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by Patty Cheffey
The Palmyra R-I Board of Education had a busy meeting last week, including discussing results from the annual APR and accepting several resignations, job movements and hirings.
In addition, the board received budget and legislative updates from Superintendent Jason Harper, approved a bid, signed a letter of intent for energy savings, heard a presentation on the PACE program and approved the employee benefit plan.
The statewide APR was released recently, and Harper noted this is the baseline year of MSIP 6 which brought some changes to the APR.
Palmyra acquired a 76.2 APR score which is a combination of points based on academic attainment, attendance, graduation rate and college and career readiness, which is a good score, Harper said.
“I have not seen the whole list of scores from all schools in the state, but from the various scores I’ve heard in this area we are definitely in the top half,” he said.
The major changes in MSIP 6 are the separation of status and growth in academic attainment.
Those two categories used to work in unison but have been separated for MSIP 6.
Palmyra scored “on track” in status for all core academic areas, but only received seven of the 36 points available in “growth,” an area Palmyra will be addressing.
“Growth is measured by MAP scores in grades three through eight, and DESE looks at individual students’ scores from one grade level to the next,” said Harper. “We will address growth through assessing the effectiveness of instruction based on specific priority standards that are taught in those classes. The priority standards are what the tests are primarily based on.”
The district received all points in graduation rate, attendance and college and career readiness.
“DESE has set the bar higher for schools, and we will continue to work hard to address the academic needs of our students,” Harper said.
The board accepted resignations from several individuals for teaching and extra-curricular activities, including the following effective the end of the 2022-2023 school year:
Kelly Broughton, elementary paraprofessional; Nicole Hirner, fourth grade teacher; Steven Jones, high school business teacher; Kevin Miles, high school PE teacher; Britne O’Brien, fourth grade teacher; Joanna O’Brien, third grade teacher; and Sherri Ragar, PAT educator.
Tanner Adams, JV girls’ basketball coach; Hirner, MS cross country coach; Jones, JV boys’ basketball coach, HS boys’ golf coach, HS Searchlight sponsor; and HS FBLA sponsor; and Tyler Krietemeyer, HS assistant wrestling coach.
In addition, the board approved moves within the district to take place for the 2023-2024 school year:
Cara Churchwell, kindergarten teacher; Tracy Fountain, fifth grade language arts teacher; Mikkah Johnson, third grade teacher; and Kathy Keim, fourth grade teacher
The board also approved the following hires for the 2023-2024 school year:
Jill Hicks, fourth grade teacher; Cindy Kumm, first grade teacher; and Kylee Meyer, MS assistant principal
All returning tenured staff was approved for hire for the 2023-2024 school year, as presented.
Although there are a few openings right now, Harper said he did not think it would be a problem to fill all positions.
“The key is to fill positions with quality people who are passionate about doing what is best for kids,” he said.
In other business, Harper gave a budget update, noting revenue streams have been good this year and the local tax came in higher than predicted, primarily because of the large increase in assessed valuation on real and new property.
“The condition of the overall budget will ultimately be determined by the legislation that occurs this spring,” Harper said, noting that currently the budget is in good shape. “The local tax effort is good, and state funding is adequate.”
Enrollment numbers are down slightly, Harper added, which could affect average daily attendance (ADA) and weighted average daily attendance (WADA), which are how most state funding is calculated.
“Governor Parson’s has recommended to keep the basic foundation formula at $6,375 for the fourth consecutive year,” said Harper. “WADA could be affected because of the higher thresholds for free and reduced lunch, special education and English-Second Language students.
He added, Proposition C monies appear to be coming in higher than expected, but the district will see the last of the ESSER money that was appropriated from Federal funds this year.
“Since we will no longer be receiving ESSER funds from the federal government, we want to be prudent when making decisions moving forward, Harper said.
What could also affect the school district negatively are some of the bills being considered in the legislature this session, especially bills which could change personal property taxes.
“Estimates say the bills relating to personal property could cost the district up to 20 percent of the funding that we currently get,” said Harper. “That could be as high as $350,000, and that could ultimately affect staffing and programs at Palmyra R-I.”
In his legislative update, Harper also noted SB 234, which would move school board elections to November and change member terms from three to four years.
In addition, he reported on HB 253 dealing with open enrollment and HB 486 which would reinstate the 2.55 multiplier for teachers after 32 years and extend critical shortage teacher hires.
The school board accepted a bid from Graybar for $53,090.20 for a transformer for the high school facility.
The current transformer, which was original with the construction of the high school, is at the end of its lifespan.
The lead time is 56 to 60 weeks for the transformer to ship, thus, Harper said he is hoping installation can occur in spring 2024.
The district approved signing a letter of intent with cooperation with Veregy (formerly CTS) to negotiate an energy savings contract that would include the installation of HVAC units at the Palmyra Elementary and Palmyra High schools.
The HVAC units on those two buildings are currently over 20 years old and at the end of their lifespan.
It would also include LED lighting throughout the district.
In addition, the board approved the benefits plan presented by EBA, which will see no increase in health insurance or vision plans the district offers its employees.
The district does provide a $25,000 life insurance plan for employees, and that plan will raise 9 cents per $1,000. The overall cost to the district for the increase will be less than $500.
Nichole Gard gave a presentation on the PACE program, noting the program serves students who qualify as gifted.
Jersey Cissna and William Gard, PACE students who helped present, discussed their favorite activities and why PACE is an important part of their educational experience.
The PACE program serves just over 5 percent of the student population for Palmyra R-I and provides enrichment activities for students who qualify for the program.
The board also:
• discussed the esports program, but the board took no action as Harper asked to get a clearer picture of the budget before committing to the program;
• heard a report on the school board candidate forum;
• heard a first reading on several board policies, which will be approved on the second reading in April.
These include policies on placing items on the agenda, public participation at meetings, changes in virtual course options and offerings, and creating a community engagement policy; and
• approved one addition to the sub list.