ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Monday evening’s most recent meeting of the USD 480 school board began with some local citizens speaking to the board.
Up first to speak was Starley Craig.
“I’ve written several letters about USD 480 to the local paper hoping some questions I have might be the same questions others in the community have considered,” Starley began. “In my last letter, I asked about the ability to ask the right questions. If you read the paper, you know I told the story of a race between Russia and the U.S. The manufacturers of automobiles in the USA and in Russia wanted to hold the race to see which produced the better automobile. At Russia’s insistence, the race was run in Russia, and after the contest, the results were duly printed in the state newspaper. The paper stated ‘The Russian car came in a strong second while the Americans came in at a dismal next to last.’ Every word in that report was absolutely true. If you’re trying to figure out how the Russians did so much better than the Americans, you might be asking the wrong questions, such as ‘Did the Russians cheat or sabotage the Americans?’ When I asked Mr. Park, the USD 480 Public Relations person, he hesitated and then asked ‘Who came in first?’ I immediately thought ‘Oh, my goodness’ because he immediately saw the fallacy – there were only two cars in the race. It’s a case of when something is presented as truth, there’s a chance it might not be true at all. Why can’t we all ask the right questions? First off, USD 480 has spent this year nearly $1 million on programs for staff to improve pupil outcomes.
The brochures for these programs are nearly identical regardless of what they’re saying. My question is, what has happened to the thousands of dollars already spent on programs? If they’re as good as advertised, why are they not enough? Are we still using them? Do we need more? Are the staff and administration in the schools so bad at choosing from all the junk offered that they ALWAYS buy the wrong stuff? Are they faced with a huge buffet of programs on an apparently unlimited budget? It’s all about perspective. I suggest you put a moratorium on spending money on programs and rely on the intelligence of your teachers who are already in the classrooms.”
Starley then raised a few other questions before concluding her presentation. Fellow local citizen Charles Craig then spoke to the board with some questions of his own about recent goings-on in the district.
“I do want to thank Mr. Park, I enjoy his abilities very much and I think the school board is very lucky to have him on staff,” Charles said. “He gave me information I had asked for about USD 480’s financial accountability report. Everyone here has access to that as well. There’s a great deal of information in that covering the costs to the district of everything from free/reduced lunches to schooling for 4-year-olds. But the main question I have for this board is, when the new school buildings were constructed, the people of Liberal believed the major expenditure of $130 million would be primarily covered by the State of Kansas. The school board, the newspaper, and many others in the community got behind the idea of replacing all the schools in the district. The public was told, as usual, how proud they should be and what a draw Liberal would have for bigger businesses and others moving to the area. Now, it appears we still owe $125 million on General Obligation bonds, and according to Mr. Parks’ records, I want to clarify a few points from the board. To whom do we owe this vast sum? What exactly did it buy? Where did the money come from? Where did the money go? With these numbers coming directly from the USD 480 accounting staff, we must assume that debt belongs to the school system alone. I ask the board to answer this question: to whom to we owe this money? How is it being raised? Has the State of Kansas paid, as promised? Did that $130 million go to contractors? I’d like answers to these questions. If not now, maybe an article answering all of those questions should be put together and run in the newspaper so the public can get that information.”
Local citizen Reita Isaacs then ended the citizens’ comments portion with some comments of her own.
“I have heard many times of teaching being like babysitting and I would like to know, where does the responsibility to the parents stop?” Isaacs said. “Teachers are here to educate the children, and there is the money in the various funds to do that, including with Head Start. My neighbor was trying to pick up his granddaughter, it was for the afterschool program and the teacher was supposed to be helping. He asked his granddaughter ‘Did you get your homework done?’ to which she replied ‘No.’ He asked her ‘Why not?’ and she said ‘The teacher asked if I had any, and I said no, so she let me go play.’ This is not unusual, and it’s ridiculous. I see a big school bus stop across the street every day for one little girl, and there are two cars in that driveway. One of them should be taking that child to school. We have all these children who aren’t doing well in school and making trouble, and the government says ‘You can’t correct them.’ Having at least one stay-at-home parent would be best as far as raising these children – don’t just pawn them off on the system.”
After hearing a lengthy presentation about implementing AVID in the USD 480 middle schools, the board eventually moved on to the agenda’s new business for the evening. During the new business portion of the meeting, the board approved setting July 12 as the date of the organizational meeting for Fiscal 21-22 and also heard a lengthy presentation regarding insurance, after which the board ultimately approved a quote from KERMP for property and liability insurance in the amount of $427,480, and from KASB in the amount of $195,220 for workman’s compensation insurance, reflecting a total savings of $296,120 over the current year. The board also voted to renew Canvas software and service licenses for two years in the amount of $48,633.59, and concluded the meeting’s new business with a review of some board policies, which will come back to the board as an action item at the June 28 board meeting.