The February meeting of the Nokomis School Board was called to order on Tuesday, Feb. 16, by President Chad Ruppert, with Superintendent Scott Doerr, board members Joe Gasparich, Steve Janssen, Denny Bauman, Carl Ray Fesser, Jim Eisenbarth, and Ben Tarter present. Attending via internet connection were principals Reedy, McDowell, and McDonald, as well as other interested guests.
In his report to the board, Dr. Doerr said that the state currently owes the district $92,754.83. Surprisingly, he also reported that the second quarter categorical transportation payments due in December were paid in January. He also thought the free food program payments that were due would be paid by week’s end. He was not as optimistic on the money owed for Early Childhood programs. He added that the governor would be providing his budget address this week and was anticipated to propose flat funding for education, meaning the same amount of state money for the next three years in a row.
Doerr said it was also anticipated that the state would release the grant form for CARES II program by the end of the month. It is scheduled to release $130 billion to public schools throughout the country and while their share of the funds are unknown at this time, it was known that 20 percent of the money must be used for learning loss. He said with this in mind, he and the principals had already begun working on a “rather lavish” summer school plan for this summer and next summer that addressed learning loss specific in the district, as well as offerings for accelerated learners.
Doerr reported he had also been working on some of the Technical & Careers Pathway Programs. For some of these, they are working with the Montgomery County Consortium, specifically on education and computer science. He said he was also working with LLCC and the consortium in the areas of agriculture and culinary arts. He said they are working to get more teachers certified to teach credit programs in these areas. He explained that transferrable classes to a university program must be taught by someone with a master’s degree in that vocational program, but certificate classes and associate degree classes may be taught by the holder of a bachelors degree.
Doerr advised the board of a schedule change in the school calendar. Because Nokomis teachers and staff would be getting their second immunization on Feb. 20 and there had been some extended side effects, Feb. 22 would be a remote learning planning day. Students will not attend school or remote in, but teachers will work on their remote learning skills and other professional development. This action was determined in conjunction with other county districts, all on the same schedule, to be proactive in case everyone needed substitutes or were to be left short-handed with staff. He added that there were only two reported cases of side effects county-wide after the first round of immunizations, but the second round was known to have more.
With regard to current classroom status, Doerr reported full-time remote learners for junior high and high school in the district totaled 17. Short-term remote learners for both were 47 at this time. Full-time and short-term remote learners for the North school were eight and eight, respectively. He said with a move to Phase V or if the executive order is lifted, the district can discontinue remote learning except for those in quarantine. At this time, however, he thought they should continue with student dismissal at 2:30 p.m.
In updating on the current situation with NPT and Taylorville’s request to leave the group, Doerr said he had met with their attorneys on Jan. 26. They had indicated a response to his inquiries within a week of the meeting, but it was now three weeks later and they had yet to send information. Ruppert added that he had met with the Taylorville school board president and had been told Taylorville felt they could run their special education program on their own. Ruppert expressed frustration in the discussion and Tarter, who also participated, confirmed various inconsistencies in communication. Doerr expressed uncertainty that Nokomis and Pana would receive adequate response to their requests, but said he would keep the board advised.
In turning to projects to be undertaken in the upcoming summer, Doerr laid out initial plans to address problems with some doors and windows, as well as cleaning all vents for the HVAC system. He had received quotes from C&C Heating & Cooling for the vent screening that was estimated to be $2,000. He would also like to pursue an upgrade to the water heating system, potentially looking into the use of additional tankless water heaters. With additional federal and state grants, projects to add plasma solutions kits for athletic equipment, security cameras for the North School, and a greenhouse for the ag department were on the docket. Doerr added the greenhouse would be a rather large unit and location of the facility was still in question. Given the timetable involved in being prepared to start the summer projects in a timely manner in order to complete them in the summer, Doerr recommended approval of the board to proceed pending approval of state and federal grants.
Fesser made a motion to approve quotes for C&C Heating & Cooling for vent cleaning and plasma solutions kits and greenhouse megastore for the senior teaching package greenhouse and Wareham’s for North School security camera pending approval of state and federal grants. Eisenbarth seconded the motion and it passed on a roll call vote with Gasparich voting no, citing concerns with the greenhouse project.
Doerr told the board the administration team had sent out a survey to all junior high and high school teachers regarding the block scheduling system used this year. He reported that 42.3 percent of the teachers answered they liked the system and would be interested in continuing it, 11.5 percent said they liked it would be in favor of a modified block, 26.9 percent responded that they would prefer to return to traditional scheduling, and 19.2 percent said they had no opinion either way. Long a proponent of block scheduling because of the extra time it allows students and teachers to perform labs and other hands-on activities, he said he and the principals would continue to explore an ongoing modified block schedule.
Doerr also reported the Nokomis Education Foundation had met and came up with two fundraisers for this year. Back by popular demand would be the pork chop carryout dinner and prior to that would be a nickel raffle. He said the details for those fundraisers would be posted on the social media sites soon.
With regard to the TRS supplemental savings plan enacted by the legislature, Dr. Doerr advised that the plan needed to be adopted by the end of March, but that more information and details were forthcoming from TRS and he advised tabling discussion and action on the matter until the March meeting.
Doerr said with the election coming up April 6, given they were required to have the new board seated within 28 days after the election, he recommended they have their reorganizational meeting Tuesday, April 27, at 7 p.m. to seat board members and elect officers. Janssen made a motion to have the reorganizational meeting at the suggested date and time. Tarter seconded the motion and it passed on a voice vote.
Fesser made a motion to approve the athletic cooperative agreement with Ramsey for high school golf for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. The motion was seconded by Eisenbarth and passed on a voice vote.
Tarter made a motion to approve the intergovernmental agreement with ROE #3 for the Regional Safe Schools Program and Alternative High Schools Program for the 2021-2022 school year. The motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.
After a closed session Gasparich made a motion to accept the resignation of Lauri Smalley as high school cheerleading sponsor, effective June 30, 2021. Tarter seconded the motion and it passed on a voice vote. Tarter made a motion to employ Bonnie Brownback as junior high assistant girls’ basketball coach for the 2020-2021 school year. The motion was seconded by Fesser and passed unanimously on a roll call vote.