Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Exeter-Milligan School Board Meets


Exeter –Milligan School board held their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, February 10th at 7 p.m. in the Milligan site gym.

After welcoming guests and approving the consensus agenda the board heard a presentation by Jack Moles, Executive Director of Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association (NRCSA).

Moles gave a brief summary of his background in rural education and then outlined the goals and objectives of NRCSA.  He also shared some of his concerns on the shortage of teachers for rural districts and the current legislative challenges the organization is trying to address.

Board Chairman Adam Erdkamp thanked him for the information and opened the meeting up for public comment. Several teachers in the district took the opportunity to speak and all encouraged the board to close the Milligan site.

Mary Lou Vossler, Family and Consumer Science teacher, who taught in Milligan for a number of years, shared her concerns, “This site is taking funds that could be used to benefit our children.  We need to look at what is best for our kids.  By moving to one site we would benefit even more.”

Third grade teacher Laura Steuben emphasized the loss of instruction time as students from Exeter leave at 3:05 to return to Exeter.  “I do not feel closing this site is going to ruin the community.  It’s just going to look different.”

Fourth grade teacher Shelli Mueller shared her concerns about the students in Milligan missing out on events like pep rallies and speakers.  She also raised the issue of the lack of a permanent administrator in the building when teachers need advice in situations along with the lack of a tech person onsite.

The board moved on to old business.  Superintendent Paul Sheffield noted that the board had raised a few questions on the feasibility report with Fillmore Central.  They hope to have the answers to the questions and discuss them with the board during a special meeting.

Under new business the board planned to vote on the principal contract next month with the committee meeting to review the contract just prior to the scheduled board meeting next month.

Sheffield and Principal Laura Kroll presented a power point on the advantages and disadvantages of closing the Milligan site which currently houses third through sixth graders in the district.

The power point primarily cited financial, logistical and curricular advantages.  Sheffield noted that a number of teachers spend an hour during each school day commuting back and forth between the two sites.  In adding up the many teachers who teach at both campuses he estimated the time lost is equal to a full time teacher.

Some of the financial gains include reducing the number of vans the school owns from eight to four, reduced cost of teacher travel as well as decreases in the amount spent on Special Education, food service and personnel at the Milligan site. 

Sheffield quoted the cost to maintain the Milligan site for the 18-19 school year as $209,477.25.  He explained that some of these costs including internet and copy machine service would be eliminated but others like utilities would remain.

The presentation noted that logistically a move would be a great advantage to students as they would gain 20 more minutes of instruction each day.  Currently some food is transported between the campuses which would no longer be needed.  Occupational and physical therapist along with mental health professionals would no longer need to travel (and the district would not have to pay for that travel time).

Beside the extra instruction time Sheffield noted that there were many positive advantages for the having  students in one location.  He cited the benefits of having peer mentoring and pack partners, academic grouping and having the after school program available for 3-6th graders.
He also mentioned the possibility of moving the sixth graders up to the junior high/high school if one of the elementary teachers resigned and the other elementary teachers were rearranged to cover the open teaching spot.

The Milligan site would be continue to be used for basketball practices and football games would remain in Milligan. Volleyball games would be moved to Exeter.  Sheffield envisioned the Milligan school library converted to a daycare (not run by the district) and the lunchroom repurposed as a senior center.  The music room could be used for the Milligan brass band to practice and the fitness center would remain as it is.

If the move is approved Sheffield hopes to create a committee to determine the future of the facility.  He ended his presentation by stating, “I’m going to play devil’s advocate. I don’t care if we go with Fillmore Central or Friend, either way Milligan is still gone.”

Community member Megan White asked if this move would “be for one year or would it push consolidation off?”

Erdkamp responded, “That’s a fair question.  I don’t really have an answer.  If we did consolidate it probably would be two to three years before it would happen. . .if you look at our numbers they are pretty bleak.”

Board member Kendra Jansky added, “This improves us internally.  It doesn’t fix our number problem.”

The board moved on to briefly discuss a separation incentive program and approved an unpaid leave request before mentioning upcoming conferences and setting the next regular meeting date for March 10 in Exeter at 7 p.m.


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