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R-I board rules on graduation, discusses budget

This year’s seniors will see a return to a more normal graduation, weather permitting.

The Palmyra R-I Board of Education set the date and place for graduation during their meeting last week, at which they also discussed the 2021-22 school year budget, learned a Palmyra student will be the Belcher Scholarship recipient, learned of a bus rebate and heard a legislative update.

The Palmyra High School graduation has been set for Thursday, May 20, at the Palmyra Athletic Complex with no attendance restrictions.

However, if the ceremony is forced indoors because of inclement weather, graduates will be provided with six tickets to distribute to family and friends.

In other business, Superintendent Kirt Malone updated the board on the 2021-22 budget process.

While there are still questions to be answered by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the state legislature in regard to the FY22 budget, the state legislature is planning to fully fund the state foundation formula, he said. 

“Proposition C revenue is expected to increase as a result of improving sales tax revenues,” he added, noting the change in assessed valuation of the Palmyra R-I School District is unknown at this time. 

Malone indicated he will keep teachers updated regarding the impact of revenue on the salary schedule. 

“Granting horizontal and vertical steps on the salary schedule, raising the base salary for teachers as well as non-certified staff, and providing employees health insurance options are all priorities that will affect the budget,” Malone added. 

State revenues from the foundation formula is expected to remain the same as FY21, but local revenue changes are unknown at this time, he said, adding the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II) are expected to be distributed to schools this spring.

Those funds can be used for any type of COVID related items.

In other business, the board learned Christian Drebes, a Palmyra High School senior, will be awarded the Belcher Scholarship this year for Region 3. 

“One graduating senior from each of the 17 MSBA regions is eligible to win the Belcher Scholarship annually,” said Malone, noting Audrey Fohey from Palmyra won it two years ago. “One winner from that group is selected as the statewide winner.

“Palmyra is in Region 3, which includes Adair, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Macon, Marion, Schuyler, Scotland and Shelby counties.”

MSBA Future Builders established the scholarship program in the memory of John T. Belcher, who was instrumental in developing innovative financing programs for Missouri school districts, Malone explained. 

A $1,000 annual scholarship is awarded to a student in each region. Applicants are judged on the basis of academic performance, extracurricular activities and the quality of an essay. A statewide winner is selected from this group of regional winners and awarded an additional $1,500, Malone added.

The board also learned the MSBA Spring Regional meeting will be held virtually April 19. 

Malone also reported the district was awarded a $20,000 rebate through the EPA 2020 Diesel Emissions Act School Bus Rebate which will go toward the purchase of a new bus.

“This was the first year we received the grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, “Malone said. “A couple of years ago, we received a similar grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that also went toward the purchase of a school bus. 

“This year schools were informed of the grant opportunity in the fall. Schools just demonstrate a need to replace a bus from the fleet and have buses that qualify to be replaced because they were built before 2007,” he added, noting a replacement bus must have a more efficient emissions system.

“For years now, the state legislature has failed to meet their statutory requirements to fund public school transportation at 75 percent of total annual costs. Schools receive less than 20 percent of the transportation funds they should receive,” Malone added. “Palmyra doesn’t receive enough transportation funds to purchase just one of our route buses.

With the help of the rebate, the R-I board accepted a bid from Midwest Bus Sales for a Thomas 2022 model, 65 passenger school bus.

The board also heard a brief legislative update from Malone, who noted there are two new companion bills in the House and Senate that will impact public schools in St. Louis and Kansas City. 

HB137 and SB218 will impact St. Louis and Kansas City public schools by $20 million per year. The bills send funds for Charter expansion in St. Louis and K.C.  

“Another bill we have recently become aware of is HB37 which removes immunization requirements from non-public schools and child care centers,” he said. “The results of this bill would put teachers and children at risk. 

He also reported on HB543, open enrollment, which is in the Senate now and may be up for a vote soon. As the bill is written now, schools would have the choice to opt out of open enrollment. 

Students would be able to attend other schools that opt in to open enrollment and border their home school district.

During the meeting, the board was also reorganized with Darin Redd and Andrew Lehenbauer taking the oath of office.

Following that, the board elected officers, including Oneta Crowe, president; Redd, vice president; Stephanie Bross, treasurer; and Joe Knochel, secretary.

Out-going board member, Stacy Hoerr was presented with a plaque for nine years of service and leadership as a board member.

The board also:

• heard an update on the district health services from nurses, Jennifer Jones and Gigi Lehenbauer, which included annual activities such as sports physical clinic, Kindergarten Here We Come screenings, height/weight/vision/hearing screenings, coaches CPR training, maintaining AEDs and eyewash stations, submitting state reports, staff flu shot clinic, reviewing health services policies and forms, reviewing emergency training with staff, and workeding with contact tracers and the MCHD during the COVID-19 pandemic.;

• hired Melissa Billups and Alysha Barnett as varsity basketball cheer coaches and Sara Freels as a ninth grade sponsor;

• accepted the resignation of Ryan Wood as varsity boys basketball coach;

• accepted the resignations of Cindy Cox and Marla Sparks as teachers due to retirement and of Allison Clayton as an elementary teacher;

• approved the updated substitute teacher list; and

• rehired non-tentured teaching staff, coaches and sponsors.