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USD 410 discusses budget cuts

Coaches, activity sponsors could go in USD 410 cuts

News editor

The quandary of state education funding cuts hit home Monday as USD 410 Board of Education wrestled with the dilemma of cutting assistant coaches, activity sponsors, and programs.

Superintendent Steve Noble has for several months kept the possibility of cutting supplemental contracts for such positions on the table, one line item in a long list of budget-cutting measures.

The line item became a specific list of recommendations Monday, including the elimination of assistant coaches for middle school football, high school volleyball and boys’ basketball, and high school and middle school track and field. Three weight room supervisor spots, one each for fall, winter, and spring, and the sponsorship of the family and consumer sciences club also were listed.

Track coach Dennis Boldt addressed the board at the outset of the meeting, expressing concern about the reducing his staff to five. They oversee both high school and middle school track.

“We have 73 kids out for track. We have a large area to cover, and one of the primary concerns is safety,” Boldt said.

Track assistants split up to cover different ages and events, and supervision is an issue, he said, with students spread across multiple areas for practices at Joel Wiens Stadium.

Boldt said he had just returned from a track meet where he asked how many coaches each school had. Like Hillsboro, Sterling has six. Other schools had more, with nine at Lyons topping the list.

“Years ago I stopped asking for seven or eight coaches,” he said. “I guess I should have kept asking.”

The discussion by board members began in earnest following a lengthy executive session to discuss personnel matters.

“As you can probably figure out, we’re in a quandary about what to cut,” Board President Eddie Weber said. “Are we at a point where we want to cut programs instead of a coach? Or do we stay status quo with what we have and cut other supplemental in the school?”

“It comes down to the importance of activities in our community and how it assists our community, the involvement of our teachers, and the influence on our children during these activites and how it benefits them, not only in the classroom,” board member Mark Rooker said.

Board member Chad Nowak raised the issue of sports teams with few participants. If a decision is to be made to cut a sport, the decision should be final, rather than reinstating the sport two years from now, he said.

Budget challenges to supporting multiple programs aren’t due exclusively to state funding cuts, board member Ron Koons said. Declining enrollment has decreased revenue as well.

“We have to be realistic, we have to understand what size of high school we’re becoming,” Koons said. “The one thing we do know for sure is the number of kids we’re going to have in seats. It’s the reduction of students coming through our doors that has affected us over time.”

With no clear consensus about how to proceed, board member Joe Sechrist moved to table the discussion to the June meeting. Koons questioned what deferring the discussion would accomplish.

“Where are we going to go?” he said. “Are we going to have discussion about eliminating some programs? We need to have a plan.”

The board voted to defer the discussion to the June meeting, and asked Noble to research and prepare additional options for cuts to supplemental contracts and programs.

In other business:

  • Service awards were presented to Principal Max Heinrichs and media center aide Janet Whisenhunt, who are leaving the district. Greg Brown was unavailable to receive his award.
  • Noble withdrew a proposal to fund the expenses of sponsors attending out-of-state events with their students, based, he said, on budget uncertainties and an informal survey of what other districts do. Clubs will continue to be responsible for raising the funds to cover their expenses.
  • Heinrichs reviewed changes in the student handbook to accommodate students of TEEN virtual school participating in extracurricular activities and graduation, provided they are enrolled through USD 410.
  • Noble announced a local business has committed to a $10,000 challenge grant to support renovation of the elementary school playground. No word has been received about a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
  • A board position left vacant when write-in winner John Dalke declined to fill it can be filled by board appointment, Noble said. Interviews of interested candidates would be conducted in open session. No discussion was held about potential appointees.

Last modified May 14, 2015

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