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Litchfield Board Makes Fogleman Changes

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Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2018 12:00 am

Prior to their regular monthly board meeting, members of the Litchfield School Board met as trustees of the Fogleman Scholarship on Thursday evening, Dec. 20, making several changes to the scholarship requirements.

With all board members in attendance, the board discussed matters for approximately an hour. There was no public input to start the meeting, however, the board did field questions from one parent, who was trying to transfer her daughter's Fogleman Scholarship to Lincoln Land Community College. Superintendent John Mullett said he would look into it.

In opening the discussion, board member Dennis Scobbie reported on a meeting he had on Wednesday, Dec. 19, with Bank and Trust representatives Larry Halleman and Roger Krabbe.

Krabbe made a presentation to the board discussing many of the changes made in the previous few years to the scholarship as well as some of the history in awarding it. He said that in the past, the board took the total income for the farm each year and distributed one-third of it in scholarships, saving two-thirds in reserves. Currently, the reserve account has around $600,000 in it, and in the past has been used to cover scholarships if they go over the amount allotted. At that time, a set scholarship amount was awarded each year.

After 2016, the board began to hold back 20 percent of the revenue in a separate account to potentially purchase farm ground in the future. The board would also make changes, reducing the grade point average needed to receive the scholarship. Krabbe said over that three-year period, an additional 23 scholarships were awarded.

He told the board that if they quit saving 20 percent in an account to purchase farm ground, they would be able to pay a fixed amount in the scholarship each year, using the reserves if needed. Krabbe added that if things stayed static, the reserves would last at least 20 years.

"That's what had been done previously," Krabbe told the board.

Scobbie added that if they raised the grade point average back up, they would have less problems going over budget.

Before starting to make motions, President Jennifer Reid asked if the board needed to rescind previous changes to the scholarship, and Mullett told her the motions that night would be sufficient.

The first motion was to increase the grade point average for high school seniors seeking the scholarship to a 4.3 on a 5.0 scale. Currently, the grade point average needed to apply was 3.75.

In opening discussion, board member Meg Wertin asked fellow board member Ron Anglin why he made the motion to increase the grade point average when he previously made a motion to lower it several years ago.

"What made you change your mind?" Wertin asked.

Anglin said that it was the recommendation of the five-person advisory panel to change the grade point average, and that's why he felt they should do it.

Members of the advisory panel included Dan Delaney, Gary Meyers, Terry Leitschuh, Kevin Niemann and Jeff Thornton."The advisory panel had nothing to do with GPA," Wertin said. "They were to help the board with the overall bigger picture."

Reid said that while the panel was charged with looking at the overall big picture of the Fogleman Scholarship that grade point average was a part of that discussion.

"When we reviewed it with the panel, there were lots of questions about the GPA," Reid said.

Only one member of the panel, Terry Leitschuh, was present for the December meeting, though several have attended previous meetings.

"I felt like the GPA was not our job," Leitschuh told the board. "That's on the board's shoulders to set the criteria."

Scobbie said that the panel members at the November meeting felt differently.

"The panel was strong in raising the grade point average as we move forward," Reid said.

Wertin asked Krabbe about his estimate that the reserves would last 20 years, and Krabbe said that it was hard to project, but that if an extra $20,000 or so was used each year, the reserves would last about 20 years if everything else stayed the same. She asked him if that reserve account was used solely to sweep over and fund scholarships if the amount needed to award was less than the income that year. Krabbe said in prior years that's how it was done.

"The reserves are there to pay out in scholarships," Krabbe said.

Wertin also asked if the panel discussed future growth of the Fogleman Trust, and Leitschuh said the panel spent a lot of time discussing the intentions of Arthur Fogleman in leaving the trust to the district. He felt that purchasing additional farmland to grow the trust would have been pleasing to Mr. Fogleman, and would allow the board to pay out more in scholarships.

Reid said that panel members present at the November meeting agreed it was not a good time to purchase farm ground.

"It's decision time. Time to execute," Reid said. "We have been tossing this ball around for two years. It's time to decide."

Scobbie added that income to the trust could be increased by reinvesting some of the paper investments, seeking a larger return. Wertin said she felt that by looking at the numbers that farm ground offered a better return than paper investments, but Scobbie countered that they were similar.

"We're supposed to be prudent," Wertin said. "Based on the numbers, we're not being prudent."

Reid called for a vote, and the board voted 5-2 to increase the grade point average for high school seniors to 4.3 starting the 2018-2019 school year. Wertin and board member Gregg Hires voted against the motion.

