Neosho school board discusses ESSER opportunities

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education (BOE) met on May 3 for a work session, first swearing in new board member Jenny Spiva before discussing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund opportunities for the latest round of money coming to the district from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins talked to the board about team member pay for gratitude of their efforts during the ongoing pandemic and requirement of a portion of the ESSER funds to go towards learning loss.

Athletic Director Brandi Arthur talked to the board about adding a head girls wrestling coach and an additional junior high assistant coach to develop the 7-12 girls program, the addition of archery as an activity at the high school and to discontinue the co-op agreement the district currently has with Neosho Christian School for grades 7-12.

Items discussed will be formalized at the next board meeting.

ESSER opportunities

“You probably heard…Carl (Junction) and Webb (City) did something stipend wise for staff,” said Cummins. “Seneca just approved something last week.”

Cummins said he had been working with staff to determine the best way to reward the districts employees for their work throughout the past year and the recommendation he had received was to put in a contract stipend into the next contract they sign with the district.

“Statutes have required them to already have turned in their contracts but its not unusual to issue a second contract because we haven’t even established what raises are yet,” said Cummins. “So, there will be a second round of contracts. We can add it to that. For classified employees, we would include it in their letter of intent.”

With the ESSER funds being federal money, Cummins added that the district could pay for those stipends out of local funds and supplant something else with the ESSER funds to offset the cost.

The recommendation for the stipend was for $600 for insurance eligible employees and $300 for anyone not insurance eligible and would be paid in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Next, Cummins discussed two-year reading interventionist positions related to the third round of ESSER funds coming, with 20% of the funding having to go towards learning loss allocation of resources.

“All of these funds have some really broad application,” said Cummins. “That’s what we plan to do at the (annual) board work session, is to set out what is the long-range plan for these dollars. But there is no movement on about $1.8 million of that third round. It has to be loss related.”

A reading interventionist, a two-year assignment, will be paid on a teacher schedule and will be in each of the K-6 buildings. In addition to that, Cummins said the plan was name Central Elementary Principal Christine Cawley as Learning Loss Coordinator, another two-year position only to exist while the district is receiving federal support.

Cummins then told the board the district needed to get started on smart board replacements.

“I think its going to be about $2,400 each plus installation,” Cummins told the board. “I think were going to carve out about 113 (smart boards) this summer. Get on the worst ones, the ones where the projectors aren’t working. They’d be just like the (new) ones at Goodman and it’s been a pretty good year trial.”

Cummins also added that would leave between 170 or 180 smart boards to replace with half of that number being replaced next summer and then the rest to be replaced during the following summer.

Although Cummins told the board that no specific number had been given to the district in terms of how much they would receive from the American Rescue Plan Act, he did say he had been told to take the amount they received from the ESSER II funds and multiply that by 2.2.

“(ESSER II) was $4.2 million,” said Cummins.

Before conversation shifted to athletics, board president Jonathan Russell asked if the board could be polled before next month’s work session on what they would like ESSER funds to be prioritized towards so that administration wouldn’t be surprised on what their thoughts were.