Neosho Board of Education accepts Steele resignation, updates from work session

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education met for a work session on Apr. 5; formally accepting the resignation of board member David Steele, receiving updates on the facilities projects and incoming Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and approving bids.

Replacing Steele

Outgoing board member David Steele, who stepped down due to other obligations, accepted a plaque from board president Kim Wood thanking him for his service at the Apr. 5 work session.

At the end of the meeting, the board discussed their options when it came to replacing Steele with Wood stating that the last time there was a resignation on the board that they accepted letters of interest from the community and suggested they do so again.

Board secretary Dan Haskins added that they’re about to go through a big planning period for the district and wanted the new board member to be seated by May if possible and the rest of the board agreed.

Board policy is to allow applicants a minimum of two weeks to submit interest from when the district publicizes the vacancy, with Superintendent Cummins adding that they needed time to gather the information to present to the board and suggested accepting letters of interest by Apr. 22 at the latest.

Haskins suggested they hold a special meeting the following week after Apr. 22 to decide where to go from there.

The board eventually chose Apr. 26 as a special meeting date to review candidates with the following work session on May 3 the date to chose Steele’s replacement.

Cummins added that it was important to put in the listing that the seat would only be until April of 2022 and that next year’s ballot would include that seat.

Facilities Update

Cummins updated the board on the facilities upgrades from The Next Step ballot measure passed in Jun. 2020 that included $22 million worth of projects like storm shelters at four buildings, a performing arts center, a multipurpose end zone facility, maintenance at the high school, salary schedule improvements and an expansion of the early childhood building.

First, Cummins told the board that he had spoken with John McNabb of Sapp Design because the district had originally been given a February or March deadline for when Benton Elementary would hear about approval from FEMA on a multi-purpose storm shelter.

“Those have passed,” said Cummins. “He says they’re still working through the process and there’s no reason to think were not in the queue, they just haven’t started handing out those awards. I told him at some point we would have to draw a line because people already heard about it and are asking about it, ‘why aren’t you working on Benton?’ so maybe at some point in time in the near future that’s a discussion we have. Do we scale it back and do what we originally planned or continue to wait?”

Next, Richie Fretwell, Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the district spoke about the endzone project.

“If you’ve been down there, you saw them go down about four feet, now they’re coming back up four feet,” said Fretwell. “If you look at the front side where the concession stand, locker room area is, that is done. That has been rolled and tested. They’re digging footings, they’re going to pour piers on the west side tomorrow and will continue to work around the piers. Both are moving along; I would say they’re about a week or so behind schedule with the bad weather.

“We did have a conference call today looking at Hill Street,” added Fretwell. “and the moving of it. Hopefully the bid process (takes place in) May or June, so hopefully Hill Street and the packed dirt work will start in the beginning of the summer. We will bid out Hill Street, the performing arts center and the chorus room moving, hopefully, at the end of May.”

Cummins estimated that the May work session would be when the district approved the projects to go forward for bidding, with the process taking closer to a month to put out, receive and vet the bids.

Haskins asked Cummins if the May board meeting would be for the internal alternates to the projects, with Cummins responding that that meeting would be to make sure everyone is one the same page with another meeting once more before the bids go out.

Haskins then asked if they should meet with staff members to rank bid alternates on a scale of importance and Cummins said that McNabb and Steven Telscher, another Sapp Designs architect on the project, were planning to reach out to them again with everything currently in motion.

“I think the wise thing to do is see what (McNabb and Telscher) come back with,” said Cummins. “and then take those to (the staff) before the board meeting where we actually approve it. So, they’ll bid it, have the alternates in there. Then, if we see it’s not all going to go, we can take it to (the staff) and they can give their feedback before we bring it to the board.”

At the opening ceremony held last week for the baseball field, Cummins said a family had started working with Fretwell to fund amenities around the left field fence and added that after that ceremony someone had approached Cummins about raising funds for similar upgrades to the softball field.

“It’s exciting because people see not only that we did it, but we did it right, and they want to be apart of what’s going on,” said Cummins.

ESSER Funds

With more funds to be allocated to the district from the $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan Act, Cummins told the board there were things they needed to do in the short term before the annual board retreat in June.

In the second round of ESSER funding allocated through the next COVID relief package that was signed into law in Dec. 2020, Neosho received $4,256,646.

That money, which must be spent by 2023, has yet to be budgeted by the NSD.

“Ultimately, the retreat in June, we need to figure out how we’re going to map this out for two years, so we know going in what the results needs to be at the end,” said Cummins. “We’re talking a significant amount of dollars. There’s some challenges with how we use it, you can’t just say, were going to move $10 million into capital projects because we need this that or the other.”

“However, if we’re creative about it, it’ll allow us to make transfers over the next few years that will allow us to do some of those things,” added Cummins. “We’re in the process of trying to formulate those ideas both short and long term to try to make the most out of these dollars knowing we don’t want to create anything that is going to be ongoing. We’re not going to get that infusion (of money) every year.”

Approving Bids

First, Fretwell told the board that the bids came back higher than expected for the high school roofing bid and therefore focused on the two worst areas.

Bid #5 for $270,075.00 from Kirberg Roof Company was unanimously approved. Fretwell’s recommendation, which was the lowest bid with the best quality roofing system, was also used at Field Early Childhood Center and the lowest turnaround time with 43 days to complete the project.

Then, the district approved Marty Marks’, Transportation Director, recommendation for the purchase of five type C buses ($504,460) and one type A bus ($79,342) from Central States.

With Central States having the lowest bid on gasoline buses and the best trade in value of $125,500 for eight buses, the total price came to $458,302 which still came under the district’s budgeted cost of $500,000.