Keystone Learning Services watching a tight budget

by Dennis Sharkey

Like the seven school districts that fund Keystone Learning Services, the administrative staff is watching the budget with a close eye.

“It is a very tight budget,” Director Dr. Tim Marshall told Keystone Board members last week. “There is not a place in the budget that money is tucked away. It’s the kind of budget that you have to be pretty aggressive to underspend it.”

The staff has also diligently been working to get back funding that the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) took during an audit of the agency this year. Keystone attempted to reclaim $64,000 lost in funding. Some of the revenue that was lost was due to the cutback to 31 hours for employees last spring.

Keystone did get some good news in that $41,000 of the appealed amount was awarded back to the agency. However, a program mandated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is not being funded according to Director of Special Education Rhonda Denning. She said the program is mandated by KDHE but KSDE is the agency Keystone turns to for funding. Marshall said KSDE is refusing to pay.

“It’s our perception that we’re kind of in the middle of a feud between KDHE and the state education department,” Marshall said.

Denning said other education agencies across the state are watching what happens to Keystone because it will affect them as well. Denning said those agencies are showing support for Keystone and are putting a bug in the ear of officials at the state level.

Morale around the organization also seems to be higher when it concerns the budget according to results of a study session the organization conducted last month with board members and staff. Marshall noted that the budget was not on the leader board of concerns by the board or staff.

“For everything you’ve gone through it didn’t rise to the top in your planning session,” Marshall said. “I know it’s really important. But you didn’t say the budget was in crisis. We are watching it like a hawk.”

Jefferson County North USD 339 Board President and Keystone Board Member Ron Langston gave a vote of confidence to Marshall for his leadership with the Keystone budget. Langston said he has been hard on Marshall during evaluations of his performance as JCN superintendent, a post he still holds on a part-time basis.

“I’ve stomped on him pretty hard in his evaluation so he knows how that goes,” Langston said. “He’s heard this many times from me, but one of the things that most impresses me about Tim is the way he can run a budget. He handles the (USD 339) budget phenomenally.”

That comment was part of a conversation started by Marshall about his future with Keystone. When he took over on Sept. 1, he did so with the title of interim director. The plan is to evaluate Marshall in January to decide whether or not to remove the interim tag, or search for a new full-time director. Currently Marshall is part-time.

Marshall presented a packet to board members to prepare them for his evaluation. Marshall told board members he’s not looking for an early answer, but a timely one in January. Marshall told board members that he hopes the packet helps them through the evaluation process.

“These are the real hard questions of ‘Is this person going to take us where we want to go?’” Marshall said about the packet. “I’m hoping to make the job easier for you.”

Marshall said if the board decides to hire him full-time it will likely mean the end of his tenure at JCN.

“The big picture for everyone going in was this would be a transition year of me moving out of JCN and into Keystone,” he said.

Marshall also got a vote of confidence from Keystone Board President and ACCHS USD 377 Board Member Todd Gigstad.

“I feel comfortable we’re in good hands,” Gigstad said. “It is good to know you have somebody who’s been there and done that.

“I think we’re moving forward in a good fashion,” he added. “There’s a transition to make any time you change the lead person in an organization. I sure feel confident with what’s happening.”

In other Keystone news a University of Kansas student will be conducting another study of pre-school aged students and their ability to retell a story. Jeff West USD-340 Board Member Shannon McMahon said she has seen the study in action that uses puppets to tell a story. She said she has no safety concerns about the study.

Valley Falls USD 228 Board Member Jody Lockhart said her daughter participated in the study and had fun.

“My daughter had a ball when (the KU student) came,” Lockhart said.

The next study will be conducted in Effingham.

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Posted by on Nov 5 2010. Filed under Keystone Learning Services, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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