Letter to the Editor

Turn over MHC to city of Marshall for schools?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dear Editor,

The state of Missouri is in the process of closing the Marshall Habilitation Center and turning it over to the city of Marshall. The city in turn is trying to find an occupant for the Spainhower building. The board of education has made several trips to tour the site. Superintendent Carol Maher had Paul Farber develop a cost estimate for the conversion of the Spainhower building into a school building. While speaking with Farber one day, I asked him about the cost of the conversion. He gave me a figure in excess of $30,000. I was so astounded by the figure that I failed to write it down and was denied the information, which I attempted to to get the figure from him again. Denied because he did not answer or return my call, a day later. Another citizen called a day after that for the same reason, his call was not returned. At the school board meeting previous to this, I posed questions to the board about the possibility of moving a grade to that site, how long would it take to make the move, how would the area need to be changed, where would teachers and other personnel come from and would the move be cost effective? Maher responded in a letter dated Jan. 21, 2015, she had addressed the possibility of state-owned property at the Hab Center being transferred to Marshall Public School District during the superintendents report last evening. We anticipate that if the property is transferred to the district, it will be for the late 2015-2016 or early 2016-2017 school year. There have been no decisions on what or when grade levels would be house in the Spainhower building and moving the fifth grade has never been discussed. We anticipate if the state transfers the property to the district at no cost, the move will be cost efficient.

Another question I posed to the board at that same meeting was when the public was going to be told of this plan so they would have input to the decision?

This question was never answered. Two members of the citizen's committee met with several individuals who have been acquainted with the habilitation center for many years. These people expressed concerns with traffic patterns for busses and parents, evacuation, functioning fire hydrants and snow/ice removal. None felt that moving any grade level to the outskirts of town is a good move even if the building is free. Would the board make this acquisition regardless of what the parents and towns people want? Yes! Without a doubt! That's why they are so silent about it. What do you, the citizens want? Let the school board know and vote.

After the proposed levy question was read at the January meeting, it was asked if the levy issue passed, would the board ask for further increases within these next three years. The answer was yes. Why would they need to do that? The way the levy issued, monies put into the general operating fund could be redirected to make changes at the habilitation center. Do you want that? If it doesn't prove to be enough money, they would simply ask for more. Again, the renovation of our present schools to house grades K-5 would be a better way to use that money.

The next part of my letter concerns board members. Two members are up for election. There is a rule that, if a board member misses three meetings, he/she is to be removed from the board and a new member appointed to finish the term. When Mr. Godsey served a year overseas as part of his military duty his position on the board was left empty for that time. As a learned member of the board he should have followed the rules. When he returned, he went back to the board.

At the January board meeting one of the board members asked an inappropriate question to a citizen. The question created a break in the meeting. In Godsey's position as president he should have called the board member out-of-order and part of the record. Instead, there was a silence then a vote. By his actions he removed himself from the neutral, unbiased position he should take on the board. For these reason and the following observation, I make these observations. Twenty-two days after the resignation of Ryan Huff, Maher thanked the community for welcoming her at the July board meeting. As there was no date on the announcement of Mahers hire, it was a very short time. At the August 2014 board meeting, Maher introduced Patty Corum, part-time; Diane Gillaspie, director of curriculum and instruction, part-time; and Paul Faber, part-time, who was noted to be a director at the meeting on Dec. 15, 2014. All of these new-hires come from the eastern side of the state and would have no reason to know anything about our district or its needs unless informed by someone already on the board. Corum receives $100 per hour for five visits to our district. On Jan. 21 Gillaspie and Faber each received $36,000 for 10 months and a travel stipend of $800 per month. Their contract was extended through June 2016 with an offer of full-time employment. Maher informed me on Feb. 5 that a mistake had been made in the calculation of Farber's and Gillaspie's salary. Their salaries are actually $38,500 yearly. Maher's salary as a professor at the University of Missouri was $68,832 as stated in the 2013/2014 Missouri Blue Book. Her current salary is $149,000. The total salaries for these four school employees is more than $210,000. This domino effect started with Godsey, president of the board. It is my opinion that we need a new board member.

As to the future, this levy tax issue is not the end. As a city and as tax payers, we are responsible for our children and should expect accountability from the school board. For too long we have trusted the board to act for the benefit of all concerned. We taxpayers need to be more directly involved in every aspect of our school system. We need a comprehensive accounting of the district's finances that tells us to the penny how the monies are being spent. This accounting should be done by an independent CPA or auditor. The accounting should be published in the paper on a regular basis. Tax payers need to have a say in the future of how each school relates to the community and the safety issues and attachments that may benefit the city. It takes a community to raise a child. How we do that in the future depends on what we do from here. Your vote counts in all parts of this election. Look ahead and behind as you make your choices. Thank you for reading my letter.

Della Newman,

retired teacher, Marshall