Board Recap – December 4, 2017

The Geary County Schools Board of Education met on Monday, December 4, 2017, at 5:00 PM at the Mary E. Devin Center for Educational Support for a regularly scheduled meeting.

Special Recognition of Outgoing Board of Education Members

Carolyn Gaston, Brian Field, and William Brooks were recognized for their years of service on the Geary County Schools USD 475 Board of Education. Mrs. Gaston has served since October 2008, Mr. Field since August 2013, and Mr. Brooks since February 2017. Each was presented with a gavel that commemorated their time devoted to Geary County Schools. Dr. Miller, President of the Board, presented these gavels at the start of the meeting on Monday night.

Mrs. Gaston requested that an agenda item be added to the meeting for proposal or qualification of bond proceeds. This item was requested to be an action item. After this motion, the Board of Education approved the consent agenda prior to continuing with the meeting.

Conversation with a Principal

The next portion of the Monday Board of Education meeting with the monthly conversation with principals. Mary Wright, Junction City Middle School Principal, spoke with the Board about goals at the Junction City Middle Schools. Relationships and Relevance are two areas of focus at the school and have brought staff together to come up with ways in which they can improve. Wright spoke on the relationship piece saying that there are several areas of relationships within the building to include staff, students, and parents. The relevance portion of the school’s goals speaks to student engagement and the importance of making school and classroom lessons relevant to students. To help students become more engaged in the curriculum, teachers are using more collaborative group activities.

Wright also took time to talk to the Board of Education about the importance of social-emotional emphasis with students and when asked what the Board can do for the Junction City Middle School Wright explained that supporting social-emotional needs is key.

General Remarks from Board of Education Members & Superintendent

Mrs. Gaston started the remarks by expressing her joy over the past several years working with staff in USD 475. She went on to say that she will miss being on the board and before saying thank you to those she has had the opportunity to meet and work with throughout the years. This will be Mrs. Gaston’s final regular meeting.

Mr. Brian Field, told those in attendance what a great time he has had on the board and wanted to express how impressed he has been with the work going on in USD 475. Field spoke about his pride in accomplishing as a district some very lofty goals. He expressed how professional the Superintendent and his executive team are and went on to say that this administrative team is one of the best this district has had. This is Mr. Field’s final regular meeting of the Board of Education.

Mr. William Brooks took time to speak during his last regular meeting to express his thanks to those that support the Board of Education. He expressed his interest in supporting the schools further through work off of the Board of Education. Brooks wished the incoming Board of Education members the best of luck.

LaDonna Junghans thanked the outgoing Board of Education members for their service and wished them the best of luck. Dr. Anwar Khoury, CSM Collins, Dr. Corbin Witt, Dr. Beth Hudson, and Tom Brungardt agreed with these sentiments.

Dr. Miller took this time during the Monday meeting to share with members things about generational gaps that he learned at a conference sponsored by KASB (Kansas Association of School Boards). Though he didn’t elaborate on the things that he learned, he did present notes to the other members for their consideration.

Approval of Bills

As with all normal Board of Education Meetings, the Board was presented with the monthly bills of the district for approval. The Board of Education had no questions about the bills presented and they approved the paying of those bills listed.

Following the approval of the bills, the Board listened to Mrs. Gaston as she presented concerns over the proposal or qualification of bond proceeds vote that was made by the Board earlier this year.

Proposal or Qualification of Bond Proceeds

Mrs. Gaston presented concerns she has over the investment of Heavy Impact Aid and bond dollars by USD 475. Her concern is that the Board of Education voted in favor of investing all Heavy Impact Aid and bond dollars in one place earlier this year. She proposed to the Board of Education that until USD 475 has an opportunity to discuss with bond counsel and/or an attorney to get an opinion on how the district should go forward with proceeds from Heavy Impact Aid dollars. Brian Field mentioned that the decisions made by the Board of Education earlier this year were centered on interest and fees by the banks that responded to requests. LaDonna Junghans mentioned that the bank chosen, Sunflower Bank, was the only bank meeting the criteria that the District was looking for and had fees that were acceptable to the Board. Mrs. Gaston stated that she was not at the March 6, 2017, meeting and had recently had questions or concerns.

Mrs. Gaston doesn’t want the Board of Education to go forward until they know more and have clarity on the issue. She made a motion that the Superintendent and President of the Board of Education reevaluate the RFQ for bond proceeds which was passed on March 6, 2017, on HIA funds versus bond proceeds. This was voted on an approved.

Dr. Witt stated that when this was in RFQ only two banks replied to the request. He agreed with Junghans that fees and the meeting of criteria were the reason the District chose the bank they did. The Board of Education did vote in favor of Sunflower Bank, with a quorum, on March 6, 2017, and the investment is under contract. David Wild, Chief Operations Officer, did tell the Board that if they chose to leave Sunflower Bank the contract allows for that.

