Board suspends changes to Countryside program
After two months of urging from parents, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education has put on hold changes to the early childhood special education program at Countryside Learning Center.
At a meeting Monday, board member Randy Johnson said there had been a lot of questions from patrons but not a lot of answers concerning the changes.
“To maintain stability, maybe we should leave things the way the are until we have folks to help us,” he said.
To that end, at the suggestion of board member Janine Gracy, the district will enlist the help of specialists at the Kansas Department of Education.
At the March 2 board meeting, a reorganization of the program was revealed that would eliminate five lead teacher positions, dropping the number of teachers in the classroom and using a licensed special education teacher and a paraprofessional to pick up their duties.
Since that time, the board has accepted the resignation of two employees who directly oversaw the program, Susan Sipes, the district’s special services director, and Allison Anderson, coordinator of Countryside Learning Center. Anderson resigned to accommodate a family move to Emporia.
Board president Larry Meyer agreed the district could benefit from help in evaluating the program.
Board member Don Clark made a motion to put on hold the changes of the Early Childhood Education program and direct the superintendent to look for assistance.
Board member Jim Thomas seconded the motion. The motion passed 7-0.
After the motion was passed parents took the stage for patron input, reiterating the need to stop changes to the program.
Lisa Burns, whose daughter attends the preschool, asked the board to let the new director evaluate the program before changes are made.
“Having a new director implement these changes only sets them up to fail,” she said.
Debbie Price, a teacher at Countryside, said the nonrestrictive environment in the program gives children a jump-start for the mainstream model of schools in the De Soto district.
“If the early childhood program is changed, the focus is on special education with incidental instruction for typically developing children,” she said.
In other news the board:
• Unanimously repealed the retirement of Mill Valley High School Principal Joe Novak. Novak’s retirement was announced on April 15 and was to take effect June 30. Novak was to take on a part-time leadership position for the District. The repeal of Novak’s retirement included a contract extension for the 2009-2010 school year.
According to a release by the district, the Board directed Human Resources to contact Novak and ask if he would be willing to reconsider his intention to retire.
“Due to current conditions, the Board thought it was necessary to ask Dr. Novak to return as principal next school year,” said Meyer in the release. “We believe this positive move will help minimize transitions taking place within the district.”
Novak submitted another letter to the board rescinding his letter of retirement.
“I have been fortunate to be part of this district for 20 plus years,” he said. “While retirement is something people who have worked for a long time look forward to, I am very honored to be able to serve this community and the young people.”
Novak said he was in an uncomfortable position when he submitted his letter of retirement, but concerns have since been rectified.
“You know a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to work in such a wonderful community,” he said.
• Tabled action onthe De Soto High School addition. The board requested a comparison of expected inflation rates if construction went ahead as planned with a completion date of August 2011 opposed to delaying construction to a completion date of August 2012.
In information provided Monday, Denis Johnson, director of facilities, said the hard construction cost budgeted for the DHS addition to be bid in 2009 was approximately $20 million.
“If the project were to bid in February 2010 that budget would be adequate,” his report said. “If the project were to bid in February of 2011 the projection with a 4 percent to 6 percent inflation would be $800,000 to $1.2 million higher.”
Johnson also provided a document for projected mill levy impact.
“Starting the addition in 2010 would increase the mill levy over a 2011 starting date by 2.39 mills in 2011 and 0.57 mills in 2012,” according to the document.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.
• Reconsidered the April 20 decision to non-renew the contract for Joe Vitt, director of research and policy. The board then voted 5-2 to non-renew Vitt’s contract with Fletcher and Johnson dissenting.
• Called a special meeting to discuss non-elected personnel at 5 p.m. May 7 at the District Administrative Offices, 35200 W. 91st St., De Soto.