Members of the USD 418 Board of Education reached a disagreement on whether or not to release the appraised value of the district’s art collection at Monday’s regular meeting.

Members of the USD 418 Board of Education reached a disagreement on whether or not to release the appraised value of the district’s art collection at Monday’s regular meeting.

The motion to release the information to the person requesting it failed two to four.

The issue has been a point of contention for over a year, as some members want to release the value as a matter of transparency, while others want to keep it confidential for security.

“We take a minimum amount from general fund to insure the art, so we are using some of the public money in this so the public should know its value,” said board member Kim Janzen.

About 40 of over 200 works owned by USD 418 have been displayed and rotated often at the McPherson Museum and maintained by the Art Advisory Council since 2001. The rest of the pieces are either in the district buildings or in storage. The district pays $3,000 annually in insurance on the art, which is a separate plan from the district’s property insurance.

“On the security standpoint, the bulk of the collection is in the museum. By releasing the value, it increases the security risk for the museum,” said board member Chris Wiens. “Why do we need to be transparent in this when there’s only one person who’s asked about it and why should we disclose the value if we’re not selling?”

The board has considered selling pieces in previous years, but decided against it when considering the cost and time required to prepare and ship items to be sold. Board members also pointed out that pieces can only be sold once and are not an income. The most recent appraisal was done in 2009, so several members believe the value is out of date.

“The district doesn’t own it per se, but we’ve been given it to take care of. We’re the stewards of these gifts, some of which are disposable and some aren’t,” said Brad Berg, vice president of the board. “We do have something of value and people in the community love that, so they’ve given us gifts that contribute to it. We’re not in dire straits, so we don’t need to know the value. The insurance value is a generalization but it’s not a true determiner of what someone is willing to pay for it.”

Soccer field project

The board approved specifications and bid process to improve the high school soccer field.

The field, just west of the tennis courts on North High Drive, has a low quality surface and is not fit for practice. The soccer team is currently traveling to Grant Sports Complex for practice.

“The major issues now are grading, leveling, and we don’t have consistent stand of grass. The conditions for the football practice field and soccer practice field are very different,” said Interim Superintendent Gordon Mohn.

Artificial turf is twice the cost of grass, so the board chose to plant grass once the grading and leveling work is done.

The project will cost roughly $35,000 and will be paid for with a $10,000 donation and through the capital outlay fund. The bid process has begun and the board will look at potential vendors at the next meeting. The work should be completed in time for the fall season.

RES looping

The board voted accept the recommendation to discontinue the looping structure at Roosevelt Elementary School and reinstate the regular, straight grade level structure for the school next year.

Staff at the school presented the recommendation earlier in the fall after studying the positive and negative aspects of looping. The looping structure requires a teacher to master two grades of curriculum, rather than just one, and looping shows little benefit over standard grade progression for students. The change will have no additional cost to the district.

Special recognition

The board recognized four students who were chosen to sing in the three top choirs in the state. Out of thousands of students, only about 100 are selected for each choir.

“These students work so hard and they really go above and beyond in vocal music,” said Nicholas Griggs, vocal music teacher at McPherson High School.

Tabitha Slechta, ninth grade student, was selected to sing soprano in the Kansas Choral Directors Association Treble All-State Choir. Pierce Hamma, seventh grade student, and Zach Walsh, ninth grade student, were chosen to sing bass in the Kansas Music Educators Association Mid-Level All-State Choir. Kari Ellet, tenth grade student, was selected to sing alto in the KMEA All-State Choir.

Superintendent’s report

Mohn reported on upcoming policy changes.

These changes started four years ago with a comprehensive plan for updating all policy, but the plan fell to the wayside. Mohn hopes to begin looking at policy again to ensure current policy aligns with Kansas Association of School Boards recommendations.

“I’m proposing that we begin to do that and take a slower process than the board did last time because we want to make sure we’re following policy, and that our practice matches policy,” Mohn said. “It will take a while, but it will give us a chance to highlight policies and go from there.”

The board will start with Section J, where the board left off, and review through Section M by April. Then, the board will go back to Section A to add any updates from the last review.

Mohn also recommended that the board address the outdated policy for using video production in classrooms.

“The current policy refers to LaserDisk, so it needs an update,” said Angie McDonald, director of teaching and learning.

Mohn hopes to use the new policy to give teachers freedom to use videos from a variety of sources, as well as the ability to pull certain clips from films.

“A movie like ‘Selma’ would be great for teaching the Civil Rights movement, but you might not want to show all of it so you can teach with some clips. Our policy doesn’t cover that now but we’d like to,” Mohn said. “There’s a balance between allowing staff a lot of freedom in choosing and having a standard in place.”

Additional business

The board accepted three donations. Pfizer donated $500 to the class of 2017 and $500 to the high school Youth Advisory Council. Terry and Lily Hedlund donated $10,000 for renovations to the soccer field and $5,000 to the high school football program.

The board also accepted the donation of a $5,599 mower from Hometown Tire & Turf. The mower will be raffled off at the McPherson Invitational Basketball Tournament, with proceeds to support the high school activities department and baseball program.

The board will hold a special board meeting at 4 p.m. Monday to interview board member candidates. Because the board is filling an elected position, all meetings and interviews for the position will be held in public. Afterward, the board will speak with representatives from 360 Energy Engineers about upcoming projects.