After denying them two weeks ago, the Garden City USD 457 Board of Education unanimously approved the top 2019-20 budget priorities suggested by the district site council, securing funding for robotics programs for all grades, an additional high school counselor, an additional school nurse, a middle school after-school program and an additional elementary school counselor.

The new Kansas school finance model will grant districts additional funding over the next several years, more than 80 percent of which will be allocated to salary adjustments and other costs in USD 457.

What to do with the remaining $287,000 was considered earlier this year by the district site council, a group of (teachers, administrators, parents and community members from all schools). Members ranked 29 requests from district departments and programs. The $287,000 covered the top five and the rest may be reconsidered next year, along with new requests.

In a 4-3 vote, board members denied granting funding for the top five at their last meeting, some concerned that a request for full-time principals at Plymell and Jennie Barker elementary schools that ranked eighth on the council’s list should be considered a higher priority.

Garden City High School counselors Emily Hamlin and KaeLee Armstrong approached the board during public comment Monday. Hamlin expressed concern and frustration that the board would consider dismissing the suggestion of the diverse site council that could speak for parents with less privilege or access to the board, and Armstrong emphasized the need for counselors in the district after years of staffing cuts to the program.

During further discussion, administrators noted that delaying a decision would shorten the amount of time the district had to recruit people to fill any newly-funded staff positions. Board member Lara Bors noted that Georgia Matthews Elementary School also has a part-time principal and members Dana Nanninga and Jennifer Standley said they would like to continue seeking ways to bring all three schools full-time principals.

“I am comfortable with what the district site council came up with but I am uncomfortable with some of the things that I think are important and tabling them for a whole year,” Nanninga said.

Member Tim Hanigan, who served on the council, said he thought the group was very representative of the district and Garden City and stood by its decision.

Superintendent Steve Karlin recommended the board prioritize full-time principals at the three schools for the 2020-21 school year.

In other business, the board tabled a discussion to alter the district’s policy on employees running for or serving in public office. The policy currently states employees must take unpaid leave, or potentially be terminated, if their duties in office conflict with school hours or contractual duties. Board members Tim Cruz suggested barring employees from running or taking office at all if the role conflicts with their work duties. The board took no action and will revisit the discussion at their next meeting, which will begin several hours after the filing deadline for local elections.


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