IWU Student hired at Bluffton-Harrison school

September 29, 2006

Bluffton-Harrison trustees weigh transportation woes; Koschnick proposes possible consolidation of school starting times to com

Faced with sharp increases in transportation expenses, and a lack of state funding the Bluffton-Harrison M.S.D. Board of School Trustees held off on a proposal to share a portion of the costs with the athletics, band and choral departments.

At the last meeting Supt. Dr. Julie A. Koschnick projected the district’s transportation fund would end the year with a balance of around $5,000 unless some measures are taken.

Last year to cover expenses the district had to transfer in $18,565 in June.

Koschnick had proposed a gradual shifting of activity costs to the band, choir, and athletics. Koschnick recommended that  this year the band would pay $750 toward travel expenses, with the choir paying $700, and the athletics department paying $5,000.

That proposal was tabled at the last meeting. In response to the situation Athletic Director Steve Thompson went scrambling to review about a decade’s worth of financial records, in hopes of finding a better solution.

At Thursday’s meeting of the board, Thompson distributed several charts and graphs and noted that in five of the past 10 years the department had operated at a net loss.

Thompson said, “There’s a real misconception that the athletics department has a bunch of cash laying around.”

“In my opinion we don’t have a lot to play with,” Thompson said.

Thompson pointed out the  paradox that the better the teams do, the worse off the department’s finances become. The boy’s basketball state finals run in the 2001-02 school year left the department $29,668.99 in the red, their biggest net loss in a decade.

“The state finals run was actually very costly,” Thompson noted.

Thompson said in reviewing all of the records he did get a better understanding of the concerns raised by Koschnick. “We will need creative finances, and to take a proactive approach,” Thompson said.

Thompson polled many of the other athletic directors in the conference and found out many other districts are faced with similar concerns, and are also weighing what measures can be taken to fund transportation expenses.

Thompson cautioned against being too quick to seek the funds from the departments.

“When we look at options it’s very easy (for the board) to say pass it to the athletics department,” Thompson said. “And it’s very easy for me to then say pass it to the kids.”

Thompson said he does not want to be faced with that as his only option. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson appealed for more time to look at options, and get through more of this year. “I’ve only been on the job three months,” Thompson said. “I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, I just need some time to tackle this.”

“I want a little more time to look at this, let me figure this out, and get my core people together,” Thompson asked. “I’ve never been through a full year to see where the money goes out.”

Board member Darryl Elliot noted that, “hard times call for hard measures.” Elliot said he felt it was important for the public to know that, “we get put in this position because of the state.”

Elliot said until enough parents get fed up and pressure the state to increase school funding, the situation will not likely improve.”

Koschnick suggested that Thompson form a committee to look at what can be done, and report back before December 1. Koschnick suggested that the committee include one board member.

Board member Stephen Huffman was enthusiastic and quickly offered to volunteer, but faced opposition from board member Kent Shady.

Shady said in his opinion the board member on the committee should be a parent with children involved in athletics, as they would better understand the financial burdens parents are already faced with when their kids are in sports.

Shady restated his position from last month that for now the school corporation should handle the burden. Shady said he is, “dead set against the kids paying any more.”

“We as a corporation should bite the bullet this year,” Shady said. Shady said he felt they could muddle through the rest of this year and look at options for the upcoming year.

No determination was made about the committee’s composition but Koschnick granted Thompson until December 1st to update the board.

Koschnick said the district may have to look at even tougher choices.

Koschnick said while she understands the board’s concerns over having elementary school students riding on buses with middle school and high school pupils, it may be time to consider shifting starting times and consolidating bus routes to serve all three schools at once.

“This is not something that we can continue to go forward with without finding a solution,” Koschnick said.

High School Principal Steve Baker was optimistic. “We’ll find a solution, we have a spirit of cooperation, and we’ll get it done.”

In other business the board was updated on the issues surrounding the window replacement project at the elementary school. Koschnick said she had met with the main contractor Tecton and they would be submitting a proposal for resolving any remaining issues with installation problems.

Koschnick said she was hopeful litigation could be avoided and the situation would be resolved as a “win-win,” situation.

The board was updated on progress made toward funding an outdoor learning lab at the elementary school. The project co-chairs Stephanie Hiday and  Brittany Kitt informed the board that they have now raised a total of $58,000 toward their phase one goal of $75,000.

Kitt said they had applied for a $25,000 grant from the Lowe’s Foundation and were waiting to hear the outcome. Kitt said that should that application be unsuccessful, Lowe’s has another grant program for outdoor learning labs that they could seek funding from.

Hiday said the project has a projected start date in early spring, and they recently met with teachers and reviewed plans for the lab.

 Food Service Director Robin McCorkle updated the board on the implementation of the district’s wellness policy.

McCorkle said she and her staff were initially, “really apprehensive.” She told her staff that they had to have a positive outlook. The results have been impressive. Overall they are up about 75 paid Type A lunches from last year, and the feedback from students and faculty  has been supportive.

McCorkle said one elementary school child had never tried strawberries before, and enjoyed them very much. “It’s been such a wonderful thing.” McCorkle said.

McCorkle said the introduction of soft serve yogurt at the high school has been particularly well received. Koschnick said she has received many compliments on the food from the staff and parents.

In personnel actions the board accepted the resignation of part-time cafeteria employee Jennifer Earhart, effective September 14. They approved the hiring of Deb Huffman to replace Earhart.

The board accepted the recommendations of Steve Thompson to hire Diane Johnson as high school assistant girl’s basketball coach, Steve Abbett as high school assistant boy’s swimming coach, Dan Irwin as high school varsity boy’s wrestling coach, and Barb Hartsell as a volunteer middle school assistant cross county coach.

The board approved hiring Rhonda Gerber as an assistant for the child care program. The board also approved David Barnell as a transportation aide for the special needs route.

Justin Reed was approved as a student teacher for the period os Feb. 26, 2007 through Apr. 25, 2007 under the supervision of Jim Bueter. Reed is a student at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Finally the board approved a request from Gay Schoeff to extend her family medical leave through Oct. 31, 2006.


Email J.G. Wallace

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