USD 338 board president responses to ad placed in Vindicator
by Clarke Davis
Valley Falls Board of Education President Paul Brown opened the meeting Monday night disavowing the false implication that the school board had responded to an advertisement that has been appearing in recent weeks in this newspaper.
Brown said the response “gave the impression that the school district had responded to a request . . . for information pertaining to why students were leaving the Valley Falls School District and the loss of state aid because of those students choosing another school to attend.”
The response, the president said, was actually a letter the superintendent had emailed Tom Ryan, a sponsor of the ads, June 29, 2010, pertaining to a similar question.
He said the superintendent received no communication or directive from Ryan after the June 29 response.
A printed sheet with the president’s message and Superintendent Feldkamp’s response were provided to all who attended the meeting.
In that response sent nearly nine months ago, Feldkamp simply informed Ryan that the information he wanted was not available but could be if he wanted to pay for the research time it would take to come up with something close. That fee was estimated at $350. The superintendent said on that date his principals were gone and so was his secretarial staff.
Feldkamp told the paper that students are literally coming and going all the time. “We are a mobile society,” he said.
Some go to another school because “it’s just a better fit,” he said. Others go over issues dealing with sports or programs the local school does not have.
“We have a lot of commuters and maybe day care is closer to a person’s work,” he said.
“But we also have a number of students who come to our school for a variety of reasons. Some stay, some don’t,” he said.
All schools in the county, however, are losing student population. In nearly all cases, they are graduating larger classes than the kindergarten classes coming in, he said.
In other board business, Feldkamp tackled the forecast for ending the year June 30 monetarily given the cuts Gov. Sam Brownback has ordered on the state level.
“This thing changes day by day and I’ll try to keep you informed,” the superintendent told the board.
As of this week, the Valley Falls school district is expected to lose $56,000 in funding on the current budget and, based on predictions, will run over $223,000 short in next year’s budget.
As teachers retire or leave they will not be replaced. Feldkamp said it will mean larger class sizes in some instances, but it will also change the way they teach. Classes will be reconfigured and departmentalized. The fifth and sixth grade classes, for instance, will probably have three teachers handling different subject matter.
With cuts in state aid and a further decline in student population will make it difficult, Feldkamp said, “but I am confident we will get through this. This economy has to turn around some time.”
The superintendent said he is planning for the worst case scenario and hoping it doesn’t get that bad.
The board also reviewed a contract between Keystone, the special education cooperative, and USD 340 for use of the Ozawkie school building. The Jefferson West district is not using the building and Keystone is considering moving its offices and the John Dewey Learning Academy, now in Lecompton, to Ozawkie.
The board appeared to look favorably on the contract. Member Jody Lockhart is the board’s representative on the Keystone board.
In action items, the board:
- Approved the annual third-grade trip to the Omaha zoo. The district will provide a bus and a van.
- Approved the purchase of 28 desktop computers with available federal funds.
- Approved the 2011-12 school calendar described as very close to this year’s.
- Adopted a three-year bus rotation plan.
- Approved the resignation of fifth-grade teacher Kathy Schwartz, who is retiring.
- Approved the resignation of Jo Tichenor as an aide in the pre-kindergarten class.
- Heard from patron Earl Stevens who covered a number of items, but was mainly concerned with getting Washburn Tech to hold classes in the new industrial arts building. He was told Valley Falls has two upperclassmen interested in welding and if some area school will increase that number to at least six, classes are a possibility next fall.
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