(left) Stephanie Green, para educator at Nike Middle School and Bruce Haber, principal. (right) Barb McCormick, Gardner Edgerton High School Arts Teacher and Mark Meyer, principal. Green and McCormick were presented with First Quarter Shining Star Awards at the Oct. 9 USD 231 Board of Education meeting. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz


Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The USD 231 Board of Education meeting on October 10 began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by students from Gardner Elementary. The school board heard a presentation on flexible seating in classrooms, discussed upgrading turf on ball fields and heard two members of the public express concerns with a New Century construction project.

Flexible seating in classrooms
The board and attendees heard a presentation on ‘flexible seating,’ an alternative to the traditional classroom seating arrangement of rows of desks. Jason Watkins, principal at Gardner Elementary, offered some background on flexible seating in GE. He said a teacher had discussed research on flexible seating with him and wanted to try it.
“One tried it, then another, and now it’s gone through our building,” he said.
Watkins then introduced teachers Kelly Newman and Brittney Rinehart, who brought some of the seats to display and gave the presentation on flexible seating.
Each student can choose the type of seat they prefer – from rockers, beanbag seats, soft floor cushions, stability balls and more, including the traditional chair and desk.
Students can change types of seating for as daily activities transition from one activity to another. The teachers said that some students like to sprawl out on the floor when reading but switch to an upright position for math.
“…movement is so vital to their learning. No one is sitting still in a listening learning position anymore. We’re able to bounce on stability balls, wiggle back and forth, rock back and forth – and so much more learning goes on because everyone is in a spot that’s good for them and they’re able to stay focused on what we’re doing in the classroom,” said Rinehart.
“When students are uncomfortable, they’re unproductive and distracted,” added Newman.
A video of students describing the seating was shown.

Comments from the public
Two individuals spoke to the school board about their opposition to the proposed Lineage Logistics plant at New Century Airfield.
Janna Walker, Olathe, said her house is two and a half miles from the site. She described herself as a mom and wife of a deputy sheriff. She is concerned for the safety of the deputies, staff and inmates located 200 yards from the proposed facility. She was also worried about buidling this facility so close to the Gardner schools and community.
In addition to the hazard concerns, Walker is also upset with the way this project was approved without the community having any input.
Walker told the board that a growing number of elected officials have now publicly stated opposition – specifically mentioning Julia Lynn, Steve Shute, Kristy Harrison, John Resman, Willie Dove and Bill Sutton.
She said that through this process, she and others are learning who will speak up for them and who they can trust.
Mike Jensen, one of the nearby property owners who have filed suit against the county also presented information to the school board.
Jensen said that initial concerns only increased when he found out who the company was, because they have a bad record on safely handling anhydrous ammonia.
“I’ve got a stack of their violations here. 53 leakages of anhydrous ammonia. One explosion in Richland, Mississippi – 152 people were put in the hospital in Theodore,  Alabama.”
“Defenders of anhydrous ammonia will tell you that it’s lighter than air, it dissipates, it rises. That’s the reason we’re showing you this video. It doesn’t rise, it seeks out moisture, sticks to the ground and expands at a rate of 850 to 1″, said Jensen.
While he spoke, Jensen had a video playing of a leak in Seward, Illinois that showed the resulting cloud behaving in the manner he had described.
The video is from a rooftop security camera observing the parking lot of a neighboring building, as employees run to their cars to flee the approaching cloud.
Jensen said he had been to Seward and talked to people who had been there that day.
“I interviewed a man that grabbed his dog, his cat and his wife, and ran for his life. They lived across the street from this,” he said.
The moving cloud of gas killed everything in its path, grass, vegetation and trees turned black, animals and livestock perished.
The Seward leak caused evacuations of two towns five and six miles away. That range applied here would include all of schools, homes and businesses in the city of Gardner.
Jensen also said defenders talk about how dangerous rail traffic is and then quoted 2012 statistics that show there were 870 reported leaks of anhydrous ammonia. Of those, 662 were at at fixed sites, 7 were railroad incidents.
Jensen said he wasn’t worried about the railroad because regulations are strictly enforced with the railroad, resulting in a good safety record – but according to Jensen, that is not the case for fixed facilities.
“The only time EPA or OSHA shows up is when they screw up. They investigate, they cite, they fine and then they go home.”
“I do want to tell you that 311 of your neighbors have filed suit against the BOCC. We were cut out of all the due process,” Jensen concluded and thanked the board for listening.

Turf Upgrades
The topic of replacing/upgrading turf on baseball fields was discussed during the Superintendents Report. Pam Stranathan, superintendent, said that they were continuing to research field conditions.
Jeremy McFadden, finance director, reassured the board that funding would come from money set aside for capitol purposes and would not take away from classrooms, students or operations of the district.
Stranathan said they were still in the early phases of looking at this and board would be updated in subsequent meetings.