By Bonnie Seymour
News Star Reporter
Buildings and budget cuts set emotions on fire at the last Maysville School Board meeting, held Monday, June 10.
Around 20 people attended to voice concern about the new multipurpose building on the elementary school grounds and inquire about the size of the 1st and 2nd grade classes for the 2013-2014 school year.
Cindy Wilmot, who has voiced concern about the height of the new building, took the floor first to continue the ongoing debate about the building.
“The last time I was here I didn’t have all the information that I have now but I had what was in my heart,” stated Wilmot passionately.
Wilmot went on to present a timeline of events that led up to the construction of the building.
She used the timeline to prove that the board referred to the building using the word “gymnasium” and that there were no actual plans drawn up for the building before the bond issue for the facility was put to a vote of school patrons.
Superintendent William Martin admitted that no plans were in the works beforehand.
“No, we didn’t have plans drawn beforehand. We had to wait for the bond to pass and then we hired an architect,” said Martin.
After construction began on the building, Wilmot began to wonder about the height of the building.
After contacting the architect, she discovered the planned ceiling was an eleven-foot drop ceiling.
The regulation height for a basketball goal is ten-feet and that would be the height needed for the sixth graders to practice there.
“At what point when you build a gym do you not make it tall enough to be a gym?” asked Wilmot.
The drop ceiling has since been omitted from the design, thus raising the height of the ceiling.
The architect, Tim Elliott, was at the meeting to put the concerned parents minds at ease.
“Yes, I think the new building is tall enough to be a gym”, stated Elliott. “We are making it as high as possible.
“Currently it is at 10-feet six-inches on the sides and 14-feet three-inches where the basketball goals will be. We were trying to get to 17-feet.
“It’s not happening. Cost was a huge concern going into this and the taller you go, the more it costs.”
Elliott did inform the parents attending the meeting that the basketball goal will be adjustable from eight-feet to 10-feet and has a “pretty slick” design.
According to Martin there is one person who doesn’t seem to have a problem with the building and that person is the basketball coach.
“Miss Kessler is comfortable with 14-feet six-inches. She has no problem with it at all and is very happy”, said Martin.
“It’s a gym, it’s just not the gym you have in mind.”
Still not satisfied with what she was being told, Wilmot requested to know the cost of adding another four feet to the building, seeing as the building is coming in $270,000 under budget.
It was a request Elliott was more than happy to oblige.
“I’m just wanting what I, what we, thought we were promised”, said Wilmot regarding her quest.
“I’m doing everything I can as an architect to address your concerns and do it cost effectively as well,” responded Elliott.
The topic then shifted to the class size for first and second graders, which turned into a discussion about a school district in financial turmoil.
As reported by Elementary Principal, Jeanna Bearden, the estimated class size for first graders this coming year is 28 to 30 kids and the estimate for second grade is 26.
The enlarged class sizes led parents to ask the question, “Why can’t we hire more teachers?”
“The state has taken away $149,000 from us. We are $200,000 short for the school year”, said Martin. “We are down to the minimum amount of staff we can have. We have gone from 43 teachers to 29.”
According to Martin, this is the third year in a row the state has cut district funding for all Oklahoma school districts.
The treasurer for the school district estimated the district would be closing out the year with $2,500,000. Currently the district stands at $2,300,000.
Parents, shocked at what they had just heard, asked if it would be possible to hold fundraisers for the district, to help with hiring more teachers and other needs within the system.
“First through sixth grade should be a priority. These are the years children learn to read, spell, interact”, voiced one parent.
“What if we raised money for the district?” asked another.
While doing fundraisers would be extremely helpful in some areas of operation, it could lead to disaster in others.
“We’ll always take money,” said school board member, Vickie Foraker,”but if we are in a contract with a teacher for $50,000 and we only raise $10,000, we still owe them $40,000.”
With the $149,000 cut from the state, it would appear that most of the district woes are being caused at a much higher level than our district alone.
Said Martin of his contact with those at a higher level, “We’ve cried and cried but no one listens.”
Understanding the urgency of saving the school district, parents then suggested that they start to contact Representative Lisa Billy and Senator Susan Paddack themselves. They were met with an overwhelming response from board members and the principals in attendance, giving an otherwise helpless meeting a slight glimmer of hope.
“If Susan Paddack received an angry email from one-hundred people, she would start to listen. Mr. Martin is just one guy”, said board member David Riley of the situation.
“We work on this money situation every day. This is the biggest business in Maysville. We lose this and we’re in trouble”, chimed in Bruce Jones, another school board member, emphasizing the importance of getting the parents involved in the fight for finance.
The end of the discussion was back to the original topic at hand, class size.
“There are several things that we are looking at,” said Bearden. “We aren’t here to throw the children all in one class and those who survive, survive.”
“We will do the best for your children. You have no reason to trust us except that we have been doing this for years and we will try again,” said Martin on the subject.
The open discussion then turned to the lack of a junior high academic team.
“No one wanted to be a sponsor,” said high school principal Dr. Shelley Hildebrand-Beach, “I heard from no parents or students and there was no interest from the faculty.”
With such a lack of interest from the high school teachers, the parents asked if it would be possible for a parent to help coach the children for academic meets.
“Yes, I think that would be possible but we would need a faculty member to transport them for meets,” said Martin.
Parents feel not having the program in place would do more harm than good.
“It keeps our kids out of trouble. They love it. They feel that the team is their calling,” said one parent of her child’s love for academia.
The school board will hold a special meeting Thursday, June 27, at 7:00 p.m. to prepare for the closing of the fiscal year. The next regular meeting will be Monday, July 8, at 7:00 p.m..
To contact Senator Susan Paddack about the financial situation of the Maysville School District, please call 405-521-5541 or email email@example.com.
To contact Representative Lisa Billy, call 405-557-7365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.