Purdy R-2 Board of Education members reviewed a significant drop in enrollment compared to a year ago at their September meeting. With the first report due to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on Sept. 28, the district has 30 fewer students, a total of 648 currently enrolled.
"We lost a large class and a small one came in," said Superintendent Jerry Lingo. "It's just a case of not a lot of work around and not a place to live."
By board member Ronnie Veith's count, 57 students left the district and 42 moved in.
Elementary Principal Jeff Swadley said the lower grades accounted for seven less students. The high school was down three from a year ago. Middle School Principal Janice Boys said in fifth to eighth grades, two students had switched to home schooling, one went to a private school and the rest moved out of the district.
Bond refinancing finalized
Board members completed the refinancing of the $1.6 million remaining from the 2007 bond issue used for additions to the elementary and administrative offices.
In a statement released by the board, President Randy Henderson said, "This plan keeps the annual debt service savings nearly level in order to boost debt service fund balances. It provides the most flexibility for the district to issue a future general obligation bond issue with voter approval within the existing debt service levy structures."
Bonds refinanced through L.J. Hart and Company locked in interest rates from .5 to 2.7 percent, compared to old rates of 3.65 to 4.1 percent. The projected savings in interest payments was $143,848. The new bonds included a buy-back feature after five years should further refinancing or early redemption prove to benefit the district.
Early redemption of the current bonds cost the district about $14,000 in penalties. In the face of a volatile economy and possible interest rate increases that would have reduced district savings, board members chose to act now.
"An increase in rates of less than one 10th of one percent would defeat any benefit from further delay," said board member Ken Terry. "I think it is prudent to take this significant savings now."
Board members voted to continue the Parents as Teachers program, rehiring Angie Swadley as a instructor on an independent contract.
Lingo said the reduction in the state program last year worked out adequately for Swadley, who met the reduced quota of visits with families on top of her base salary. Funds were not reduced as far as was expected last year and a little more money was budgeted for the current year.
Lingo advised continuing the program for the advantage offered through contacting families early and involving them with the school district.
Library Services Coordinator Dianna Laswell provided her annual summary for the board. She said the district remains short of its state targeted number of non-fiction books by a little over 1,200. While the standard has remained steady, Laswell said older books continue to wear out and others become outdated.
The average cost for a new non-fiction book is $12. Picture books run $17 to $20. Laswell has preferred investing in easier books that will be circulated more than specialty books. The district's public library account has provided access to encyclopedias, and a membership in the Greene County Library has provided access to e-books.
Laswell said she lost three library classes a week to teach computer classes but has managed to sustain services with new library assistant Debbie Carpenter and student assistants. She encouraged more training for staff and students in how to use library resources.
Board members approved the sick leave pool for the coming year. Boys said the 187 days were available in the pool thanks to additional days contributed by new employees.
Swadley said the elementary faculty is focusing on communication arts using Response to Intervention (RTI) strategy for kindergarten through second grade. Third and fourth grade teachers chose acuity as an assessment tool. Cassville teacher Jewel Farwell would be coming on campus to provide training.
Grandparents Day on Sept. 16 went well. A $20 gift certificate to the Utopian Bean was given away at each grade level.
Bob Vice, high school principal, said end-of-course and progress reports were now being mailed home. Students were taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery tests to help identify career choices.
Attendance has run unusually high during the first month of school, in the 97 and 98 percent range. Vice said high school attendance has been the highest he has seen since 2001.
Lingo reported DESE had extended congratulations for having 100 percent of the faculty qualified and certified under standards of the No Child Left Behind Act. The superintendent commended his administrators for hiring people who were qualified when they arrived in Purdy.
The next board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 17.