With the voter approval April 5 of Proposition KIDS and the adoption earlier this year of the school’s Strategic Plan, the Smithton R-VI Board of Education has wasted no time in moving forward with many of its goals.
At Monday night’s meeting, board members voted to increase teacher’s salaries an average of $1,000 per certified teacher.
“What we have done is made our salaries more competitive in not only the Kaysinger Conference but with other districts as well,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Teeter said. “”We added money to the board-paid insurance and corrected steps at the bottom end of the salary schedule and carried those all the way through to honor the teachers who have been here long-term as well as hopefully attracting high-quality candidates to the district.
“With the added money to the insurance the district is the No. 2 public school in the conference regarding the amount of money put towards insurance,” he added. “Additionally our salaries are now in the top third in the conference which was one of our goals in our strategic plan.”
The board set the base salary Monday night at $31,400.
“Once we established our strategic plan everything that we do needs to be tied to that plan,” Teeter said. “Recruiting and retaining a high-quality staff is a big part of that and we are moving forward with other projects as well.”
One of those projects involves the acquisition of more property for future district use.
“The district is under contract to purchase 13.4 acres of land along with two storage sheds with Mr. Keith Ollison which we hope to develop into a new sports complex,” Teeter said. “The property is located directly behind our outdoor classroom and we will take ownership July 1.
“The plan for this property is to construct a new softball field, a new soccer field and a new track and field complex,” Teeter added. “The property has two 64-foot-by-40-foot metal buildings with concrete floors and electricity that we hope to use as a concession stand and possible locker rooms and storage.”
Teeter said the property also had a well the district will utilize.
Earlier this spring the school purchased another adjoining property at 111 E. Greet St. that contains a house that will serve as a new early childhood facility for the district.
The Lil’ Tigers Learning Center will house the preschool program as well as other events.
“We hope to have a community playroom at the center for children who are younger than preschool age,” Teeter said. “We will have half-day preschool from 8 to 11 a.m. and from noon to 3 p.m. for children who are 3 and 4 years old.
“We are going back to the model that worked here prior to the current year,” Teeter said. “Our goal is to serve our students and the community and not break even.”
This year the preschool program cost $400 per child per month and under next year’s plan the rate will return to $100 per month.
“We already have enrolled 11 students for the program, which is up from our current enrollment,” Teeter said. “Individuals can call the elementary office at 660-343-5713 to enroll their children.”
Teeter added that the district recognizes the importance of early childhood education for all students and is proceeding with the program without waiting on state grants to help offset the cost.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Teeter said. “We know this is important to the success of our students so we have made this commitment to their education.
“The district also purchased one additional property with a house (located at 206 E. Smith St.) that we will remove to create additional parking for the school,” Teeter added. “Between that location and with some additional parking we will gain at the Early Childhood center we hope to add an additional 55 parking spaces for the district.”
All of these improvements to the facilities and programs do come with a price tag.
The district spent $376,500 combined on the three properties and Teeter commented that the school board will have to deficit spend next year.
“We sold our buses and have now contracted for that service,” Teeter said. “The bus sale provided the district $335,000 but with the sale of the buses, we will receive minimal transportation funds next year from the state.
“The board decided Monday night to pay off the 2003 Series Bonds which is the last of our debt,” Teeter added. “By doing this now and not waiting we saved the district over $5,000 in interest.”
Teeter commented that previous superintendents and boards of education had done an excellent job building the reserves for the district.
“We are in a sound state financially, and (Monday) evening we made the commitment to keep 25 to 28 percent in reserves but we know that change is needed for progress and that progress can be messy,” Teeter said. “The board feels that the district is ready and that this is the right place and the right time to make these changes.
“Our job is to be good stewards for the patrons of the community and we want them to feel they are a part of the district.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484