School board updated by guest speakers

by Del Bartels

The Haakon County School Board 27-1 meeting on Monday, October 17, was held at the Milesville School.

Roger Porch was the first guest speaker, who reported on the progress of the state committee that will eventually make recommendations to the State Department of Education on school funding. The committee meetings are open to the public, though not to open or audience testimony.

Porch summarized the consideration of sparsity – comparing the average daily membership (number of students) with the square mile area covered by the school district. Haakon County is one of the most sparse districts in South Dakota. The small school factor has also been discussed. How small can a school system become before the state will no longer distribute state money to it or before it should join with another district? Enrollment in the Haakon School District 27-1 is 281 students as of November 10. In 1996 it was 567.

Other discussion points have been impact aid, capital outlay and any equalization possibilities, and opt-out trends.

Porch made several predictions concerning committee recommendation, but noted that the Education Department and the State Legislature can do whatever they want with the recommendations. 1. The committee will probably lean toward implementation of a sparsity factor; though defining the limitation and cut-offs of sparsity will be tenuous.

2. The small school factor will be left in place. Will any gain by distributing money to small schools out-weigh the damage to the large schools the money was taken from?

3. Reserve money balances that a district may keep should rise from 20 percent to 50 percent. Is reserving money “rat-holing,” or is it just good future management?

4. The comparable sales used to evaluate property for taxes should include property sales that exceed 150 percent of the assessment. People should not be taxed off of their land because the evaluations go up, but shouldn’t all or most sales be used to determine value?

Lori Quinn was the next guest speaker. She updated the board concerning the September 20 visit by six pilot/ambassadors of the Lewis and Clark Flight of Discovery project. The Milesville students hosted the other country school students for the day’s presentation. As far as Quinn knows, Milesville is the only school in South Dakota to be working on the free “trunk of discovery” and its many projects.

Quinn displayed the trunk’s contents to show that it was “full of really cool stuff, and even more cool stuff,” Eventually the gathered samples of rocks, minerals, plants, wildlife prints and other items will be sent postage-paid to the Project’s headquarters for national cataloguing. “The visitors were all accomplished pilots, three of them women. They were excellent role models for our kids,” said Quinn. Milesville teacher Carmen One Skunk added, “They were really encouraging and interested in our progress. We went away feeling that we really knew what we were doing.”

The subject of allowing home-schooled children to participate in extra-curricular activities was tabled until the end of this school year. Apologies were given that the school board could not address the subject before this school year began. It was agreed that any decision would best work if implemented at the beginning of a school year.

Anita Peterson summarized the Black Hills Special Services actions for the month.

Principal Jeff Reickman complemented the turn-out for parent-teacher conferences. Report Cards should be out the middle of next week. Fridays will now have two teachers available from 9:00 a.m. to noon as tutors. Reickman will add more teachers “if students are lined up at the doors.” Career Day, which will include the juniors and seniors, will offer over 100 booths at the Rapid City Civic Center. Fall sports and oral interpretation are already winding down.

Superintendent Keven Morehart also praised the turn-out for parent-teacher conferences. Security systems are being updated, even to the point of maybe looking into an intercom system some day down the road.

The next Haakon School Board 27-1 meeting will be at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, November 14, in Room A-1 of the Philip High School.