Buff Elementary plan reverts to K-5


   Viewing the fate of Buff Elementary School, Superintendent Keith Johnson officially withdrew a proposal to make it a kindergarten/sixth grade school, leaving the decision to the discretion of the 509-J Board of Directors.
   At the Jan. 23, board of directors meeting, Johnson cited lack of support from parents as the reason the alternative proposal was withdrawn.
   The board had previously been intending to open Buff as a kindergarten through fifth grade school, and indicated they would revert to that idea.
   During the time for citizens' comments, parent Stacy Reed questioned the board to make sure. "How will we know where (Buff) stands so we can prepare our kids?"
   Board Chair Steve Earnest responded, "The board is committed at this time to opening Buff as a kindergarten through fifth grade school ... There's no reason for anyone to think it won't open as a K-5 school."
   Reed thanked board members for being open and listening to parents' concerns.
   But Earnest cautioned the 15 parents attending the meeting, "It won't be easy to open that school as any (grade combination), considering the budgetary constraints." He said the district may have to cut back some of the music, P.E., counseling and other programs at other schools to afford to open the school.
   At a previous meeting, Johnson had estimated it would cost around $500,000 to operate Buff if it was opened as a K-5 school. The other options he offered (kindergarten and sixth, or sixth grade only) would have cost much less.
   In a related issue, Business Department Supervisor Gail Stone and Deputy Clerk Jo Guiney reported on the district's financial outlook.
   Guiney said, due to less state school support and Impact Aid money coming in, there would only be a balance of $1.3 million carryover for next school year, out of the $5.2 million the district had at the beginning of this school year.
   Board member Jeff Sanders expressed concern. "It's uncomfortable for me to look at a $1.3 million carryover balance. We have two contracts to negotiate this year ... and Buff will be another expense."
   The new Warm Springs gym should be completed in about three weeks, but three additional construction charges (change orders) were requested Monday night.
   A total of $35,080 was requested to bring the sound system, lighting, drainage and fire precautions up to current standards.
   The board approved the withdrawal of money from an account for $600,000 that had been set up for future lease payments if a new Warm Springs school was built in cooperation with the tribes.
   The school district's attorney Ed Sites said he is negotiating with the insurance company (the original gym burned in a fire) to allow the change order costs, but until it does, 509-J has to cover the payments. If the insurance pays, the money will go back into the lease fund.
   In other business, the board discussed potential conflicts of interest for receiving free school sports passes, and updated board policy.
   Sites told them, according to state rules, board members can't receive gifts (magazines, pens, etc.) of any more than $50 a year from any single source, or $100 a year from all sources combined.
   However, if board members are observing other things while at sports games, such as the condition of the building, conduct of coaches and students, and are making themselves available to the public to talk about school matters, then the free tickets are allowed because they help board members gather information for the operation of the district.
   "Directors should be encouraged to attend these events," Sites said.
   The 509-J District has received $199,606 from the No Child Left Behind Act to use to assure all teachers are "highly qualified" as defined by the act.
   Personnel Director Melinda Boyle and Federal Program Director Kathy Bishop said there were currently 18 teachers in the district who are not highly qualified, because of things like having transitional teaching licenses or teaching classes out of their specialty area.
   Bishop said the funds would be used to get the 18 teachers to the required level, which has a deadline of June 2006.