School district financially sound

Also in this week’s Times: Who’s running for the city council seats?

Despite receiving more than $1 million less from the state than five years ago, the Aberdeen School District is still financially sound, according to auditor Morgan Hatt, who reported that news to Aberdeen school trustees Herb Bohrer, Todd Lowder, Elaine Blik and Mike Shackelford at their meeting Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Hatt said based on what he has seen examining the books for a week, the district is sound and their financial statements are fair and accurate.

“District wide, the property taxes collected were down from last year because the bond was refinanced and so they are collecting less. State income was also down,” he said.

The revenue collected in the district was up about two percent and the expenses were down six percent.

“The district spent less by tightening their belts,” he said.

Revenue exceeded the expenses by $201,000. That leaves $211,000 in the general fund. A year ago the district had only $66,000, according to Hatt. That figure needs to be closer to $400,000 carryover so the district can still operate in a month with no revenue at all.

Hatt commended the district on them being able to add to the fund balance. That was a very positive move for the district. They have not spent anything on facilities and that is why the school patrons passing the plant facility levy was critical. Most districts have struggled, but Aberdeen has increased their fund balance and their cash balance, he said.

Bohrer acknowledged the support of the patrons in passing the levy. “The citizens of Aberdeen are stepping up and doing what is necessary to support the school district. Thank you.”

Superintendent Jane Ward agreed and said there are no words that can say how grateful they are to the patrons for passing the plant facility levy. She also said she appreciates all that Hatt does for the district during his audits.

Blik said she believes the figures are where they are because of the work of Ward, Frank Dye and Dena Blaker. They work hard in the business office to keep things in order and running smoothly.

The audit report was approved.

Superintendent and administrator reports

Ward reported the district provided a writing workshop for teachers to help them teach their students how to write. The new test the students will be taking this year will focus on writing, so teachers will be providing appropriate instruction in all grades and classes.

Neal Cassell and Debbie Ellis have worked very hard with their safety committee to assure Aberdeen students are in a safe environment, Ward said. The district recently had an evacuation drill and she said the students were amazing. They left the school and were at their assigned place of meeting in a very short time. The drill took a lot of cooperation from all faculty and staff, parents and the police officers in Aberdeen and Bingham County. The drill was held to teach the students where they will need to go if they ever have to leave the building during an emergency. Ward thanked everyone that participated for their hard work and dedication.

She thanked the patrons for the support of the plant facility levy and said she will work closely with the board members to assure the funds are used as identified to improve the facilities of the school district. The funds from the levy will be available to the district in January.

She also thanked all the patrons who worked in the fish booth at the Eastern Idaho State Fair for the Aberdeen Education Foundation. The funds generated there go to the district and they appreciate them. She thanked the patrons who go the extra mile by providing their time at the fish booth and their dollars through the plant facility levy to help the school district succeed.

High school principal Travis Pincock reported he and a few teachers attended Common Core training. The teachers learned some ideas and strategies for implementing the Idaho Core. He learned some ways he could help the teachers implement the Idaho Core. Jennifer Krehbiel will be the Idaho Core coach in the high school. She will be trained more about the Idaho Core and bring that information back to the teachers at the high school.

All the fall athletics have started and are doing well, Pincock said. He received a letter from a parent in North Fremont who complimented a soccer player, Ezequiel Ortiz, who was going around picking up garbage after the game in North Fremont. “This is just one example of what great student athletes and coaches we have in our school.”

Most of the fall athletes have taken a baseline concussion test. Bingham Memorial has been at most home games and has been a great help with injuries. He said it has been great having a trainer this year.

Through GEAR UP the high school will be able to offer tutoring after school. This tutoring will begin after harvest.

Pincock said they are going to ask for a five percent increase in driver’s education fees. This course is still costing the district money. Dye said this is because the state hasn’t increased their reimbursement for the program.

Homecoming week is Oct. 7 through 11.

Pincock reported there were 35 students absent from school on Monday, Sept. 16, 39 on Tuesday, Sept. 17 and 40 on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

“It is frustrating for us at the high school. It doesn’t just affect those students who are gone. It affects the ones still in class, because the teachers can’t really teach with only seven students in a class,” he said.

