Published in the Iola Register on Mar. 12, 2013.

Vocal instuctor's position eliminated with closing of Concordia Middle School

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer


Sarah Harvey's position as vocal music instructor at Concordia Middle School was a casualty to the closing of the building after action taken by the USD 333 board of education Monday night.
After a 15-minute executive session last night, the board approved not renewing Harvey's contract for the 2013-2014 school year because of a reduction in force. The board voted to close the Middle School last fall in an effort to save the district money. Fifth and sixth grade students will be moved to the Concordia Junior/Senior High School beginning this fall.
The closure of the school also resulted in the transfer of two employees Monday night. Lora Watson was transferred from 7th-12th librarian to 5th-12th librarian. Laura Barta was transferred from pre-kindergarten-6th librarian to pre-kindergarten-4th librarian.
Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Bev Mortimer reported to the board that she has not received any proposals for use of the Middle School. In February, the board had approved accepting written proposals for the disposal of the building on March 4.
She said the city of Concordia had shown interest in acquiring the building to house the Police Department. But at the March 6 City Commission meeting, Commissioners came to the consensus that moving the Police Department to the Middle School was not something they wanted to pursue.
Mortimer told the board that she would now actively start promoting the building in the hopes of finding a buyer.
Mortimer also presented the final results of the safety survey that had been distributed to district families and staff members.
Of the 700 surveys mailed to district families, 168 were returned. The survey was electronic for staff, and 68 of the 220 staff members completed the survey.
Mortimer said the number one safety priority for families was additional surveillance cameras in all schools, followed by a FEMA-approved storm shelter at the elementary school. Number three on the list - with 125 yes votes - was an additional school resource officer.
The staff members had similar responses, with the top safety concern being a FEMA shelter. Additional cameras in all schools was second, and cameras or locking mechanisms on the doors at the junior/senior high school was third.
Mortimer said a FEMA shelter is a priority, and she would like to apply for grant money from FEMA to construct one.
Her number one recommendation to the board was to move one staff member to an office on the 11th Street side of the junior/senior high school. Access through that door is too easy, she said, and someone could be halfway through the building before anyone knew they were there.
Mortimer also said she planned to apply for money from the Horizon Wind Farm Gift Fund to purchase additional security cameras or a buzzer/lock system for entrances at both the high school and elementary school, as well as safer doors at the main entrance.
She also recommended looking into transferring a current staff member into a security position. That person would be trained by, and work with, the current school resource officer.
In other business, the board approved moving forward with a Jobs for America's Graduates program at the high school.
JAG is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among students who are most at risk. The goal of the program is to take students from the classroom to the workforce. Bryce Wachs, 7th and 8th grade assistant principal, said the program is being implemented in Kansas, and Gov. Sam Brownback has asked 25 schools to take part. USD 333 was chosen, he said, based on its number of free and reduced lunches, as well as graduation rates.
At least 35 students can be in the program, Wachs said, and they will be monitored by a teacher throughout the school year, and a year after graduation. A teacher will need to be hired to oversee the program, but that person's salary will be fully grant-funded.
In other business, the board approved travel for four high school students to attend the International Chess Tournament in Chicago.
Melissae Stiles said the four students – Logan Whitney, Braden Johnson, Rachel Hasch, and Siri McGuire – will pay their own way to participate in the tournament.
She asked the district to provide a van, but the chess team will pay for fuel. She said the team has raised money throughout the year to pay for the trip, and each of the four students will also contribute an additional $40.
Mortimer said she would look at funds to find $160 so the students do not have to contribute the $40.
The board also approved the 2013-2014 school calendar. School will begin on August 13 and end on May 22.