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R-I board discusses budget, hears legislative update

by Patty Cheffey

While the Palmyra R-I School District 2020-21 school year budget is on tract to meet its budget obligations this year, revenue is definitely down.

The R-I Board of Education reviewed the budget during their meeting last week, at which they also heard a legislative update, heard a report on the DARE and PACE programs and took care of some hirings.

According to Superintendent Kirt Malone, the district has received the anticipated state formula revenues through February, and revenue from local sources arrived as budgeted for the current fiscal year. 

“When the budget was prepared last spring we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and had no idea what was ahead of us for the foreseeable future. The economy was shutting down and no-one knew how long the pandemic responses would last,” Malone said. “When the budget was prepared we were more conservative than normal in our outlook.

“While we expect to meet the budget expectations this year, this year’s expected revenues are below last year’s actual revenues.”

The school district received CARES Act funding, which helped offset the costs for materials and supplies purchased in response to the pandemic, Malone said. 

“CARES Act funds allowed us to purchase masks and hand sanitizer, as well as supplies and equipment to help the custodial staff jobs be more efficient,” he said. 

The district is expecting to receive ESSER II finds later this spring. Those funds can be used for purchases related to preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19.

In discussing the budget, Malone also noted capital improvements included a new concession building and restrooms, new grandstands and press box, new scoreboard, new perimeter fencing south of the gym, drives into the south overflow parking lot, a plaza with entry gate on the south side of the gym, as well as an entry gate at the north parking lot on the high school campus.

In other business, the board heard a legislative update. 

Malone said State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin met with a group of area superintendents and school board presidents recently to explain her support of Senate Bill 55 that includes tax credit vouchers and charter school expansion, and would allow homeschool students to participate in sports and activities in public schools. 

Malone noted he and the board believe that bill is harmful to public schools and feels it will increase the tax burden on local communities to support their local schools.

He added, he believes O’Laughlin was hearing that same feedback from superintendents and school board presidents.

“The bill would be harmful to public schools across Northeast Missouri and would give public tax dollars to students attending private school across the state,” he added.

Patrick Anderson reported to the board on the DARE program. 

Anderson began teaching DARE classes to fifth grade students at Palmyra Middle School this semester, with the primary goal of drug awareness resistance education. 

He noted he is seeking funds for the Palmyra Police Department to purchase a DARE-themed patrol car.

The board also heard from Nicole Gard who provided a report to the board on PACE, the district’s gifted education program.

According to Gard, the PACE program is serving 68 students or about 6 percent of the district population.

“The PACE students focus on self-understanding, effective communication, critical thinking, goal setting and reasoning,” she said. “These skills are developed while working independently and with peers on advanced curriculum and personalized projects.

“Students are held to high expectations for meaningful development of skills and pursuit of interests in a safe, welcoming environment.  Risk-taking, acceptance of failure, and creativity are also fostered within the program to help the students in their learning journey.”

This year, the PACE students have worked on projects pertaining to the theme: Medieval Times, including participating in castle building, black plaque diary composition, medieval character analysis, catapult comparison and coat of arms creation and family study among several other topics.

Thanks to a pilot, Gard completed with the Naglieri Tests of General Ability, the classroom was able to purchase two new 3D printers. They have utilized them to create using Tinkercad and Thingiverse. 

“The pilot also allowed for the purchase of LEGO Motor Kits, and the students have enjoyed working with LEGO Spike Prime and LEGO Mindstorms,” Gard said. “The classroom has also received two whiteboard tables thanks to a grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Foundation, and has continued growing plants utilizing the Juice Plus Tower Gardens.”

The board hired Evan Hultz as high school special education teacher, Macy Bross as assistant varsity track coach, Melissa Billups as junior class sponsor, and Alicia Deming as elementary school secretary.

The board accepted the resignation of Carla Lotz as varsity basketball cheerleading coach and accepted the resignation of Janice Kroeger, paraprofessional due to retirement.

The board also

• accepted the bid from Digital Copy Systems to provide copy services to the district.

• accepted the bid from Chariton Valley for a five year contract to provide internet services for the district.

• updated the substitute teacher list as presented; and.

• re-hired all tenured teaching staff as presented.