Marmaton Valley slashes budget

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

MORAN — Rumored cuts of classified staff never materialized at the Marmaton Valley board of education meeting Monday night, but the board did find ways to trim more than $110,000 from the 2009-10 school year budget.
The cuts were necessitated by a reduction in state per pupil base aid which left USD 256 $108,000 under budget for the fiscal year.
One custodian position will be lost as a result of the actions.
Superintendent Nancy Meyer brought a list to the board delineating “as many things as possible that we could live without,” she said.
In addition, board members put forth their own lists of possible reductions, including combining bus routes, eliminating school field trips, incorporating a preschool/day care program into the schools and eliminating summer school.
“Nobody wants to cut anything, but we have to,” said board member Bob Rhodes, who presented 17 possible reductions, including an across-the-board pay cut.
The sacred cow of the budget was the school’s athletic programs. Even though some activities draw only minimal numbers of participants, board president Patti Boyd feared that being the only district in the region to cut sports would lead to parents opting to send their children to neighboring schools.
“If we cut athletics alone, we’re going rogue,” she noted.
In the end, the custodial position, staff professional development, K-12 summer school, one assistant track coach position, transportation and expenses for sponsors and groups were all cut. Basketball transportation was reduced. Previous budget savings would be applied to the current deficit as well, Boyd said.
In all, $111,134 was trimmed from Marmaton Valley’s spending.
About a dozen individuals who came to hear the board’s decisions never stayed for the final outcome of the meeting, which ran until 11:30 p.m.
Most may have been there to learn if any of the school’s six para-professionals were being cut, a rumor that proved unfounded as the board opted to cut programs rather than people.
The choices, even so, were not painless.
“We’ll see kids dropping out, especially in farm communities,” Meyer warned. “Our state assessments will be flat.
“There are other government entities that are hurting, but I don’t think they affect as many people” as education cuts do, Meyer said.
USD 256 serves 380 students, including 36 who chose to attend the school after LaHarpe Elementary was shuttered as a cost- saving measure by USD 257 this past year.
The increase in enrollment prompted the hiring of additional teachers, although next year classes may need to be re-worked as far as number of pupils per class, Meyer said. “There will probably be teachers who lose their jobs next year,” she said.
“We’re not OK anymore. This hurts kids. I think next school year, we’re going to be desperate.”

A GROUP of former Marmaton Valley cheerleaders met privately with Boyd to discuss personnel issues.
“We’ve lost a lot of cheerleaders and we’re aware of that,” said Brooklyn Traub, an MVHS senior. School spirit has diminished due to the losses, she said, and “we’d like to get the girls back, get the crowds back.”
Accusations of verbal abuse by the cheer sponsor were raised but not addressed by the board.
Paula Miller, a cheer mom, said she encouraged her daughter to quit the squad.
“None of these girls wanted to quit, but dropping out was in their best interest, physically, emotionally, the whole nine yards,” Miller said.
“There was poor guidance from adults to high school students, generally,” offered Mercedes Trollope, an MVHS junior and a former cheerleader.
When asked by board member Amanda Allen what the group would like done, Traub responded, “We’d like to get back to cheer if it’s under new guidance and supervision.”
Elizabeth Hopkins is the group’s current sponsor. She was not at the meeting.
Boyd said the board would follow up at a later date.

IN OTHER board business, proposed changes to the district’s attendance policy consumed a large chunk of meeting time. No action was taken.
Technology purchases will be kept to the bare minimum of replacement of laptop batteries and the like, the board decided.
“We have that two- to three-year plan for replacing everything and it’s a great plan,” Meyer said, “But right now we don’t have the funding.”
No changes were made to the school’s weapons policy. It remains that if weapons are found, they will be asked to be removed. Failure to comply will draw law enforcement involvement.
Junior high and high school principal Jeremy Boldra asked the board for ideas to curb student use of smokeless tobacco.
“Ours is much higher than the state average,” he told the board.