Cost-cutting maneuvers on the table



March 25, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Eliminating an administrator, reducing payment to the Bowlus Center, and shrinking the school year were proposed Tuesday night to save District 257 $550,000.
Superintendent of Schools Jack Koehn proposed the budget recommendations before trustees. Shrinking the school calendar by 10 days saves $50,000 to $70,000.
Koehn suggested moving from block scheduling, where subjects are taught 90 minutes every other day, back to a more traditional school day with seven classes.
“This would increase minutes per class by 100 minutes every two weeks,” Koehn said, because students would attend English, for example, every school day.
Iola High School students expressed their dismay with the change.
Clara Wicoff, a junior, said block scheduling gave students the opportunity to take a variety of elective courses because eight periods of classes are offered.
“When we switch to the seven-period day you lose eight semesters of elective classes,” Wicoff said.
Wicoff said she is aware IHS may not have the same elective courses as a bigger school like Shawnee Mission can provide, but she believes the students excel in the electives they do have.
“I think we shine in these elective areas: Forensics, FFA, Singers. They make us well rounded students and give us more career choices in the future,” she said.
Wicoff also said the 55-minute class period is too short for certain classes such as vocational technical.
Junior John Muhl said he is taking about $2,000 of college credits next year.
“I only get to take one elective and this puts a lot of stress on the kids,” he said. “Especially for those who are taking chemistry and physics in the same day. I feel that would stress them out even more.”
Koehn said in conversations with instructors at Allen Community College they said they would prefer the students have seven-period days.
Vince Coons, high school science teacher, said teachers have been left out of the loop about the change to seven-period days.
“The students believe that the block scheduling is beneficial,” he said.
Junior Taelyn Sutterby said if the block scheduling was changed she would have to choose between Singers and a teaching internship for her elective. Sutterby said she wants to be a teacher. She also has talked to colleges about a choir scholarship.
“By the time I drove to a grade school I would have to pretty much turn around and leave by the time I got there,” she said. “I want get the most out of that program.”
Junior Caitlin Dreher noted that students have already enrolled for classes for next year. If the school were to switch to seven-period days credits for graduation would be moved from 28 to 25.
Board member Don Snavely said he would like to hear more discussion on seven-period days.

THE NEXT budget suggestion is reducing payments to the Bowlus Fine Arts Center by $50,000. Currently the district pays $143,000 to the Bowlus. The school would keep band, art and drama at the Bowlus and possibly move choir and speech to the high school.
Bowlus executive director Susan Raines said the Bowlus Commission had talked about a tentative budget cut of $44,000 in January but it wasn’t approved. Raines noted this isn’t the first time there has been a reduction of payment to the Bowlus.
Another recommendation was to reduce an administrative by one, but none was targeted. This would save the district $65,000 to $70,000. Combining bookkeeping positions for middle school and high school  would save $25,000.
No action was taken on any of these recommendations.

THE board approved the separation of employment with Donald Preston, transportation; Eugene Myrick, SAFE BASE; Gerri Godderz, McKinley paraprofessional; Mike Barnes, Jefferson custodian; and Penny Herder as cheer sponsor at the high school.
The next board meeting has been moved to April 14.

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