“No Cussing Club” approved at school board meeting

Budgeting, energy, and cell phones were a few of the things discussed at the Cache County Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

During the onset of the meeting, Mountain Crest’s request for approval of a “No Cussing” Club was unanimously approved, as was a motion regarding federal surplus property. Superintendent Steven Norton said that approval of the surplus would allow displays of NASA’s accomplishments throughout the years to be featured throughout the district.

On the reports agenda, the board heard from the English Language Center on their current status. Kelly James, who oversees a migrant education program, updated the board along with Rhonda Kingsford. She reported on the 2006 Migrant Education Even Start grant and how they have used it to teach reading and writing skills to migrant families. Utah has never gotten a grant like this, she said, and Bridgerland’s English Language Center was one of five in the nation to receive it. 95% of those participating in learning programs showed improvement, she said, and the program ended in October with 120 families served and 357 children. Tamara Grange of the board said it was extremely satisfying to see the project grow to help community members.

Superintendent Steven Norton then reported on the state of the River Heights Church, which was previously used by River Heights School and then used by the Utah Festival Opera for storage. Currently, it is in a very poor condition due to age, he said. It was discussed that it would either be put up for surplus property or torn down along with the North parking lot, although the cost of demolition alone is estimated to be $60,000. The board will discuss this in the future.

Bruce James reported on energy costs district-wide and stated that the district has saved $2,394,000 during the last year, and they’re on track to push it to $3,000,000. Cache Valley school district hasn’t been great at saving in the past, he said; Mountain Crest alone had a reported 250,000 gallons of water wasted, partly due to compressors in the kitchen. However, he said, the entire district, with the help of principals administration, and maintenance workers, has been good to implement energy saving programs in recent years. Geothermal heaters at Canyon Elementary are saving the district $1500-$2000 a month. With the help of Rocky Mountain Power and Light, the district is to put retro-fit lighting in Sky View’s gyms, studio, multi-purpose room, which will provide $2000 a month in savings. With the money saved through energy saving projects, schools are able to spend more money and further energy-efficient measures.

Lynn Archibald requested that the Board allow South Cache to amend their Trustlands plan with an emphasis on accreditation. He requested permission to add components for accreditation and to move money around to meet the needs of accreditation. The Board requested that he create a presentation to give at a later meeting.

Norton reported that there was a request to change the cell phone usage policy. He received a letter from a concerned Mountain Crest student about excessive cell phone use disrupting the learning environment. The current policy, he said, is wonderful, but it probably isn’t enforced unilaterally and equally across the district.

The wording of the policy may need to be updated, said board member Richard Knight, because it lists such devices as having no educational value while the technologies of today allow students to access educational information through their cell phones. The reason policy isn’t enforced equally across the board, Norton said, is because different individuals interpret it in different ways. Cell phone policy will be discussed in a later meeting.

Dale Hansen, the Business Administrator, said that the entire amount of funding due last year was received according to the January 31st revenue estimate. Utilities were higher at the beginning of last year, but they evened out towards the end of the year.

Food service prices are predicted to go up, he said. Labor costs for meals are up; a lot of those current costs are due to the replacement of outdated equipment, but the district has been able to catch up and in the long run save money. Hansen told the board that they should keep an eye on the price of school lunch due to expected federal changes. Districts may increase the cost of student lunches to about $2.50 per meal, doubling at the elementary level. There is a nationwide surge to push more fruits and vegetables into the lunchroom, he said, and that comes at a cost. Alan Grunig, board member, said that there is an indication to move there, but in the long range it may be better off as far as calorie intake is concerned.

Norton added that the budget is at “rock bottom,” and the most concern is directed towards employees and employee benefits, so every penny needs to be saved.

Bart Baird, representing the Utah High School Athletic Association, said that the district recently lost a seat at the Utah School Board Association convention that they will attempt to get back in three years. He said that Logan needs to advocate itself.

He added that there needs to be some alignment of schools in each region. Sky View and Mountain Crest are close to going from 4A to 5A in numbers, and he said it would be a “nightmare” if one moved on without the other because the costs of transporting teams would be more expensive.

The board discussed USBA Convention Items in closing. Baird said that Spring Creek has implemented teaming, where students read Call of the Wild in their English classes and then learn about wolves in their Science class. He called it a “sacrifice on curriculum,” but suggested intro-disciplinary teaming, such as math teachers getting together and forming a sounding board for teaching options.

Garrick Hall and Tamara Grange of the board suggested that the board focus on the “what” rather than the “how.” Grange suggested a yearly State of the District report to discuss the district’s status and goals. Hall said that at the USBA session he attended, it was discussed that too much time is spent analyzing the hill when it should be spent climbing it.

Grunig discussed the potential of having a mock disaster in the schools, specifically a mock shooter in the school to train policemen on how to handle the situation. Most schools that had implemented this discovered that their police teams were undertrained, and he suggested that, though the idea of a shooting happening was horrific, the training would be beneficial in case of emergency.

Norton discussed appropriations and the fact that the district needs the same amount of money as last year plus new money for new student enrollment growth. The district can live with $58,000,000 a year, he said, but $70,000,000 is the estimated and preferred cost, according to the USOE. The board also wants to ensure ongoing funding for last year’s one time funding of Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten ($7.5 mill), transportation ($6.3 mill), and the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program ($4 mill). The requests for appropriations also included a reauthorization of Extended-Day Kindergarten and the resolution of local property tax replacement funding issues for charter schools by taking needed amounts off the top of the income tax revenue, and not through the use of property taxes.

Norton noted that the governor recently lambasted budging setting committees in the legislature for “the worst of all” funding for education. The budget was the one thing the board was concerned about during the evening.