Valley Falls USD 338 board considers cutting principal
by Clarke Davis
The Valley Falls school board is trying to decide if it can effectively operate the school’s next term with one less administrator. High school principal Jacques Molleker is retiring at the end of this term.
The board, with all members present, held a special meeting Monday night to review some data and receive input from the administrative staff and teachers.
The board is expected to make a decision at the regular May 9 meeting and members want public input. If they are going to replace Molleker, the board will have to begin the search for a new principal soon.
President Paul Brown projected on a screen some scenarios of area districts and how some the same size as Valley Falls operate. There are a number throughout the northeast Kansas region who have superintendents with principal duties over some grades or principals with multiple buildings.
“We are faced with budget cuts and we are trying to see if it’s feasible to consider operating with two administrators,” Brown said. “We want this district to maintain its present level of performance. The last thing we want to do is put that in jeopardy.”
Brown said they are being forced to operate next year on a budget equal to what they had in 1999 — 13 years ago.
In trying to assess the current situation, the board had the administrators outline their duties and attempt to assess their time in order to see if their workloads could be broken up and shared.
Under one plan being looked at, elementary principal Susan Grey would be principal over kindergarten through 12th grade, splitting her time between grade and high schools. Junior high teacher Jeff Schneider would become a part-time assistant principal and take over some of the discipline problems.
Teacher Rod Bunde would also assume responsibility for building supervision and discipline while handing numerous other chores to lead teachers in both buildings.
Superintendent Loren Feldkamp would take on a heavier work load that might include teacher evaluations, handling of more state reports, handling some discipline and building supervision, and assisting the athletic director with league reports.
Asked what the net savings might be after all that is done, Brown estimated it might be half of an administrator’s salary while member LaVerne Clark low balled it some more, putting it at $20,000 to $30,000.
Each administrator outlined what their duties are now and tried to explain a typical day. They all have full workloads now and there wasn’t anything typical about one of their days.
Molleker told the board that he might try to plan his day, but it seldom works out that way. He’s there early when the vo-tech bus leaves for Topeka and then tries to answer his emails and handle some paperwork, but he said a discipline problem that involves parents might take up 80 percent of his day.
“I need to be in the hallway and the classrooms with the teachers and students,” he said. “They’re teenagers and they have a lot going on. They are good kids but they make mistakes and someone has to spend time with them.”
The principal said a lot of problems can be headed off if he is with the students and there to observe and back up the teachers. Student supervision, he said, should be 40 percent of the job.
State assessments, improving curriculum, evaluating teachers, and dealing with extra-curricular activities were his other responsibilites outlined in a three-page report to the board.
Communication was another area of importance. “I hear from parents, both phone calls and emails, and I have to respond to them,” he said.
Grey said pretty much the same thing in her four-page report, noting the importance she places in spending time with the children.
“I want to know each child,” she said. “That’s important to me.”
Her other duties and responsibilities were outlined under topics of staff related, administrative related, and curriculum related.
Feldkamp spelled out his duties as well with large chunks of his time taken up with budget matters, personnel, facilities, area meetings, communication and public relations, and a long list of routine daily and monthly duties he attends to.
The administrative staff told the board that they thought it might work to have one less administrator only because of the kind of staff that is now in place.
They bragged on the staff as willing to help and quite capable of taking on more leadership roles.
After a meeting with the staff earlier, Grey said, “There is anxiety among the staff members, but they want to be involved and help make it work if that’s the board’s decision.”
The public can weigh in at the next meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. May 9 in the library or contact a board member. Members besides Brown and Clark are Bobbi Kearney, John Shipley, Daryl Sales, Jody Lockhart, and Sharon Sweeney.
Also attending the meeting were newly elected board members James Stevens, Carrie Belveal, and Heidi Pickerell. They will be seated on the board after July 1.
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