Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Dr. James Sutton, interim superintendent, addressed the implementation of a safety and security committee that had been requested at last month’s meeting at their May 2, 2022 board of education meeting.
Jeff Miller and Tom Reddin, boad members, had proposed the idea in April wanting to include representatives from all buildings, board, staffs, SROs and students for input.
Dr. Sutton said he had had discussions with people on the crisis response team and the district already had a safety committee.
“They have functions the board is looking for but it would be appropriate to add to the board’s pallet of committees,” he said. “I recommend several board members decide the definitions and parameters.”
Reddin said he wanted to know about the two they already had.
Jody Marshall, human resources director, said the safety committee was made up of HR, SPED reps, nursing, for services and operations that meet quarterly to discuss workplace safety for employees.
He said the last meeting they had also briefly discussed student behavioral issues and food  allergies.
“It is an informal committee that is longstanding,” he said. “It is mostly about working conditions but is constructive and worthwhile, so maybe they can be folded in or can continue separately.”
Reddin said he would like a brief synopsis of the two groups and then new ideas for the new committee.
Marshall said the crisis response group wasn’t a committee but a team that meets from time to time.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as a committee but can give an overview,” he said.
Greg Chapman, board member, said he felt strongly about committees and still wanted to invite city council for a work session so the board could structure their committees similar to the city.
“I think it would benefit the district,” he said. “All the committees need an overhaul. I know we wanted to wait for Dr. Huff.”
Reddin said he wanted to know if Chapman was proposing a whole new item.
Chapman said he had mentioned the joint work session with the city at the last board meeting.
“It is something to consider when we are ready to dive in for creating the committee,” he said.

KASB, legal policies update 
Sutton said Reddin had met with the Gardner Police Department and received feedback for things they had preferred and Sutton had met with KASB about the changes they were proposing.
“We are incorporating input from both and it is a policy now you will approve,” he said.
Lana Sutton, board member, said she likes the changes that were made.
Chapman said he wanted to know if KASB had provided a synopsis of why they had made the proposed changes.
Deb Starling, board clerk, said she could get it to the board members.
Reddin said it mirrored the state statute with officers in uniform when practical.
Chapman and Reddin had discussed last month concerns about trust with students and law enforcement dissolving if law enforcement appeared without uniforms in schools.

School board vacancies 
Sutton said KASB didn’t have a policy for handling school board vacancies, and he has incorporated legislature and input from the board.
They would take applications, narrow down to a few applicants, hold interviews and then select a member they felt served the board best, he said.
Reddin said he likes the overall process but wanted to know what the process of narrowing down candidates would be from the initial pool of applications.
Sutton said they would look at applications and maybe narrow down to three or four candidates depending on the number of applicants they received or appoint a committee. “It is up to you,” he said.
Lana Sutto, said she liked the way they had conducted the interim superintendent search for Dr. Sutton with the board president, vice-president and board member.
Dr. Sutton said there was flexibility, and it was up to the board’s time and interest.
Katie Williams, board member, said would they compile a separate list of questions different than the application questions.
Dr. Sutton said they could proceed that way. “With everything else you should be about experts at it now,” he said.
Lana Sutton said it was good to have a formal procedure in place. “And I hope we never have to use it again,” she said.

Policy Review 
Dr. Sutton said he needed the item for procedure and creation of review committee to be tabled as there was some confusion about the Policy IF. “There are two different versions and I have reached out to KASB,” he said. “The policy book doesn’t have direction and I need time for more research.”

Policy on administrator
Dr. Sutton said it was more communication than anything else.
Administrators are evaluated according to statute after four years and twice a year and then once a year after the first two years, he said.
Dr. Sutton said after that evaluations are annually, and it only applies to building administrators not directors. “I asked KASB if it was legal, and they said it is but not best practices,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said he had talked to the new incoming superintendent about how to proceed and Dr. Huff had said to proceed and continue with the standardized policy.
“I am just giving a history lesson not asking for you to change the policy,” he said.
Chapman said would they continue to give feedback that showed positives and areas of growth moving forward.
Dr. Sutton said it was what he had been accustomed to in his role.

USD school board bonds
Dr. Sutton said he had met with incoming Superintendent Dr. Huff about the district bonds.
“It comes back to you here if you want a bond service with a representative who will do a more thorough and aggressive job at watching out for bonds and savings than the representative you currently have,” he said. “Or you use a RFP to choose the service.”
Dr. Sutton said the downside was the market is fluctuating and the window May close on savings.
“But if you do an RFP you’ll have a more thorough exam than one person who says they can do better and you end up with a bondsman who will serve you better too,” he said.  District administrators said it wasn’t a RFP but RFQ where they would be giving a resume and the board would pick the services to their best desire and it was worth the time.
Chapman said was there any benefit to them looking at a proposed offer and doing an RFQ at a later time since the market was starting to go downhill.
District administrators said Stiefel would be the best to use immediately but a RFQ needs to be the deliberate, long-term plan since the $125-$135 million contract one of the district’s biggest contracts and vendors make a lot of money off of the district.

Gardner Educational Foundation
Dr. Sutton said the district had more work to do on the foundation.
“I met with Russ Lane who is taking care of your money—$700,000,” he said. “It suffered as a result of Covid, and we need to get back on track.”
Dr. Sutton said the district had good bylaws and framework for building the foundation. “You just need to get the community folks back in there and set the direction,” he said.
Dr. Sutton said he had also met with Dr. Huff, incoming superintendent, who had good experience with foundations from his time as the Raytown School District Superintendent.

Board holds three closed meetings
Board members held three executive sessions.
The first executive session for land was approximately 25 minutes. No action was taken.  The second executive session for personnel was approximately 49 minutes with action taken to approve the report.
The third executive session for non-elected personnel was approximately 35 minutes with no action taken.