Next, the discussion switched to increasing the grade point average for college renewals to 3.0. Currently, students who maintain a 2.0 grade point average on a 4.0 college scale are eligible for renewal.

"I oppose this completely," Wertin said. "That's no surprise."

She said she works in college admissions, and most colleges consider students in good standing to have a 2.0 grade point average. She said that's the number used to award bachelor's and associate's degrees, as well as to apply for college loans.

"I believe raising this to 3.0 makes the target smaller for our students," Wertin said. "Our kids face all kinds of challenges and hurdles. There's a lot of issues these students of ours face, and we want them all to be completers. This is a tool that will help them get there."

Wertin also pointed out that in Montgomery County, the Selma Hartke Scholarship is awarded to college students with a 2.0 grade point average, as is the scholarship from the Montgomery County Cancer Association.

"We have folks teaching in this district that didn't have a 3.0 GPA," Wertin said. "I don't understand why we are trying to raise it. Is it just because that's the way it was?"

Hires said he felt the board was just doing it to be able to give out larger scholarships to fewer students.

"I don't like that," Hires said. "We need to be trying to give it out to as many as we can."

Wertin said the scholarship is set up as a residency scholarship, not a competitive one.

"This is not an entitlement," Reid said. "This is something that has to be earned."

Scobbie added that being a college instructor, he felt it was not that difficult to obtain a 2.0 grade point average.

"We have to have high standards and make students work harder," Scobbie said. "We're trying to get our kids to be better than that."

Hires said he felt that having a higher GPA did not necessarily equate to more success after college. Board member Val Cain agreed, noting that students who want to be doctors often have to take harder classes, where it's tougher to maintain a higher GPA.

"There's lots of variables our kids face," Wertin said. "This is just one more hurdle. I understand trying to motivate them, but this is not a competitive-based scholarship. We've got to motivate kids to stay in school, and they already qualified for this in high school."

The board would vote 4-3 to approve raising the GPA for college renewals back to 3.0 with the exception of graduates from the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018, since they were in school before these changes were made.

"I think we have to allow for those three years of students," Scobbie said. "It's not fair to yank it out from underneath them."

Board members Wertin, Hires and Cain would vote against the measure.

In other changes, the board voted 5-2 to use only the fall and spring semester grades in awarding the Fogleman renewal scholarships. Wertin asked who was going to calculate the GPA and leave out the summer grades. Reid said it could be done. Wertin and Hires voted against it.

The board voted 6-1 to change the application date for renewals to June 1, a change from the current Aug. 15 deadline. Krabbe told the board originally, renewals were due toward the end of May, and that gave the bank time to issue scholarship checks by July 1.

Wertin asked who would be around to process renewals in June, and LHS Principal Doug Hoster said the guidance counselors do that. Scobbie added the board authorizes ten extra days of pay for guidance counselors to do that work.

Wertin said the college renewal letters were already sent out with a date of Aug. 15, and the website has that date as well. Reid said they would send out a new letter. Wertin was the only one to vote against this change.

The board voted to set this year's Fogleman Scholarship at $2,000, with an opportunity to re-evaluate that amount in three years. Board members estimated they may have to use $20,000 in reserves each year to meet that fixed amount, but will look again in three years. The motion passed 6-0 with Wertin abstaining.

In a 6-1 vote, the board discontinued holding 20 percent of the farm's profits each year into an account for future growth.

"Based on the fact that two and a half years ago the committee told us this was not a smart move, I think it should be totally abandoned," Scobbie said.

Wertin would vote against the measure.

The board took no action on a measure to transfer the earnings of any paper investments into the pool of money to be awarded in scholarships, as Krabbe told the board they are already doing that.

Another action with no motion was to allow Bank and Trust to continually invest any paper investments using their expertise, which is also currently being done.

Scobbie asked what had been done in the past, and Larry Halleman of Bank and Trust said the bank invested the money with the best interest they could get and brought an annual report to the board.

Krabbe said some of the changes the board just made will help give the bank representatives a better time frame in making the investments. He added that the trust had one U.S. Treasury bill come due in December that he planned to renew for 90 days at 2.3 percent interest.

Krabbe said he would bring a new investment advisory contract for the board to approve.

In a final motion, the board approved quarterly meetings with Bank and Trust to keep open communication about the Fogleman Trust. Hires was the lone dissenting vote, saying he felt that four meetings a year was unattainable, and that the meetings already stretched out too long.

Scobbie said it would likely be a brief report, and the board agreed to try it.

Before adjourning, Scobbie asked if the advisory panel would continue its work, and Reid said the board would have to discuss that at another time, but she felt the panel would still be useful to the board.

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