Audience and USD 231 staff at the April 10 school board meeting. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Eleven ‘Students of Character’ were recognized and the new band uniform was modeled at the USD 231 Board of Education meeting on April 10. The board also considered purchases and staff contracts, and although not on the agenda, discussed tax abatements.

Rob Shippy, president, asked Jeremy McFadden, finance director, to give a brief recap regarding the new hotel development in Gardner.
McFadden said the district had received a notice letter from the city of Gardner.
“The terms of the abatement were structured somewhat differently from what we’ve received in the past from Logistics Park,” he said.
He said the Hampton Inn abatement averaged out to 66 percent over the ten year term.
“We felt it was a more agreeable abatement for the school district – it’s not a fixed per square foot abatement for a ten year period. To say that another way, as the assessed valuation of the property increases over time, so does the amount of tax payment that entity makes,” he said.
McFadden referred to a cost benefit analysis study done by the Economic Development Department at Wichita State University (WSU) projecting 35 new jobs and adding 2-3 kids in the schools.
“The district would still like to see abatement closer to the 50 percent mark, but this one being such a projected small impact to the school district combined with 66 percent abatement, we felt that was not a reason to formally object,” he concluded.
Tresa Boden, board member, questioned why the board had been told the Amazon facility that projected 2,500 jobs would bring only a few more students than this development with 35 jobs.
“I don’t understand how there can be such a huge difference,” she said.
“You’re going to tell me someone’s bringing 2,500 jobs and, we’re only going to get 2.5 students? Come on, I’m not stupid.”
Boden asked if it was because of who’s doing the study.
McFadden said the WSU assessment is a benefit because it provides independent analysis.
“We feel maybe Columbia Capitol Management and the City of Edgerton doesn’t have that same independence that Wichita State does. It’s nice to see the City of Gardner use Wichita State for their analysis.”
Shippy recalled past cost-benefit reports from Edgerton that projected jobs’ numbers of 250 or 350 bringing in 2.5 to 3.5 students.

Hunter Fesenmeyer models the new GEHS band uniforms that can convert to three different looks in a jiffy, at the April 10 school board meeting. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

The board considered purchase of 34 teachers’ desks for the high school and Trails facility for $54,934.44 from Virco.
Bruce Kracl, director of operations, said they had gotten two bids. The recommendation was to purchase from Virco because it was low bid by $143 and the district has used Virco in the past.
“They’re nice desks. The teachers will hopefully be very happy with them,” he said.
The purchase of the desks was approved with none opposed.
Board next considered purchase of 100 Epson Brightlink 585 Wi projectors for $128,500.
Andy Price, director of technology, told the board that it would save money to buy this quantity and at the same time upgrading equipment features.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve typically been buying about 10 projectors at a time and replacing them as they fail, and the rate they’re starting to fail is speeding up,” he said.
Price said his department would do the installations and update HDMI connections as older units stop working.
Purchase of the projectors was approved by the board.

Hiring of principals
The district is hiring principals for Nike and Sunflower.
Pam Stranathan, superintendent, reported that there were over 80 applicants. Interviews were conducted and narrowed it down to three finalists for one school and 2 for the other.
A social was held last week, where the final applicants met staff.
“They were able to go out and meet the staff, staff provided back input and then tonight in executive and on the personnel report there’s a recommendation from each building,” she said.

Staff contracts
Near the end of the meeting, board recessed into executive session to discuss personnel matters.
Upon resuming, they approved returning administrators and technology staff 2017-18 contracts with the same compensation amount as the 2016-17 contracts.
“We don’t want our administrators leaving before we go into the next year, so we approve them – and if compensation is increased at a later date, we will revisit the topic and make another action item,” said Shippy.
The next board meeting has been rescheduled from May 8 to May 15.