Updates from the Neosho Board of Education meeting

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education met on May 17 for their monthly meeting, discussing the mask policy while also acting on multiple items discussed at the May 3 work session.

First, Kevin VanStory, a community member, had requested to address the board regarding the district’s policy on facemasks.

VanStory had been at the May 3 work session for the board but the opportunity to speak being part of the agenda came on May 17.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins told the Neosho Daily News that VanStory addressed the board about terminating the district’s mask policy. The current policy for the district is that when in school buildings, a mask is required.

“It’s the same it’s been since day one,” said Cummins.

Cummins also added that there weren’t any plans to alter with the last day of school quickly approaching.

“I spoke to (VanStory) at the work session and just shared with him that at the board meeting date as of Monday, we were seven days from the end of school,” said Cummins. “We told parents at the beginning of the year; this was the protocol we would operate under. This close to the end of school, we weren’t going to change it and we’ve already announced (masks during) summer school would be optional. I think it was just basically, timing. If we’d have been having this discussion Feb. 1, it might’ve been a different discussion given the state of the virus and our community and those types of things, the number of people who’ve gotten vaccinated. We’re going stick with (our policy) for the next week and then we’ll move on to summer school and it’ll be optional masks.”

Action items the board approved during the meeting included the consideration of girls wrestling, a one-time employee stipend, the purchase of interactive flat panels to replace older smart boards, the addition of an archery program and the continuation of a co-op agreement for athletics with the Neosho Christian School.

Girls wrestling

The approval of the hiring for a girls wrestling coach for the 21-22 season means that whoever is hired will be responsible for building the girls program at the junior high and high school levels, coaching both programs during the season.

The stipend for that position will be equal to that of a varsity wrestling assistant coach, which is currently $4,745 at the base level.

Neosho has had girls wrestling for three years but no additional coaching staff.

For the past two years, girls could wrestle boys and that allowed them to attend the same events. Last year and moving forward, high school female wrestlers can only wrestle females, meaning they’ll have to have their own tournaments.

Employee stipend

Next, the board approved a one-time stipend for district employees for their extra time spent during the 2020-21 school year.

The amount varies depending on certain criteria from $1,000 to all employees who completed the year, were insurance eligible and began employment with the district before Sept. 18, 2020 to insurance eligible employees who completed the year and began employment between April 1, 2021 and May 14, 2021 receiving $100.

“Everybody on the board was excited about being able to put a little bit extra in the employee’s pockets, they’ve done a remarkable job this year,” said Cummins.

No federal funds will be used directly to pay those stipends, federal dollars will be spent elsewhere to “free up” funds for the purpose of paying the stipends.

Purchase of Interactive Flat Panels

The board approved the purchase of 113 SMART Interactive Flat Panels from Kansas City Audio Visual for a total of $280,395, with installation costing an additional $15,255.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds will pay for the replacement of the 113 SMART boards and will be replaced with the same SMART Interactive Flat Panels installed at Goodman Elementary at the beginning of the year.

“It’s a little more than a third of our total replacement effort,” said Cummins. “But those are the most needed across our elementary schools, those will get done this summer. And we’ll do another batch next summer and hopefully finish the summer after that.”

Consideration of Archery

At the May 3 board work session, Arthur had told the board about the interest for an archery program at the high school.

The junior high currently has a program and 87 students responded to a follow up form after an informational meeting in March answering “yes” or “potentially” when gauging interest in forming a high school club.

“We're building these buildings in Neosho for a multitude of reasons,” said board member Stuart Puckett at the May 3 work session when discussion arose on archery. “One of those reasons is for them to be used, for them to be a draw to the community. I don’t know the exact number of kids that participated or families that were there, but I went to Lamar and over 1,100 kids participated in the Lamar shoot over a two-day period, they brought friends and family to that community. The gym was packed. We stand ready to be able to do the same thing in Neosho, we’ll have the facilities, it’ll be right there on the boulevard and the whole community could benefit.”

Arthur told the board that the cost of the program would be around $3,900 to get it started with an estimated $5,420 for startup equipment but a $1,500 grant was available to help offset that cost.

Other expenses would include a coaching stipend ($1,200) and competition entry fees (1,000).

The first year would cost around $6,400 with around $3,000 every following year to maintain the program.

The board approved archery as a high school activity with a $1,200 stipend for the sponsor/coach and will start next school year.

MSHSAA Co-Op agreement with Neosho Christian School

After discussion at the May 3 work session arose on whether to continue the co-op athletic agreement with the Neosho Christian School, the board voted to continue that agreement for MSHSAAA athletics at the May 17 meeting.

Neosho currently co-ops with NCS in soccer, boys golf and track and field and has had an agreement for the past several years.

“Traditionally, when you have really small schools that don’t have the numbers to make athletic teams, they will co-op with other schools and work together so they can have teams,” said Arthur at the May 3 work session. “This year, we had a little hiccup.”

With the co-op agreement the enrollment of NCS is added into Neosho’s when they’re classified for athletics. This year, NCS’ 19 students put Neosho in the highest class for track and field for post season competition.

The issue was that of the three sports in the co-op agreement, only one participated in a sport and that was boys golf.

Since 2013, there have been co-op agreement with carious sports whether that be softball, football, wrestling, track and field or boys’ soccer, yet in that time there have only been a total of four students that participated from NCS.

The board consensus at the work session was that they wanted to continue to provide opportunities for the Neosho Christian School students as well.

“The goal of the school district is to allow those athletes (from Neosho Christian School) to participate,” said Cummins.