Recently, Superintendent David McGehee joined with other superintendents to put forth a plan on the school transfer issue. Missouri Rep. Mike Cierpoit has a recommended plan as well. Do you support either of these plans and why?
I support the plan proposed by the superintendents (A New Path To Excellence). This plan was not only a collaboration of Superintendents from MASA, but also the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City and the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis. This plan seeks to provide interventions at the school level rather than the district level. School transfers will not help the school districts that are unaccredited, and those districts will never have the opportunity to improve. Additionally, A New Path to Excellence provides intervention when a school is Provisionally Accredited, rather than waiting until a school has become unaccredited.
A recent Lee’s Summit R-7 audit revealed mostly good news, with some exceptions in how the district conducts competitive bids. Are you familiar with this audit and does it signal some needed changes?
Yes, I was one of only two people in attendance that was not a media member or district employee, when the State Auditor made his public presentation. As the Auditor stated at that time, the items of concern regarding competitive bids were minor and the district had already implemented changes to correct the errors or provide documentation for the bids that were used. Most items had been part of a competitive bid process, or were purchased under a contract, but district employees did not properly document these purchases. It also important to note that the State Auditor said in this presentation that this was the best audit of any school district he had audited, and that LS R-7 is a well managed district.
How is the district poised for future growth in existing school buildings and, perhaps, with new construction?
Currently the district is at only 82.7 percent of capacity across all buildings. However, estimated average enrollment increases of approximately 250 students per year over the next five years will require a need for additional facilities. With most of the growth projected in the middle and high schools, the district already has plans in place as part of its Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan to add an additional middle and high school around 2019. Also, the CFMP incorporates plans for a nineteenth Elementary school in the future.
Cost containment has worked well in recent years following the failed school bond issue. With state funding seemingly always in limbo, what financial measures can the district continue to take to stay healthy?
The district has worked hard in the last three years to control our budget and remain fiscally responsible. At the end of the current budget year we will have an estimated fund balance of 31.13 percent. This has been achieved by the continuation of cost containment measures put in place over the last several years, including $20.1 million dollars in the current fiscal year. As any fiscally responsible entity should do, we need to continue to work with the revenues that are provided to us, while still providing the best education for our students.