Hear Audit Report for FY 2017

Abram Chrislip of Mize Houser & Company, P.A. presented the 2017 audit report for USD 475 to the Board. Chrislip presented the audit to the Board which included an opinion. This opinion was an unmodified opinion (the highest opinion available) on the USD 475 audit. Chrislip went on to say that it has been a pleasure working with USD 475 staff and that there are no recommendations to significantly change any procedures in the district. The audit report was accepted by the Board.

Presentation of Results of Bond Offering

Dustin Avey, of Piper Jaffrey, told Board of Education members that USD 475 was rated an “aa2” credit rating (only one Kansas school district is rated higher with a “aaa”) which is very good news and a result of the procedures and good stewardship of Geary County Schools. He went on to present that there is some really good news for the Board and the Geary County Schools community when it comes to the more recent bond issue. Currently, USD 475 is in a better place than what was projected and presented to voters earlier this year which translates into cost avoidance for the district. Avey finished his presentation to the Board by saying that it is his estimation that there isn’t another district in the country that is in the position that Geary County Schools is in, he is proud of it and is sure the district is as well. For more information on the issuance of bonds, the district issued a press release prior to the Monday meeting (press release available on connectED).

Dr. Khoury asked if the district has had a bond council review the bond documents and Dr. Witt informed the Board that USD 475 has. This bond attorney is the entity that creates the documents which are presented to the Board of Education.

Consider Adopting Bond Resolutions 2018-28 – 2018-30

After discussion of the bonds, the Board of Education moved, voted on, and approved the adoption of Bond Resolutions. There was one vote that was not in favor of the Bond Resolution (Dr. Anwar Khoury).

Construction Management At-Risk Program for the New JCHS

The Kansas Construction Procurement Act of 2008 (amended 2015) authorizes the use of the CMAR program when in the public interest, phased construction programs and transparency is preferable. The complexity of the JCHS construction project lends itself to meeting all criteria of the Procurement Act while granting BOE oversight in the implementation of Best Value decision processes related to design and construction as well as cost controls. The CMAR process allows the BOE / District to leverage the technical expertise of one contractor managing all phases of construction while providing an additional layer of bonded protection.

The CMAR Program allows the district more flexibility when selecting sub-contractors. This could allow the district more transparency and more opportunity to consider more local contractors for work. CMAR also allows the district the select contractors by the quality of work and not just by the lowest bid received. The Board of Education would have final authority over the overall project budget keeping it under the promised $105 million cost (CMAR also helps to keep costs within budget since the General Contractor shares in cost over the targeted and agreed upon budget).

After a presentation to the Board by Chief Operations Officer David Wild, the Board of Education voted and approved the use of the CMAR program for the new JCHS and summer projects of USD 475. A public notice was published on connectED and in the Daily Union Newspaper.

Interviews for the CMAR consist of a committee that is designated by the Board of Education that scores applicants and then presents a recommendation to the Board. Dr. Miller clarified that this would be a screening process of sorts and would include less than 10 committee members. Mrs. Gaston reminded the Board that all projects over the past several years (except for Fort Riley Elementary) have come in on time and under budget and she hopes the same will be true of the new JCHS.

Summer Work 2018

Mr. David Wild shared with the Board the master plan for 2018 summer work. Staff recommended that the Board approve the Control Budget for Summer Work 2018 (Master Plan Schedule – $2.7M). Staff will return for Board of Education approval of Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) budget after the General Contractor secures bid pricing.

The overall 6-year Master Plan has already been approved by the Board of Education and on Monday night they approved the control budget for the 2018 Summer Work projects. Summer work includes roofs, restrooms, Custer Hill demolition (pending), tennis courts to be resurfaced, and more.

Consider Upgrading Six Remaining Multi-Zone Units (HVAC) Control Systems at FSA

Aged controllers are currently costing the District energy loss and unnecessary maintenance service calls as well as shortening the life-cycle of associated compressors. All six controllers at the FSA have been serviced beyond life cycle expectancy (these are running on 1970s technology). Repair parts are not readily available and are being made from recycled parts. Proposed repairs would be done via competitive solicitation at an estimated cost of $90,000. Previous repairs at FSA demonstrate the ability to realize a return on repair investment through energy cost avoidance in 12 months. This project will be paid out of the Capital Outlay fund and the Board of Education approved to replace this equipment (with a competitive solicitation) after a presentation by David Wild.

Grounds, Custodial, Maintenance Way Forward 

Last month Chief Operations Officer, David Wild, led a discussion on the current GCA contract with the Board. A five-year contract with GCA Services, Inc. began on July 1, 2011, with the period of performance running through June 30, 2016. The contract also contains five 1-year extensions. GCA is currently in the second extension year with three possible extensions remaining. The current contractual obligation extends through June 30, 2018, and officials are in the process of evaluating options.

