Saturday, June 20, 2020

Exeter-Milligan School Board Discusses Consolidation

Exeter-Milligan school board met on Wednesday, June 10 in the Milligan gymnasium.  Board members and over 20 audience members observed social distancing at the meeting.

Chairman Adam Erdkamp opened the meeting and welcomed the guests and their input.

The consensus agenda was approved and the board addressed old business including summer project updates.  Superintendent Paul Sheffield reported on the bathroom updates in Milligan and offered tours to those in attendance after the meeting.

The second point of old business, the discussion on the possibility of a consolidation with another district, was the main draw for most of the guests. 

Erdkamp reviewed a timeline of public meetings and school board meetings he had worked up.  He noted that the Exeter-Milligan and Friend committee will meet again at the end of June.

He proposed that the board have their regular meeting in July and a special meeting just for consolidation discussion with the public.  He hoped that both district boards would meet together as well.

Erdkamp also hoped to hold a regular meeting and a special meeting in August and September.  In September he noted he plans to “present to the public and take a straw poll and possibly a vote from the board.  There has been a lot going around that this was going to be a quick decision . . .don’t think that is what anyone on the board was wanting.” 

The public was invited to comment and they asked if the board would be sending the students a survey for their opinion on consolidation.  Sheffield and Principal Laura Kroll noted they have a survey ready to give to the students.

Erdkamp responded, “I think kids’ input is good.  I don’t think we can go solely off that.”

When asked if the board had made a decision between area districts, Erdkamp indicated that he was inclined to look more positively at continuing the discussion with Friend versus Fillmore Central.
The audience asked about cooping versus consolidation, why the board was going in this direction, a timeline that it might happen and how it would benefit the students.

“We are having the meetings to help us mold our path to see what everyone wants.  We don’t have a specific path we are trying to head,” responded board member Kendra Oldehoeft.

Several current Exeter-Milligan faculty were in the audience and weighed in on having more students in the classroom.  Third grade teacher Laura Steuben commented, ”If you have a class with one or two kids it’s not an efficient use of teachers. Smaller classes are not always the answer.  Kids learn a lot from each other.”

Math teacher Mary Kay Pribyl added that she had a single student in an advanced math course who completed more coursework on her own that another group of student in another period because she wasn’t held back by classmates, “It works both ways.”

Kroll noted that there are 68 students 7 -12  and 27 teachers(K-12), “We are just trying to figure out how to be effective and efficient with what we have. . . we would stay EM forever if we could.”

After an audience question Erdkamp explained the board was committed to just reducing the teacher force through retirement if a consolidation happens.

Several audience members requested the board do a vote through technology because of the fear of COVID 19. Board members encouraged those with questions to attend their meetings.

Mary Kay Pribyl noted that Exeter-Milligan has produced seven students winning a regents scholarship or high scholarship at UNL in the last eight years.  “How specifically is this going to improve their education?”

Erdkamp responded, “We have a very good district  I just want to have enough kids to continue this education.”

Board member Kendra Jansky added that she hoped to see more class offerings. “I think we do a great job, but we could do better.”

Steuben piped in adding, “Collaboration is a great thing. If we have two districts who are wanting to come together and make a great district why wouldn’t we?”

Kroll hopes to see the consolidation sooner rather than later, “I would like to see some of our veteran teachers help with the transition if we do consolidate.”

Sheffield mentioned the fiscal aspects of consolidation, ”We want to be able to provide the best education for our students but be fiscally responsibility.”

The board moved on to new business discussing the replacement of the GMC Yukon.  The board indicated that Sheffield should use his best discretion in purchasing a replacement vehicle.  Erdkamp abstained from the vote.

The board approved new and revised policies as presented.

Under the information and discussion section Sheffield explained the steps the administration is taking to prepare for students to return in the fall, “We will have a better picture hopefully at the July board meeting.”

The board noted that a para at the Milligan site resigned and will be replaced by Andrea Classen.  The board set the July meeting for Wednesday, July 8 in the Exeter band room.

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