by Johannes Brann
On Thursday evening, the Northeast Vernon County R-1 School Board held its monthly meeting. Typical of a July meeting, the board reviewed bids for diesel fuel for its buses, propane for heating and food/milk for school breakfasts and lunches. The board also approved moving a certificate of deposit from one bank to another as well as a transfer of funds to reduce possible financial strain as payments are made for the district’s large heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) project and heard a report from the superintendent.
It was Dr. Michael W. Jinks, himself a retired superintendent and a search consultant with the Missouri Association of Rural Education (MARE), who guided the board through its hiring of a new superintendent at the start of this calendar year. During that process, Jinks offered to do some board training in preparation for the new administration. Thursday’s regular meeting was preceded by that training. The two-hour session covered the roles of superintendent and board as well as an examination of the many things a superintendent must oversee.
Said Board President David Bruce following the closed session training, “It was even better than I had hoped. They covered a wide range of topics, and I think it helped to get us all on the same page.”
Thursday’s meeting was the first for new superintendent Chris Holcomb. Also on hand were board members David Bruce, Heather Brown, Connie Gerster, Scott Pritchett, Mike Newman and Heath Brown.
“Because of decisions at the state level, we will have to resume charging for breakfast and lunch at school,” Holcomb told the board.
While school districts are forbidden from making a profit on school meals, superintendents and boards want to control the amount of loss as a cost to the district.
Holcomb distributed information showing proposed costs of breakfast to elementary and high school students will be moved to $1.75 while for adults it will be $1.95.
Lunch prices were proposed to be set at $2.35 for elementary students, $2.45 for students in high school and $3.05 for adults.
“One way in which the state is helping on food prices is for those who qualify for “reduced” cost meals; it will be just thirty cents for breakfast and forty cents for lunch,” noted Holcomb.
At this point he stopped to stress the importance of getting families to fill out the application to see if they qualify for free or reduced meal prices.
“Food costs can easily get out of hand but if we can reach all our families and get folks to fill out the application, it can be a really big help to our families and our district,” said Holcomb.
The board adopted the proposed meals prices on a vote of 6-0.
When it came to the opening of bids, Holcomb noted he had received only single bids for milk, diesel fuel and foods but two bids for propane.
The bid for one-percent white and chocolate milk bid from Hiland Dairy was approved on a vote of 6-0.
MFA Oil’s bid for diesel fuel is 15 cents per gallon over the “daily market cost” if paid by check; it is five cents more if paid by credit card. Credit card companies are charging companies a processing fee.
The lone bid for food was from the district’s current institutional food supplier, Marrones, based in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Remarked Holcomb, “The owner, Ron Marrone himself, has come out here twice just since I’ve started and visited with me about our needs and how they can serve us better; I was impressed.
The board approved the bids for diesel fuel and foods were approved on votes of 6-0 by the board.
The propane bid from MFA Oil was $1.85 per gallon while the bid from Affordable Propane was $1.90 per gallon.
Holcomb noted how each of the bids for the other types of items all contained a clause noting their price was “so much above the daily market price” or “subject to availability” but both propane bids contained no such language and were flat prices for the entire coming school year. The bid from MFA Oil was accepted on a 6-0 vote.
“Whenever we have bids which are not accepted, it will be my policy to notify them and state why we did not accept their bid,” said Holcomb. “A company whose bid we don’t accept this year might be the best choice next year; we need to keep good relationships from vendors.’
The R-1 district has two certificates of deposit (CD) invested with a bank in Bolivar; one which is about $10,000 is coming due; the superintendent suggested moving it to Metz Bank in Nevada, where the district does its banking. The other CD is some $20,000 but does not mature until late October; the early withdrawal fee would amount to $65.00. After discussion, the board directed Holcomb to move the smaller CD now and wait until late October to relocate the larger one. This action was approved on a 6-0 vote.
Before getting to his report, the board approved a request to a transfer of monies from the district’s general fund which originated from the Classroom Trust Fund (Missouri Lottery) and any eligible funds from WADA (weighted average daily attendance, which are state tuition payments) in that account and transfer them to Fund Four, which is reserved for capital improvements.
“Mr. Naas suggested I look at doing this and I agree, it would be a way to help ensure good cash flow as we make payments on our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) project at the two school s.
The superintendent began his report noting “all jobs are filled except that of the school secretary and I’ve got four candidates to interview for that position next week.”
Admitting his hands are very full, he sought board approval to look at whether it would be best to hire a consultant to manage Title I and Core Data or to assign this to staff; the board gave its approval.
Holcomb reported the district’s teacher salary matching grant with the State of Missouri was approved; this will cover 70 percent of a $38,000 salary.
Teachers will report back on Aug. 22 while the first day of school will be Aug. 25.
The R-1 district has been selected to among those to be evaluated in 2023 using the new sixth generation of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP-6) and will need to form a committee to write, submit and receive approval on a new Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) before the end of 2022. Up to two board members, along with a few staff and district patron volunteers will need to be identified before the end of August. This process will be part of the latest accreditation process for schools.
Holcomb reminded the board the district will be subject to its regular annual audit as well as a rare single audit for federal purposes due to acceptance of over $750,000 in federal (Covid-19) funds in a single fiscal year.
Board members pointed out to the superintendent that the district has several websites and Facebook accounts which is quite confusing; Holcomb agreed they need to be reviewed and consolidated.
Board member Mike Newman asked for either a monthly or quarterly brief statement of total revenues and expenditures to enable board members to have a quick snapshot of where the district is financially. Holcomb agreed to produce and provide this.
The board went into closed session and will next meet on Aug. 18.
by Johannes Brann