Ward said each student has only eight days they can miss. If they miss more than that they have to go to a review committee. If they are denied credit from that committee they can appeal to the superintendent and then to the school board.

Pincock said a number of years ago, before Ward was superintendent, the committee denied the credit and the students took it to the superintendent and the superintendent approved the credit. That was frustrating to go to all that work reviewing the absences just to be overturned. The board decided they needed to follow the rules and support the review committee.

Ward said the board needs to decide how long to go for harvest. If they need to go three weeks then they can make the time up during Christmas, Spring Break, or go longer in the spring. It costs the school district $40 a day per student when they are absent.

Blik said it was disappointing that they didn’t drive the point home to the farmers to leave the kids in school. She suggested they talk to the kids at the beginning of school and let them know if they go over those eight days they will not get credit. Pincock said the students know.

Ward said the district wants to know how much harvest break the farmers need and the district will work it out, they just ask the farmers not to take the students out of school to work.

Pincock said there were fewer absent this year than there have been other years. It helps to have the extra two days. They have had fewer kids gone for longer periods of time. It also helps that the student athletes can’t play sports unless they are in school that day.

Lowder mentioned how times have changed over the years. When he was growing up, his family didn’t hire anyone else but students during harvest. Now there are more full time employees on the farms, but he still thinks it is a great opportunity for the kids to learn good work ethic.

Bohrer said that is a good reason for potato harvest.

Lowder asked if the district is still teaching cursive writing. He has heard they weren’t. Pincock said cursive writing wasn’t on the federal Common Core, but Idaho did put it on the Idaho Common Core so the students are still learning cursive writing. Lowder also asked if gay marriage was being taught as an alternative lifestyle. He was told no. Middle school principal Ann Mennear said they have worked on sex education about five years ago. They have the policy that if questions are asked that is not in the curriculum the student is referred to his or her parents. Ward said the Common Core uses the compare and contrast philosophy. They take two topics and compare them, but they don’t give the topics that should be compared. Teachers choose what topics they will discuss in the Common Core.

Mennear reported there were 10 gone from the middle school on Wednesday, Sept. 18,

She thanked the volunteer coaches Madi Nones and Amber Tilley for coaching girls volleyball. They are not paid positions. She added that the middle school teams always clean the bleachers and areas after their games.

Erin Johnson is the Common Core coach in the middle school.

Beginning Oct. 9, Neal Cassell, Debbie Ellis and Erin Johnson will teach Sean Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” to the middle school students twice monthly throughout the school year. Those presentations will take place during homeroom class to preserve instruction time.

After school tutoring funded by GEAR UP has started at the middle school.

Mennear reported she has set up a Remind101 account and is using it to send text messages to students and/or their parents regarding upcoming events, tests, tutoring, etc. This program is free and allows her to send messages without students seeing her phone number or her seeing theirs.

Special services director David Vaughn reported the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test will be given in April.

Cassell started working with the Gifted and Talented students. He is doing team building skills with them. He will also work on leadership skills and give them the opportunity to be in charge of various activities.

Vaughn said the special education program at the elementary is continuing to service students on the reading replacement program. This is for students who scored at or below the sixth percentile in reading on the IRI. Aberdeen has bout 15 students at that level.

Child Find activities were conducted at the preschool the first day of school. Sandy Kindt and David Brainard are assessing students who did not pass the screening. Many of the students who were in preschool last year have moved up to kindergarten.

Vaughn said they will receive training on the Common Core for special education. Aberdeen has 100 students in special education. That is fewer than Aberdeen has had in other years.

They will continue to work with parents on ensuring they are satisfied with the services their child is receiving in special education as well as the progress they are making.

Elementary principal Robi Jo Colton reported that Cassell will begin presentations of Sean Covey’s “7 Habits of Happy Kids” to the kindergarten through fifth grade students beginning in October.

The elementary building will conduct a lock down drill in October. The exact date has not be set yet.