Options available to the District include 1) Extend the contract with GCA for a 1-year period. Under the current contract, the BOE may extend the current contract for up to five, one year periods, which could run the contract through the 2020-2021 school year. 2) Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to competitively re-procure current services. 3) Enter into  Discussions/negotiations with a non-profit disabilities program provider to deliver services at a fair market value. And, 4) Bring all (or some) of the services back under District control.

The Board of Education elected to extend the contract with GCA for one more year in order to give USD 475 more time to look into options and set conditions for success.

At approximately 7:00 PM Dr. Miller suggested that the Board take a recess and upon their return, the Board voted to make a few small changes to the Board Policy that includes who handles complaints and required FTE for students to participate in school activities.

Adoption of Great Minds

Materials for Engage NY elementary mathematics have been printed for USD 475 through Office Depot at an approximate cost of $141,000 annually. The same materials are available through the parent company of Great Minds (Eureka Math) at approximately $86,000 annually. This option to obtain copied material for the lower amount was not the case when the district initially chose Office Depot. Teaching and Learning staff have reviewed the Great Minds (Eureka Math) materials periodically and discovered this summer that they are available at the lesser cost, saving potentially $55,000 annually. In addition to the reduced cost, USD 475 would receive features that include a Digital Suite for teachers and online homework helpers. The significant savings annually is contingent on a commitment for the remainder of this year and four additional years.

This was approved by the Board of Education and will be implemented at the break between semesters this year.

Front Row Education

Front Row Education is a Mathematics screener for grades K-5 that gives detailed information to teachers regarding student performance and growth level. The product provides USD 475 with benchmark assessments that align with the standards through practice questions and tutorials. Additionally, Front Row Education will show the district where learning gaps exist for elementary students and organize a path of instruction and intervention to close those gaps. Students may also use Front Row Ed at home making the program even more robust.

The Board of Education elected to approve the renewal of the Front Row Ed license.

District Emergency Management Program to be Brought into Compliance with BOE Original Intent

Emergency management programs have evolved from mere safety compliance issues to complex plans and programs. The community expects the District to place appropriate emphasis on Emergency Management programs in an effort to provide a safe learning environment for children. The original vision of the Board of Education was to provide a staff of two emergency management personnel to plan, grow & sustain its programs and operations. At the Monday Board of Education meeting officials spoke with the Board about the possibility of adding an additional staff member to meet original goals. Currently, USD 475 employees one Emergency Management Director.

David Wild told the Board that they have set the district up for success in the realm of safety, however, in order to maintain this level of safety staff is suggesting to the Board that they consider an additional position as originally proposed. This new position could be paid for by funds created by reducing the district warehouse by one position in the future (through attrition). After discussion, the Board decided to move a vote on this matter until next month when they would be able to consider a new job description for both the current and new positions.

Teaching & Learning Presentation – English Language Learners

Susan Pender, Coordinator of ELL, (along with ELL staff from JCHS and JCMS) spoke to the Board about the district English Language Learners (ELL) program. Pender told the Board that ELL numbers in the district have grown steadily over the years until this year (79 students exited last year, which means that students become proficient based on a State of Kansas test). This year the district has 17 students that do not speak English as well as several students who were displaced by recent Hurricanes. With a decline in ELL endorsed teachers this could create a burden on schools, however, the district has qualified for a grant that will allow 25 teachers to more easily become endorsed (due to a partnership with Kansas State University). More information on this program can be found on connectED. The ELL Program is present in each school in the district to include the Early Childhood Center.

District websites include translation services to allow all speakers/readers that ability to access district information. This translation is included on connectED, eFlyers, and the new USD 475 website. Later this year, translation will be added to each school’s website which could include school newsletters and other school-specific information.

Updates to KPERS Penalties 

KPERS penalties have changed for staff hired who have already retired from the KPERS system. Effective January 1, 2018, penalties will increase to 12.01% on the first $25,000 earned then 30% on any wages above $25,000. USD 475 currently passes these penalties on to the retirees (except for special education) and plans to continue doing so. Staff did recommend that USD 475 continuing paying the KPERS penalty for all staff in hard to fill positions (Special Education, SLP’s, School Psychs, and grandfather current Nurses).

General Remarks from Board of Education Members & Superintendent

Brian Field took this opportunity to express how well he thought that the current USD 475 Director of Emergency Management, Scott Clark, was doing with the Safety and Security Program in Geary County Schools. Field went on to say that he is an incredible value to the district and advocated for the creation of a second safety and security position within the district.

After general remarks, the Board of Education recessed to executive session to discuss the acquisition of land for the new Junction City High School. The Board planned to resume the meeting at 8:20 PM, however, extended the executive session several times.

Consider Acquisition of Land for New High School

After the Board of Education came out of Executive Session, discussing potential properties for a new high school, the Board moved to hold a Special Board of Education meeting on December 11, 2017, at 5:00 PM regarding choices of land acquisition for the new Junction City High School. During this special meeting presentations will be made by presenters in the field of construction and land acquisition.

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