The April meeting of the Marshall Public Schools Board of Education will be April 19th to reorganize the Board (after the election on April 5th), as mandated by law.
To the Marshall Public Schools Community:
Spring brings thoughts about graduation and celebration of new beginnings. This year's seniors are a special group and have left their mark on Marshall High School. It is important to celebrate this traditional rite of passage with them and their families. I am happy to announce that MHS will be moving to a system where more honor students will be recognized during the graduation ceremony. The Board of Education has approved a Cum Laude system to begin in the year 2020. In the interest of encouraging and recognizing outstanding academic achievement, summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude graduates will be selected for each high school graduating class. Beginning with the graduating class of 2020, there will be no valedictorian or salutatorian. Overall, this is a good move for the district and is consistent with our belief and practice to include and encourage as many of our brilliant students as possible. More recognition and praise is good for everyone.
Probably the most special moment during the monthly school board meeting is during the segment called Student, Teacher, and Community Recognition. This month, these were the wonderful recipients of certificates of appreciation for Owlstanding jobs:
* Audrey Ming and 2nd Grade Leaders - Peyton Marshall, Miguel Centeno, Gerson Flores, Manesseh Nease, Mia Lark, Logan Jasper, Adrian Salazar and Katelyn Horelka.
* Bryan Gaskill -- Disc Golf.
* Paul Geiringer and MHS Debate students - Evan Lawrence, Christian Farris, Madison Larabee, Arianna Hunter, Hallie Harper and Alexander Toliver
* Mary Keller and DECA students -- Wendy Cortes, Clara Rouk, Margaret Miles, Emily Tobin, Rachel Heaper, Jennifer Diaz, Quiz Falls, Jack Hemeyer, Molly Angelhow and Jani Tobin.
* John Makings and Language Arts students - Bradley Self, Keith Hayes and Dashzon Davis.
The months of February and March brought intense work on the following year's budget. This year, I've asked principals and others responsible for funding requests to approach the process as a modified zero-based budget. This means that rather than assigning an amount (usually based on last year's budget) to each line in the budget, individuals are asked to provide a justification for their requests. Principals will have more responsibility in budgeting their allotted resources and they have the option to manage that as they will. If they want to give their teachers a base number or starting point, that's up to them. To begin with an actual "0" for every line requires a lot of work, but they can approach it as a total zero-based if they wish. I will be giving them figures for their buildings and they can assign an amount to supplies, equipment, and textbooks as they feel is appropriate.
The result is that some lines may be reduced this year, but others may be increased. Funding is, therefore, based on need rather than tradition. It is more work but ultimately, the responsible way to handle the friendly competition for scarce resources.
Here are other items on which we are working in the MPS Central Office:
1. I spoke with Rosella Shad from the Missouri Tax Commission concerning the outlook for revenue from the utilities tax (specifically the pipeline) for next year and on what the district can plan to build the budget. She has said decreased gas prices will affect the income but she doesn't know to what extent. Related to the decrease in oil prices, railroads are negatively affected since they carry the product. Railroads also pay taxes that support schools, so it will be interesting to see what happens after a large increase in those revenues last year. The tax commission will meet in April with the two companies that own the pipelines that run through the Marshall district and the true values will be known in June. (In general, Ms. Shad said that utilities have been holding stable after increases over the past two years. Electricity and others have seen a decrease so far this year.)
2. I treated the BMS Student Council members to pizza and cookies (health food!) for a working lunch to listen to their thoughts on why they love Marshall and how we can make our schools better. One common theme was that they love Marshall teachers and staff. They say the "grown ups" in MPS are so awesome! I will give a presentation on April 6th (12:30 p.m. in the Bueker Auditorium) at the all-district meeting on reflections from MHS Seniors and BMS eighth graders.
3. MPS is happy for groups to use our facilities and supports all things that benefit kids. It is our responsibility, however, to make sure the district remains in the best possible position, in all areas, as possible. To that end, we have been working to tighten up the use of facilities by uninsured groups. Groups without insurance, however, have the ability to purchase coverage through the Missouri United School Insurance Council and we will be happy to help with that effort. There is contact information available at the Central Office and music is happy to help in this area. It goes without saying that uninsured activities put the district in a very risky situation.
4. Terri Porter, Director of Special Services, and I recommended changes in the way we pay therapists who do not have teaching assignments. This includes the area of speech pathology and the dollar amounts for possible options were given. Therapists are educated and paid from the medical model, not the education model, and it is almost impossible to secure qualified individuals in the field. The Board (as allowed by policy) voted to veer from the teacher salary schedule to secure and retain speech pathologists to help Marshall kids.
5. MEHG, our present insurance company has given us their figures for continued coverage of teachers and staff next year. They are planning on a 7 percent increase in rates and sent us the information in this table. The CTA Salary and Benefits committee is also reviewing plans from other companies and would like to consider other options. They will present their recommendation to the Board during the April meeting. Here are the increases in coverage, per month, by our current carrier:
Insurance coverage is a large expense for the district, but one the Board of Education has supported by traditionally paying 100 percent of the premiums for teachers and 95 percent for staff. It should be noted that in every school district, salaries and benefits are by far the largest expense making up usually 83--87 percent of the budgeted expenditures.
6. During the Marsh regular meeting, the Board heard reports from the superintendent and principals on the status of personnel for next year. Since the CTA is still working on insurance possibilities, they will not have their recommendations for next year's salary schedule until the April meeting. To meet statutory mandates, we issued letters of intent to rehire following the Board meeting. School districts are required by law to inform teachers of their employment status for the following year by April 15. We will issue contracts with salary amounts by May 15.
7. The transition to the new accounting system continues to be a challenge for the Central Office. The company told us it would be six months before we got the bugs out of the system and at that time, I didn't believe them. But, I've become a believer. The budget amendments for expenditures were scheduled for this month, but I need to make sure I know how to retrieve and report accurate information for communication. For example, where there were two lines in the elementary salaries, there are now ten. The expenditures are now being broken down into smaller components of the formula and although that's good, I want to make sure I'm coding, correcting, and re-coding everything for accuracy before we start closing out the year.
8. The Katy Trail Bus has been on campus for the past few days, providing dental care for families who are not able to secure that for themselves. Lindsey Porter and Jason Varner have worked very hard to bring this service to Marshall.
9. We have fulfilled a request made numerous times last year, and this, for lunchroom monitors at Bueker Middle School. Dr. Earl Wellborne at Missouri Valley College helped us hire two young men who have finished their student teaching and will work with management during lunch so teachers can have that time to get ready for afternoon classes.
10. The district has been working to tighten up the use of facilities by uninsured groups. Groups without insurance have the ability to purchase coverage through the Missouri United School Insurance Council. I have contact information and MUSIC is happy to help in this area. It goes without saying that uninsured activities put the district in a very risky situation.
11. I am going on vacation over spring break and will be back on Wednesday the 30. On Thursday and Friday, I am at the superintendents' conference at the Lake and drive from there to the airport to attend the ASCD national conference in Atlanta. (I informed the Board that I am paying for my own airline ticket.)
12. District testing will begin in a few weeks - a chance for our students and staff to show off their brilliance!
On behalf of the Board of Education and every member of the MPS Family, I would like to thank all employees and representatives of the City of Marshall for the outstanding and continual support you show us. Whether you have helped at the pre-school, elementary, middle school, or high school level (or all of the above), we are indebted to you for everything you do for us. Our district is such a wonderful one, filled with wonderful people (young and not-so-young), and it can only be that way if the community it serves is wonderful. We are so lucky to live and go to school in Marshall! So remember: Around here . . . we do happy!