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Jackson R-2 School Board approves $62 million budget

The Jackson R-2 School District approved the budget for the 2019-20 school year. The budget includes $62 million in expenditures. The District estimates it will receive $58 million in funding and will have a balance of $28 million at the beginning of the budget year – July 1.

More than 50 percent of the District’s funding comes from local taxes, followed by 39 percent coming from the state. Federal funding amounts to six percent, and funding from the county results in two percent. Superintendent Dr. John Link added that the District budgets very conservatively in regard to funding.

The biggest expense for the District is salaries, totaling 51 percent of the budget. The next highest expense is employee benefits at 17 percent. The District employs approximately 850 people, including 346 full-time teachers.

Supplies consume 10 percent of the budget, and purchased services equal six percent. The rest of the budget is for capital expenditures and debt, each equaling eight percent of the budget.

“We just finished a $30 million bond project and we are still sitting with a 26 percent reserve,” Link said. “There are a lot of expenditures that we’ve spent on the new buildings that we won’t have to spend moving forward, so I don’t foresee any cuts to programs or class sizes getting larger. We just have to sustain and maintain.”

In other action:

• The Board approved the purchase of 830 iPads for kindergarten and first grade students to use. The purchase is the final implementation of the District’s one-to-one initiative, which has already given all students in second grade and higher a Chrome-book to use in the classroom and at home.

The District reached out to Apple and received a 10 percent discount on the retail price for the iPads due to the bulk purchase. The iPads will be under Apple Care, a warranty program that could replace dropped or otherwise-damaged iPads.

Apple provided financing for a three-year lease purchase, with the District making $100,000 payments each year. Terry Gibson, director of finance, said the arrangement is a softer hit to the budget, and they received a low rate on financing, so it made financial sense to lease-purchase.

Gibson added that the iPads would last at least three years, so they will not need to be replaced before the initial iPads were paid off. Unlike the Chromebooks, the iPads will stay in the classroom and should have a longer shelf life.

Associate Superintendent Matt Lacy said they decided to go with iPads for the younger students because they haven’t learned to use a keyboard or a mouse yet. The iPads also provide the students more interactivity.

• The Board approved a purchase of 10 new school buses to replace the oldest buses in the District’s fleet. The buses being replaced are 19-22 years old.

Gibson said the District had been putting two or three new buses into the budget every year, but the District was able to get a discount for buying 10 at once. The lease purchase will cost $1.1 million and will be paid over three years.

The District owns about 70 buses, 50 of which run every day that school is in session. Link said some of the new buses purchased are for special needs students.

Link added that the goal is that after three cycles of these larger purchases, the District will have a fleet of buses that is under 10 years old.

“This will be a line item for the next 10 years,” Link said. “In three years we will buy 10 more, and if things are better, maybe we can buy more than 10.”

• The Board approved various food and transportation bids during the meeting for the upcoming school year. Bimbo Bakeries, who has been used by the District for the past 10 years, received the bid for bread and bread products. Prairie Farm received the milk and dairy bid, as well as the ice cream bid.

Co-Op Service Center, Inc., received the gasoline and diesel fuel bid, and Santie Oil Company received the bid for oil, grease, transmission fluid and anti-freeze. Raben Tire and Auto Service received the bid for tires.

• The Board approved an evaluation of the District’s Title 1 Preschool and Reading programs. The preschool program is for children below where they should be in social emotional development, cognitive skills, language, literacy and mathematics.

The reading program is for students in kindergarten through fourth grade who are below reading level or have other reading difficulties. Students in the reading program work in small groups based on similar needs daily to gain intensive reading instruction and interventions to help them overcome their reading difficulties.

The District received $670,000 of federal funds for these programs, a portion of which must be used for family involvement. The reading program hosted a Family Involvement Night on May 2 to give parents and other caregivers reading activities to work with the students over the summer. Students were also able to pick out books to take home with them.

• The Board approved a new teachers salary schedule for the next school year. The adjustment raised salary levels for veteran teachers. Link said it would help the District gain veteran teachers from other schools.

“Several times when we have offered jobs to teachers from other schools who had 10 to 15 years of experience, they were losing money,” Link said. “We had one this go-around that is going to take a pay cut to come to Jackson.”

District administrators said the District’s Community Teachers Association (CTA) representatives were pleased with the changes.

• The Board approved a cooperative agreement that allows out-of-district junior high students to take part in District’s sports and extra-curricular activities. Board Member Paul Stoner voted against the agreement. Stoner was on the Board when the agreement was first approved and said there were initially concerns about it not being what was best for Jackson students.

Link said he would look into the data to see how many students were actually taking advantage of the agreement and how many of those students were then attending Jackson High School. He did not have that data on hand, but said he thought there were at least some who were participating in track and field.

Out of district students could only take part in Jackson activities if their school does not have that activity and if their school is close to the district. One of the challenges for students from surrounding schools is they have to find their own transportation to and from the activities.

Other Board members said it would be good to get that information for next year, but it would be unfair to make any change so close to summer camps starting for fall sports.

• The Board approved new meal prices for the upcoming school year. For students, breakfast increased by five cents and lunch increased by 10 cents. Lunch will be $2.70 per meal at the elementary schools and $2.95 at the secondary schools. Breakfast will be $1.65 per meal at the elementary schools and $1.90 at the secondary schools.

The Board also approved eligibility criteria for free and reduced priced meals. For a family of four, the maximum household income eligible for free meals is $33,475 annually. To be eligible for reduced price meals, a family of four can have a maximum household income of $47,638.

During the 2018-19 school year, the District served 524,500 reimbursed student lunches and 204,000 reimbursed breakfasts.

• Jackson High School students Eli Jones and Hunter Rees presented their science fair project, which recently competed in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, AZ.

The students were invited to compete after qualifying for the fair at Southeast Missouri State University’s regional competition in March. The international fair is the largest pre-collegiate science competition in the world, featuring 1,800 students from 81 countries.

Jones and Rees’ project involved finding a solution to arsenic water poisoning in developing countries such as Bangladesh. The students found that current solutions to the crisis are too expensive and energy-consuming for these countries to implement, and decided to research a bioengineering solution.

They developed a new microorganism that could lower the arsenic in groundwater.  Jones and Rees identified the DNA in the rhizobium bacteria that detoxifies arsenic and transferred that DNA through gene cloning into a safe version of E. coli that is found naturally in the affected water. After testing, they found a 20 times decrease in toxicity using the microorganism.

The pair won the Wolfram research award at the competition, winning free access to a data analytic software used by scientific professionals. Both said they hope to continue showing this project at other competitions, so it could eventually be used in other countries.

Jones and Rees also advocated more science opportunities for their fellow students to the Board, so younger students could go to competitions like they have.

• Members of Jackson FFA were recognized by the Board for their achievements at the 91st State FFA Convention. The organization sent 10 teams to the state competition, which consisted of 27 members.

Both the Dairy Cattle team and the Agricultural Mechanic team received Group I ratings. Emily Peters, Caitlin Allen, Zach Aufdenberg, Caleb Aufdenberg, Aaron Brown and Jesse Yount received individual Group I ratings.

“Getting a Group I rating at the state level is really impressive for our kids to do that,” FFA Advisor James McCormack said. “So we are really proud of those that were able to make Group I and we are really proud of all of them.”

• JHS industrial tech students presented their projects that they competed at the district and state level. The projects included a small engine, a mechanical vice and a wooden blanket chest. The department took nine projects to the state competition, winning four state awards.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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