The teachers and students seem to be appreciating the attendance incentive program, Colton said. Student names are drawn weekly and the winners are receiving small prizes. To qualify for the drawing a student needs to be in school all day every day that week. She thanked the board for offering to help with the prizes and said they will need some help with the big end of the year prizes.

The elementary advanced math program with the fifth grade students and middle school is running smoothly. There are ten fifth grade students enrolled in sixth grade math this year.

Mary George is the elementary Common Core coach.

Consent items

The August 21 meeting minutes, the August claims, the 2013 financial report, the county tax report, and the building budget reports were presented. Those items were approved by the trustees.

Business items

The policies on Prohibition Against Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying, Restraint and Seclusion, Homeless Student Education, Disclosure Requirements for Bond and Levy Elections, Financial Emergency, District Expenditure Website, Times and Effort Reporting Policy, Time and Effort Reporting Procedure, Time and Effort Supervisor’s Certification/Assurance, Time and Effort Personnel Activity Report, and Time and Effort Employee Certification/Assurance were presented for review.

Trustees were informed that Aberdeen does have homeless students. Vaughn said students are considered homeless if they are living in a house with another family, in a trailer, or just don’t have a home of their own. Aberdeen has one student that is living in a camper trailer with his family and one student in the high school who is 18 years of age that is living from house to house after running away from home.

Aberdeen received one bid for the repair on the high school boiler. That bid was from American Fabrication, Inc. in Idaho Falls. The company is not bonded, but they do have a public works license. Being bonded is like an insurance plan for the school district. It insures that if the company does something that would completely ruin the boiler or the school, it would be replaced. Ward said the gentleman she visited with said they may be willing to self bond, or give the district a check for the amount of the boiler for them to hold on to until the job was completed and the district was satisfied with the job.

Ward said they had a different company do a job for them that wasn’t bonded and it ended up costing the district. They had some heating/air condition units put in the district office and board room. The person who placed them in filled them with the wrong type of oil and it ruined them. They can’t be fixed.

Ward said if they don’t get the boiler repaired soon they will be in trouble. They will need to start the heat in the high school in the near future. She also said if they fix it and it isn’t right, they are in trouble.

Trustees approved the bid if the company will self bond and put a guarantee in writing.

The board approved the Student Improvement Plans. They are plans the teachers developed to show student improvement and to get differentiated pay. They will have a benchmark test at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year to show their improvement. Teachers have adjusted the tests because they can’t have students get 100 percent on the benchmark test. If they get 100 percent there is no way to show improvement. The plans need to be submitted to the state.

There is still no trustee for Zone 5. Only one person has shown interest in being on the board and that person does not live in Zone 5. The district is still hoping to have someone who lives in that zone step forward and show some interest.

Trustee input

Lowder thanked the teachers, administrator, Ward, Dye and Blaker for all the work they put in to the education system.

Blik said she was encouraged to see the audit report, but she is discouraged to see the absences because of harvest. She hopes it will get better next year. She added she is encouraged with the athletic teams and the jobs they are doing. She thanked the administrators, adding Mennear’s report seemed upbeat and happy. She is also excited the school patrons passed the levy and thanked them.

Shackelford said he was approached about the crowd standing on the track and the sideline of the field. This doesn’t happen in other places, but it makes it hard for people sitting in the stands to see what is happening on the field. They pay money to attend the game, they should be able to see it.

Bohrer said he agreed with Blik on the audit report. He said it was remarkable that the district is in better shape than last year. Now the challenge comes because everyone sacrificed and when the district gets more money everyone who sacrificed will think they have a claim on the funds. The board’s challenge is to see it is all done correctly.

He said he feels the district needs to be thinking about a new bus next year so they can get back on the state depreciation schedule.

Attendance is important, Bohrer said. They need to keep the kids in school. The county has money for a truancy court, they are just waiting for the school districts to step up and tell them what they want done in the court. He will contact Ladd Carter and get some more information.

“Aberdeen doesn’t have to take a back seat to anybody. It is a good school,” he added.

Closed meeting

Trustees recessed from an open meeting into executive session to discuss personnel. Following the closed session they reconvened in open session. Upon returning to open session, trustees moved to adjourned until Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.

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