Neosho Schools fill vacant seat, approve health care renewal

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho School District held a special meeting on Apr. 26 to address the vacant board of education seat, the renewal of health insurance and a proposal for the softball field.

First, the board discussed the letters of interest submitted by community members for the open seat following the resignation of David Steele. Steele stepped down due to other obligations and at the Apr. 5 work session, the board decided to accept letters of interest from the community for the seat.

Acy Hartsock, James Keezer, Terra Oxendine, Jenny Spiva and Mark Taylor were members of the community who had submitted letters of interest.

Keezer, Oxendine and Spiva were names mentioned by the board members that stood out before they those in attendance unanimously voted to appoint Spiva to the vacant seat.

Board member Dan Haskins spoke first, saying that Keezer and Spiva were two of the applicants that had stood out to him.

“I think both have a lot of attributes that I like to see in board members,” said Haskins before endorsing Spiva. “There were some things, knowing Jenny’s history and involvement with the district, and all of that, and still having kids in the district. Those were some things that stood out to me.” 

“Those were my two top picks,” added board member Kim Wood. “And because Jenny has shown interest in the school district and what’s going on.”

Wood added that Oxendine would be a valuable addition to the board as well but wasn’t sure if she would want to run for the seat again.

“I agree,” added board member Melissa Wright on Oxendine. “Terra, I know her, and she gives a lot to other associations in the area. She’s a giver and a doer.”

Wright also added her support for Spiva and Keezer as well.

Board member Stuart Puckett said Spiva had shown a commitment to the district on a number of different fronts and was interested in its overall improvement.

“Right now, that would be the one I would be leaning towards,” said Puckett of Spiva.

Haskins also spoke for Board member Steffen Wiest, who wasn’t at the meeting, saying that Wiest and himself had discussed the candidates and that Wiest in the same vein of thinking as far as supporting the three aforementioned frontrunners.

“I feel like were on a self-imposed time crunch,” added Haskins echoing his thoughts from prior meetings discussing the vacated seat. “We want to get this next member seated pretty quickly because we have a lot of projects going on, we’re getting ready for our (annual) retreat. It would be nice to get them on board quickly.

Wood asked if Spiva would want to run for the seat when it expired next year, and Board President Jonathan Russell said he had discussed it with her and that she may be interested.  

“I think that (Spiva) would be outstanding,” said Russell. “We all know her commitment to the district and her commitment to academic performance which is high on my list.”

Russell added that he agreed on filling the seat as soon as possible and that he would encourage Keezer to run in the future.

Haskins made a motion to appoint Spiva to the open seat, with the vote being unanimous.

Next, the board discussed and unanimously approved the renewal of health insurance relating to the district’s healthcare trust for 2021-22.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins told the board about the research and efforts over the past few months done to educate the district staff on their options.

The board will contract with Assured Benefits Administrators as the third party administrator for the districts health care trust, the board will contract with MaxCare as the pharmaceuticals benefit manager, the board approved a rate stricture for dependent coverage and buy up options, the board will contribute $500 per employee per month on behalf of each employee who qualifies and enrolls in the districts healthcare plan, the board will continue paying for employee dental insurance and employees who choose a Health Savings Account (HAS) option have $120 paid into their HSA and $380 into the districts health care trust.

The recommendations above, that were approved, were made after consultation from the district’s consultant, Insurancenter, meetings with the salary and insurance committees and surveys and input from the districts team members.

The agenda item description said the healthcare trust has struggled to break even the past three years and that significant adjustments were needed.

The approved plan keeps an HSA and PPO option as fully board paid for the districts team members with both options having reasonably priced options for their family members.

It also noted that there was an option for employees who needed a more comprehensive plan.

“I think its really something, the lengths you went to, to get input from everyone,” said Wood, commending Cummins for his efforts. “I’ve worked at places that had insurance and I got what they gave. There was never a discussion, I think it’s admirable the lengths you went to, to get feedback and make it the best for everyone involved.

“It’s a big deal,” said Cummins. “For our staff, 100% board paid insurance is a big thing, I’ve learned that.”