Jeff West superintendent resigns; budget cuts dominate meeting
by Clarke Davis
Jefferson West Superintendent Scott Myers submitted his resignation to the school board Monday night informing the members that he was accepting a professorship at Washburn University.
Myers, 46, completed his doctorate degree last May and said a college professorship has been a life-long dream.
He will be part of the doctorial program, a joint program with Kansas State University, teaching building and district leadership — training future superintendents and principals.
Myers will complete his fifth year at Jefferson West June 30 having come to USD 340 from Elkhart. He will have completed 14 years in administration and 10 years as a high school English teacher.
He and his wife, Annette, a librarian in the Seaman school district, will continue to reside in the district. They have a son, Joshua, who will graduate from Jefferson West this year, a son, Andrew, a seventh-grader, and a daughter, Ashley, who is completing a master’s degree in architecture at Kansas State.
“We are not leaving the district. We want our youngest son to graduate from this school,” he said. “This is a great school district.”
The board will begin its search for a new superintendent immediately, first looking within the district, he said.
Myers’ job Monday night, however, was to prepare board members for cuts totaling $310,000 in next year’s budget as state funds continue to spiral downward.
“We have a triple threat,” he said. “State funds continue to be cut, enrollment continues to decline, and costs are increasing.”
He submitted a list of nine items totaling $317,000 and more than 20 other ideas he said were being examined.
On the hit list were eliminating two professional positions and two classified positions, sharing a high school and middle school teacher, adjusting an assistant principal’s position, and a reduction in extended-day contracts, extra duty pay, and instructional supplies. Outsourcing one building for janitorial services is back on the list, an item looked at extensively last year and rejected by the board.
The “ideas” list — the sort of last straw items — contained a four-day school week, increasing meal prices, increasing the local option tax levy, fewer sports competitions, combine bus routes, eliminate summer school and night tutoring program, half-time kindergarten, and move district office to high school.
Myers said superintendents and principals from other county schools are meeting and looking for ways to share teachers and services that will be a benefit to all.
Whenever a district has a teacher leave, neighboring districts are looked at and discussions held to see what might be possible. Most high schools are aligned with seven-period days.
“We’ve looked at having teachers travel between schools and having districts share aides and physical education teachers,” Myers said. “Even combining sports teams . . . It’s all been talked about.”
The board passed a lease-purchase resolution to acquire $600,000 of indebtedness for some needed building improvements. The district will pay off the debt with 1.2 mills — $45,000— from the capital outlay fund over the next 15 years.
This loan is federal money and was initially believed to be interest-free. Because the district is borrowing less than $1 million and because the game has changed somewhat from when Myers first learned about the money, an interest rate of 1.4 percent will be charged.
The board still felt it was cheap money and a way to make some needed improvements.
The money will be used to replace single-pane windows in the elementary school and remodel the main restrooms in that building, replace heating and air units at the high school, and raze and build a new bus barn.
“All of these projects will have an impact on efficiencies and save utilities,” he said.
Jefferson West is getting close to sealing a deal with Keystone Learning Services, the special education cooperative, to lease the Ozawkie school building.
Board members were given a sample contract to look at and discuss prior to having an attorney draw up the official one. The board might act on the contract as early as March with the cooperative gaining access to the building in June.
Under the agreement, the cooperative will take over all the maintenance and express of operating the building and USD 340 will receive $9,000 a year in rent.
Keystone is supported by the six school districts in Jefferson County and the district at Effingham. Ozawkie is a central location and believed more suitable than the present Lecompton location. The Keystone office is in Oskaloosa.
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