New Madrid County R-1: Tax settlement money pays debt, funds infrastructure work

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NEW MADRID, Mo. - The money the New Madrid County R-1 School District received following the sale of Noranda Aluminum is being put to work.

Dr. Sam Duncan, R-1 superintendent, said the $1.75 million which the District received late last year as its portion for the taxes Noranda owed was used to pay down debt, restore funding for salaries and provide needed improvements.

In 2016, Noranda, the region's largest employer, closed its doors without paying its 2015 taxes, causing a major blow to the school district's budget. With the company's sale, part of the agreement included payment of a portion of those taxes.

Duncan said with the funds, the district paid off a $750,000 debt. He noted paying off the debt early will save the district approximately $40,000 in interest.

During the February R-1 School Board meeting, the board approved restoring salary steps to 2017-2018 levels beginning July 1.

According to Duncan, the salary schedule, which establishes salaries for teachers, staff and administrators based on years of service and education levels, was frozen last year as the district worked to balance its budget. He added he was pleased the Board restored the steps and was able to do it while maintaining a balanced budget.

Several infrastructure needs, which the superintendent described as crucial, will be addressed once school is out for summer.

The Board accepted a bid from Premium Mechanical for the chiller replacement for the air conditioner in C pod at the Central High School campus. Premium's Mechanical's bid of $125,370, was the best bid from multiple bidders, Duncan said, pointing out the company has done work in the district previously.

In a related matter, a bid from Duncan Electric was accepted for some of the air conditioning chillers which will no longer be needed. Duncan's bid was for $1,060.

Charles Leubbert Hardwood Floors Inc. was the winning bidder for work on gym floors at Central Middle School and Central High School. The sole bidder on the project, the district will spend $14,062 for the refinishing of the floor of the Middle School gym, which is being refurbished for the first time, Duncan said.

The cost to refurbish the gym floor at Central High School is $21,885.

Duncan said the company has done work in the district several times.

The New Madrid County Highway Department was the low bidder for parking lot repairs with a bid of $93,345. While there were multiple bidders, the superintendent noted the next closest bid was considerably higher.

Approval was given for the 2017-2018 school year calendar. The next school year will begin on Aug. 11 and end on May 11 if no make-up days are required.

In an effort to not to have any three-day school weeks, Duncan said the calendar calls for a full week off at Thanksgiving with students off from Nov. 20-24. The Christmas break will begin Dec. 15, with students attending a half-day and the afternoon set aside as a teacher work day; classes will resume Jan. 2.

A week is also set for a spring break from March 19-23, 2018. While Easter is the following weekend, Duncan said the staff decided not to make that week spring break in order to provide a full week of classroom instruction prior to state MAP testing which begins in April.

In other action by the board:

* The Board approved the purchase of MSBA Full Maintenance Policy Service for 2017. The policy service ensures all the district's policies are up-to-date and legal, Duncan said.

* The Board accepted a bid of $12,050 from Charles Breeden for a surplus LP tank.

* A one-time retirement incentive of $750 was offered to all full-time certified and non-certified employees who are retiring at the end of the current school year who provided a letter of resignation to the superintendent's office by Feb. 16.

According to Duncan by learning early who is retiring, the District is able to begin its hiring process, "getting a jump" on other districts.

"We want to maintain the highest quality staff," he added. "This small incentive lets us know (early) so we can get the highest quality candidates to replace them."

* Jeff Warren presented information on the School Information System Student Information Database, which maintains student information on computer. In his presentation, Warren showed the Board some of the new ways the company is tracking student information and spoke about what the company could provide the district should they decide to change vendors.

* Bridgett Masterson presented updates on the Special Education Department.

"Bridgett Masterson has done an exceptional job of taking our Special Education program to a new level," Duncan said, adding the program will be reviewed by state officials in March. "The board feels extremely confident we will do exceptionally well in that review."

As part of the program, Duncan said Masterson has worked to ensure parents as well as classroom teachers understand the needs of students in the Special Education program in terms of intervention and opportunities. He added the district is working to have special education students in the classroom as much as possible.

* Patti Montgomery presented information on the Matthews Focus School Progress, including future steps.

Montgomery works with the staff and teachers as they have sought to improve and try innovative programs. She also evaluates those efforts.

"Matthews has become somewhat of an example for us in the school district of what works. We have learned a lot about new innovative approaches to teaching students

and are now moving it into our other buildings. I feel strongly every student in district will benefit from what we have learned at Matthews," Duncan said.

* Personnel: The Board employed James Kosky, as a nightwatchman on the Central campus, and Jessica Hunter, as an assistant teacher at Central Middle School. Resignations were accepted from Jake Baehr, law enforcement instructor at the Technical Skills Center; Paula Hayes, career resource tech at the Technical Skills Center; and Robert Kosky, bus driver.