Exeter-Milligan school board met on Tuesday, May 11 for their regularly scheduled meeting in Exeter with over twenty guests present.
The board approved the consensus agenda before opening the floor for public comment.
First to the microphone was Kenny Soukup. He opened noting “seems like we are moving kind of fast for consolidation. Why?”
Exeter-Milligan school board president Adam Erdkamp responded, “We are trying to talk about what we need to do. I think we are running out of kids and I don’t think it’s getting any better.”
Board member Eric Milton added, “We’ve had two studies the shows with our kid count where we are at. If you put something together we are still going to be two years away from putting an agreement together. How much leverage are we going to have if we wait and have 25 less kids?”
Soukup responded asking, “Don’t we have some kind of leverage because I’ve always heard we are land rich?”
“I think you have certain things that would be advantage for some districts. Our valuation would be an advantage to any consolidation because it’s going to be able to disperse costs associated with educating the kids,” replied Erdkamp.
Soukup also asked about how the levy would change with either Friend or Fillmore Central. Milton explained how efficiencies (primarily through teacher retirement) would help reduce the levy.
After asking a few more questions about tax levies and the debt in Friend which Erdkamp assured him that would stay with the original Friend district, Soukup asked if consolidation would go to a public vote.
Erdkamp responded that he assumed it would be done as it was when Exeter and Milligan combined.
Soukup ended his time at the microphone sharing his opinion that he would like to see the district “stay how we are.”
Board member Kendra Jansky responded, “I think it’s a really exciting opportunity for our kids. I was a little disappointed that my youngest will be a senior next year and will not be able to reap the benefits on this. It means more kids learning from each other in the classroom. . . Socially, educationally it goes beyond low numbers. The opportunity that is sitting there for them is tremendous.”
Exeter-Milligan fourth grade teacher Shelli Mueller shared her concerns about the discussion with Fillmore Central. She mentioned that with Friend there was a guarantee to have students in a building in Exeter for 15 years but no guarantees at all with Fillmore Central.
She was also apprehensive about the possibility of Exeter-Milligan teachers losing their job and especially how that decision would be made. “They couldn’t answer questions. As a patron that worries me. . . I don’t think Fillmore Central is probably the one and I don’t think it’s the one for me as a teacher for sure as I have no guarantees.”
Rachel Johnson, a parent from Milligan, reviewed the differences between the rescinded offer from Friend and the Fillmore Central study. She asked the board to confirm the differences.
She had serious concerns about the financial impact on both Exeter and Milligan if the district were to consolidate to Fillmore Central.
The audience had access to the list of questions the EM board presented the FC board and also a summary of the answers.
After Erdkamp read aloud the questions and answers the board members each responded with their thoughts about the answers.
They each expressed some serious concerns about the responses that Fillmore Central gave at the meeting, especially with the uncertainty of keeping the Exeter site open. Erdkamp summed up the board’s sentiments. “If we can’t get a commitment to keep the Exeter site then they aren’t going to have it going down the road.”
Erdkamp shared that Sheffield had received an email from Fillmore Central Superintendent Josh Cumpston who wanted to encourage the process to go forward by looking at more specifics even to include cooping some sports and activities.
Erdkamp was uncomfortable with the email, “I think that it was meant in a good way and I think it undermines the process. If we are going to talk about this I think we need to talk about it in the open.”
Sheffield read the letter aloud at the meeting.
The board planned to revisit the discussion at the next meeting.
Board moved on to approve the non-certified contracts and a local substitute, Liz Kallhoff, and Sheffield informed the board that in the legislature, “everything dealing with schools seems to be getting shot down.”
The next meeting was set for June 9 at 8 p.m. in Milligan.
The EM board gave the FC board a list of questions that wanted answers for. They presented it to the FC board a week before the meeting. At the school board meeting they had copies of the questions and a summary of the answers available for patrons. This is a summary of the answers.
No guarantee to keep Exeter site open.
Agree to have a site in Exeter as long as it is “viable.”
No funds to upkeep building in Milligan.
No funds to upkeep building in Exeter if there are no students present.
Avoid using Reduction In Force (RIF)process if possible.
A nine member board to begin with no answer on how it would look in the future and no guarantees of representation in the E-M district.
No new construction or remodeling in the plans as of right now.
No plans to use the Milligan field for football due to locker rooms.
Possibility of playing volleyball at Exeter, but not basketball. Might possibly play junior varsity or junior high basketball.
Students would be transported after extracurriculuar activities.
Consolidated school would be Class C-1 and would be most likely part of the Southern Nebraska Conference.