Santa may not like trustees’ wish list
School board trustees gave Santa their wish list of priorities for the 2016-2017 budget, but the news they received was more like receiving a lump of coal in their stockings.
At their only meeting of the month because of the holidays, most members of the Churchill County School Board said Thursday they would like to see class sizes remain the same, while some would give a 2 percent raise across the board to all staff and stay competitive with other educational institutions such as charter schools and online learning.
Board President Ron Evans offered several ideas including the 2 percent raise and increasing compensation for substitute teachers. He said the district has been faced with budget cuts for years, but he wanted to do something positive.
Trustee Greg Koenig, though, shot back.
“We may have a $1.5 million deficit, but we want to spend money,” he said.
While explaining his rationale, Evans told Koenig that his suggestions are only his opinions.
Another trustee then suggested reinstating elementary school and art programs.
Trustee Clay Hendrix said he was more concerned about the district’s staff and how to make CCSD more competitive. He said the school district should look at ways of rewarding employees in one form or another because morale is low.
Phyllys Dowd, director of Business Services, said the budget committee will meet on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. to discuss priorities for the next school year. Dowd did reiterate Koenig’s comment that the district faces a $1.5 million deficit because CCSD lost 6.5 percent of tis students, many to Oasis Academy Charter School.
“Next year we’ll see a drop,” she said, referring to state money allocated to the school district.
Trustees also spent time discussing a proposed policy that would include drug testing to those students involved in extracurricular actives. Current policy allows for random testing of only athletes. The first reading of policy 5136.2 would expand the testing of banned and illicit substance of testing students participating in athletics or extracurricular activities.
The initial idea to expand testing came from trustee Matt Hyde, who said he believes students will be compelled to turn their backs on using illegal substances because of a possible drug test hanging over them.
Trustees bantered back and forth, trying to determine which extracurricular activities would be affected — those that are an extension of classroom instruction where students receive a grade, those that don’t require a grade or a combination of both.
“We need to figure out what is extracurricular,” Board member Rich Gent said.
Hendrix said extracurricular means not carrying academic credit, while Koenig said the policy must determine what is or is not graded.
Distract counsel Sharla Hales guided trustees through some rhetorical questioning, asking if students test positive, does a teacher provide alternative assignments.
“Give me something general, and I can draw something up,” she told trustees after a few more members voiced concern with the policy’s first reading.
Dr. Sandra Shelton, CCSD superintendent, cautioned trustees, saying they have to be very careful and specific with a policy.
“You can’t do random drug testing of all students. It’s not allowed,” she said.
Hales and most board members agreed expanding the policy would be for grades sixth through 12th.
Churchill County High School Principal Kevin Lords said currently about 20 percent of athletes are tested, but if the number of tests expands, he said the cost will increase.
“We would be adding a significant number of students,” he said.
Lords said about 75 percent of CCHS students participate in extracurricular activities.
“Thing about that,” he added.
Hales said any revised policy would go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.
Trustees also approved going forward with the scope of work and budget for remodeling the existing high-school music room. In October, Paul Eskeldson, project manager for Parsons, showed trustees preliminary plans for remodeling and adding on to the existing building.
Trustees wanted more information on the project and the direction they should take.
Trustees approved the scope of work and budget and also approved a contract totaling $75,920 with Van Woert Bigotti Architects of Reno.
Overall cost for the project is still within the figure Eskeldson gave to the board two months ago at $972,500.