they were used for instant communication, making them ideal to use for fire drills, emergencies, and other issues that would be hampered by possible delays if staff were to rely on other means of communication.
Zimpel queried Wacker about costs relating to the Early Education Program transportation, specifically expenses relating to a second route instituted by the administration.
Wacker noted that there were multiple variables at play in the decision to institute the second route, one of which was an hour and a half bus ride for one student without the second route.
Additionally, aspects of a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program), can determine other factors such as the need for a paraprofessional to be present, also driving up costs.
“Specials needs come first,” Wacker stated.
State regulations determine how the school has to respond to specialized needs. The second route was the most cost effective plan, he stressed.
Wacker extended an invitation to the board to visit the Early Education class to better understand what the program needs and requirements were.
Owens asked that Wacker email the board members with the times and location of the class.
Miller sparked discussion between the board and members of the public by requesting the district conference and staff training expenditures, saying his concern was to make sure the “money was spent wisely.”
Wacker explained that it was becoming cheaper to bring training to the staff than to send staff out for training.
“There are no hotel or travel expenses, and you can train everyone that way,” Wacker said.
Wacker did note that conferences and workshops have different goals, since conferences are also largely about networking.
Lewis suggested that it was important for the district administration to decide how workshops fit the district’s needs and initiatives before approving the expenditures,
Knoble noted one concern on spending the money for training was the possibility of simply making the teacher more employable elsewhere.
Owens noted that it was the reality post-Act 10 employment environment, which has left schools in something of a bidding war for teachers.
No action was taken.
Wacker asked the board to consider creating heads of maintenance for each of the district buildings. The positions would need some incentive, but would guarantee that someone was responsible for oversight of the buildings and would keep issues in need of attention from being lost due to “buck passing,” the operations manager noted.
Owens and Miller both expressed concern over creating the positions based on the need to cut expenses and board plans to create a long-term financial plan for the school district.
Owens did agree with Wacker that if a future referendum were to pass or the school were to begin a capital project to move forward on repairs, there would need to be someone responsible for oversight.
The board chose to take no action on the request at this time.
In other business, the Boscobel School Board:
• heard public comment from Caleb Mueller over the failure of the referendum to pass and the need to invest in school infrastructure;
• approved Laura Roling and Shayla Pickett as volunteer assistant wrestling cheerleader coaches;
• tabled action on the auditor’s suggestions for purchasing procedures until summer;
• discussed fundraising policy for student clubs and activities;
• received a survey report on extra-curricular pay from CESA 3;
• approved the support staff seniority list;
• approved hiring John Klass, III as a substitute custodian;
• accepted donations from Lori Latham ($255), Ram Gridiron Challenge ($500), and Children’s Advisory Board ($150).