MHS early release is approved; completion of bond work is celebrated

By Bryan Richardson

The USD 383 school board Wednesday accepted the continuation of senior early release.

But the definition of who’s eligible for that release could change by the 2014-15 school year as board members left open the option of toughening the standards in the future.

“I do believe it will be something more than just a slogan, certainly for us,” Supt. Bob Shannon said of the early release program.

Current policy dictates that seniors only need to be on track for graduation and have parental approval in order to be eligible.

MHS seniors during their second semester have the option of not taking first period, seventh period, first and second periods, sixth and seventh periods, or first and seventh periods.

The board approved that course by a 5-1 margin with Pete Paukstelis dissenting. Paukstelis said the graduation requirements are too low, and more opportunities for education should be taken. 

“How many Chinese high schools do you think have early release?” he asked. “Do you think any of them do?”

That is a similar position to one held by Walt Pesaresi, who was absent from the board meeting. Pesaresi has said early release is fine as long as students provide evidence of attending college classes on campus or working five days a week.

Other board members mentioned the positives of early release. Darell Edie said second-semester seniors are young adults, and they should be treated like it. “We built an education facility, not a prison,” he said. “These kids are there to learn and to do things in the facility, but you can also learn off the facility.”

Beth Tatarko said her three children took advantage of early release in positive ways such as working, taking a class at K-State or volunteering. “I think it’s only the rare cases when somebody doesn’t use it wisely,” she said.

Final construction report

Officials from USD 383’s management firm for the $97.5 million bond issue gave their final report during the meeting.

Project executive Archie Smith and program manager Trisha Brooke-Fruendt of Universal Construction presented a report on all of the projects they handled. That doesn’t include the Manhattan High School – West project, which was done by Adolfson and Peterson Construction.

The final aspect of the project – the Marlatt Elementary gym – was completed Nov. 9, ending a 35-month process of renovating 18 facilities. The improvements involved 123,930 square feet in additions and 316,466 square feet in renovations. The total cost of $53,814,202 was $1,317,645 under budget.

“I think you as a board should be very happy with the projects we’ve had, and I know we are very happy with what we did,” Brooke-Fruendt said.

Smith thanked the schools’ employees and students for their flexibility during the construction work. “All of the staff, teachers and students were very accommodating, very easy to work with,” he said.

Shannon said Universal Construction handled all the issues during the entire process very well. “Your calm and your confidence and your consistency and your leadership are appreciated,” he said.


Water lawsuit

Shannon mentioned that Dick Seaton, the district’s attorney, presented its case concerning water payments to the Kansas Court of Appeals on Monday.

USD 383 filed a lawsuit against the city after the city commission dissolved the 123-year-old free water contract with schools and churches effective July 1, 2011.

The district didn’t pay for water used inside schools where children attended, but paid for other uses including maintenance and within the education center.

The commissioners cited revenue loss and an attempt to restructure the overall water rate as reasons behind the move during the 2010 discussions. The free water cost the city $47,500 in 2009, including about $29,000 from schools.

The agreement began in 1887 when the city agreed to “in perpetuity supply free water to all churches and public schools” when obtaining land from the Purcell family to construct and operate a public waterworks system.

Earlier this year, District Court Judge Paul Miller ruled in favor of the city, stating that the city was no longer obligated to provide free water since the land is no longer in use and reverts to the Purcells’ heirs.

It could take up to 60 days from Monday to receive a decision from the appeals court.


Bishop Stadium turf

Manhattan High Booster Club has obtained commitments for around $560,000 of the approximately $845,790 needed to install synthetic turf at Bishop Stadium.

The major contributors providing money over the next five years are Manhattan Surgical Hospital at $200,000 and Steel and Pipe Supply at $100,000. USD 383 is contributing $200,000 to the project. An additional $50,000 to $60,000 has been raised from smaller contributions.

Manhattan Surgical Hospital would get a logo on the field because of the $200,000 contribution. The desire of the board is for the field logos to be no bigger than about eight yards wide.

Jason Hilgers, MHS Booster Club president, said the plan originally called for three $200,000 donors in addition to USD 383’s contribution, but the list of potential contributors at that amount has been exhausted.

Hilgers said the Booster Club is now working on finding additional contributors below $200,000. He said the south end zone would have a $50,000 area and a $100,000 area in addition to a $200,000 area for the logos of donors.

Out of the state’s 32 6A schools, only MHS maintains a natural grass field surface. The surface has a 10 to 15 year life expectancy.


Middle school math

In approving curricular changes, board members also discussed getting more students in higher-level math.

The Math in Focus curriculum used for elementary school math will be implemented in the 7th grade in 2013-14 and 8th grade in 2014-15.

Paukstelis said he wanted to see more students taking algebra in middle school and taking calculus in the 12th grade.

Board member Dave Colburn said it’s important to build a foundation first, recalling his school days when he was in calculus II before he understood calculus I concepts. He received backup from district math teachers who mentioned that studies show bad results for those pushed into calculus too early.

Paukstelis said he isn’t sure whether that represents a direct correlation because calculus is hard and might have to be retaken in college even if the person understood all the previous math concepts.


Raise for Shannon

The board approved a three percent raise for Shannon, retroactive July 1. The increase is $4,167. This is his first raise in four years.

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