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by Patty Cheffey
Thanks to federal funds which came available during the pandemic, the Palmyra R-I Board of Education has been able to move funds to help cover the costs of capital improvements.
The decision to move the money from Fund 1 to Fund 4 was made during last week’s board meeting, at which they also heard a budget and legislative update, approved a food contract and recognized the Science Olympiad team.
They also approved several resignations, hirings and internal movements (See related story).
Prior to getting into business, the board swore in new members, Leisa Hinkle and Jeff Weaver, and returning board member, Doug Meyers..
The board then reorganized and approved officers, including Joe Knochel, president; Darin Redd, vice-president; Meyers, secretary; and Roth McElvain, treasurer.
In addition, Superintendent Harper recognized Stephanie Bross and Oneta Crowe for their 13 years of service to the board.
Relating to the transfer of funds, Harper said DESE is allowing schools to move money from previous years because of the large amount of funds created by federal programs throughout the pandemic.
“This option became available to school last fall, so it was not a surprise,” he said. “It allows school to use fund that ere saved by using federal funds for teacher salaries.”
The district will move $371,648 to Fund 4 which is used for capital projects which the district completes.
“The district has four projects planned at this time,” Harper said. “The camera system upgrades are almost complete, and the district is working with Veregy on an energy savings contract that will provide district-wide LED lighting and new air conditioning units at the elementary and high school buildings.
“In addition, Palmyra R-I has also worked with Brent Abel, and the Palmyra Board of Public Works, to gather bids and purchase a new transformer at the high school, he added. “All these projects would be financed with Fund 4 monies.”
In other business, Harper presented an update on legislative issues, including HB 253, which would create open enrollment for the 2024-25 school year.
“Districts must create a model policy that can be modified based on district needs,” he said, noting districts can restrict the number of transferring students and students can be denied based on discipline records.
HB 492, which would add $277 million to the formula over the next nine years, would also set requirements for teacher salaries.
The base salary would be $37,000 as a minimum, while a teacher with a master’s degree and 10 yeas of teaching experience must be at $46,0000 by the 2025-27 school year.
Neither situation is a concern at this time for Palmyra, Harper said.
“Palmyra is in good shape regarding teacher salaries. We should be able to meet these requirements,” he said. “Our salary schedule starts at $37,750 for the 22-23 school year, and we anticipate trying to build that up. We should also be able to meet the requirements for the teachers with a master’s and 10 years of experience.”
In his budget update, Harper noted revenues are still coming in at a high rate with local revenues coming in well above projections.
He added, there has been work on the non-certified salary schedule and over the next three weeks the district should have a better picture of what they can do with the certified salary schedule.
Harper also reported he has applied for a $150,000 safety grant for the district, which, if approved, would be used for the camera system and safety film on the entry doors.
OPAA, which has provided food service to the district the last 15 years, was again awarded the school’s food service contract. The contract is for five years.
The board approved five board policy updates on theire second reading, including those which focused on how board members could place items on a board agenda, public participation at board meetings, updates in virtual school options and a community engagement plan.
The board also recognized the Science Olympiad team from the middle school, which participated at the state meet in Springfield.
After competing against schools across the state, they had seven events in which they placed in the top eight statewide.
“It was an outstanding showing for our students,” the board noted.
The board also heard from Stacey Conrad and Liz Lehenbauer on library activities, noted there has been a significant increase in book check outs throughout the district.
In addition, the library has incorporated STEAM and technology into the library curriculum, and Conrad used Palmyra School Foundation grants to purchase book titles in new genres that interest student check outs.
The board also heard a report on FCCLA service projects, STARR presentations and accomplishments of the Palmyra R-I chapter.