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R-1 Board is financially optimistic

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Monett R-1 Board of Education closed its 2010-11 school year on the last day of the fiscal year, June 30, and made plans for a financially optimistic year ahead.

With federal stimulus money running out, districts have been planning for tight fiscal conditions in the coming year. Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said conservative budgeting has left the Monett district in a good position.

Books for the past school year were closed with total spending of $25,065,476 and revenues of $27,710.289. Some of the surplus remains from the bonds used for construction at Monett Elementary School, Jungmann said. Enrollment growth and higher spending on the Foundation Formula by the state enabled the board to spend more aggressively in the coming year.

The 2011-12 budget called for spending of $23,304,605 on revenues of $21,696,379. Approximately $1.9 million remains to be spent on Monett Elementary.

Board members approved raises for the coming year, adding $950 to the salary base, nearly a 3 percent hike, raising the introductory pay for a new teacher to $33,300. Raises of approximately 3 percent were put in place for non-certified staff and administration as well. Funds also allowed credit for movement on the pay scale for experience and additional education.

"For the last couple years, the board has been raising the base by 1 percent," Jungmann said. "With excess revenues, the board chose to invest in our greatest asset, the faculty and staff."

The budget allowed for an increase for health insurance of $30 per month per full-time employee, costing the district approximately $110,000. Additional money for salaries and benefits for around 300 full-time employees totaled just over $500,000.

Board members also voted to add two more teaching positions, signing on more teachers for the third and fifth grades, and moving a part-time teacher at the middle school to full-time.

Funds were also budgeted for an increase in technology initiatives. Recommendations from the 21st Century Learning Task Force are expected to advise moving toward the One-to-One technology program, getting a computer unit for each student. Jungmann said the board wanted to be ready to move forward on the task force's advice.

Foreign language expanded

Another new initiative was approved at Central Park Elementary. During the past school year, a pilot program was started using computer instruction from the Rosetta Stone company to teach a foreign language at an earlier age.

For the coming year, third and fourth graders will be able to study foreign languages using Rosetta Stone during the school day in their lab time, not just after school like the past year. Two languages will be offered. Students can study Spanish, and Spanish-speaking students can study English, plus Mandarin Chinese will be available.

"Chinese is one of the fastest growing languages in the economic world," Jungmann said. "Offering it will give the flexibility to meet students' needs. We know that students are able to pick up a language faster at a younger age and do better in their own language. This approach offers enrichment and investment in our core programs."

Facilities upgrade

Progress on improvements at two campuses were reviewed. Jim Stufflebeam, architect with Sapp Design Associates, updated the board on efforts at both Monett Elementary and Central Park Elementary.

At Monett Elementary, progress was moving forward to the point where floors were now being waxed in the new kindergarten and first grade wing. The furniture will arrive this month.

Crews are starting to paint the exterior of the safe room funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where lighting is also being installed. The cafeteria and offices are about 70 percent complete.

"We're on a tight timetable, but we feel good about where we are," Jungmann said. "There's a lot to do in 45 days."

The second grade wing is approximately three months behind the kindergarten and first grade section. Jungmann said plans call for moving into those classrooms in mid-October.

At Central Park Elementary, crews have completed abatement work on the tile in the hallways and were hanging the grid for the new ceiling and lighting, on schedule. The sidewalk has been replaced on the south side of the building and grass planted.

Jungmann praised the work done by city crews in completing the sidewalk replacement in partnership with the city.

As part of the upgrade at Central Park, crews have focused on installing wireless infrastructure. Wireless capacity was also being expanded at the high school.

With an increase in more technology equipment, Jungmann said the high school becomes the highest priority while Central Park had the least wireless equipment in place. The middle school and intermediate campuses have enough capacity in place to meet needs through the next year, he added.

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