Fifteen spectators filled the seats at the Centralia Intermediate School Library for the October 8 meeting of the Centralia R-VI Board of Education.
They were accompanied by six board members with board member Jed Angell absent.
A new high jump mat, district enrollment numbers, finance and a new sports team were on the agenda.
“MSHAA is starting a new program, girls wrestling, we signed up,” Darin Ford, R-VI superintendent said, introducing the topic of an eventual new program.
Luke Gramke, CHS head wrestling coach, addressed the board. “Girls wrestling in Centralia Missouri is not new,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been in school here and coaching here, we’ve had girls on the team.” He said it is a growing sport with college and Olympic divisions. Starting this season, he said, girls will have their own wrestling post-season, separate districts and state tournaments. “For the first two years, during the regular season a boy can wrestle a girl, but they don’t have to and whenever it comes to district time, girls will have their own districts and their own state tournament “After that two-year period when they get all the kinks ironed out, it will be girls only.” He predicted it would be good for Centralia and increase the number of female athletes. He predicted five to seven girls going out for high school wrestling this year, which “might grow to 10… I think it is a wonderful opportunity for female athletes in our district who are maybe not interested in basketball.”
He said the coaching staff could absorb the new responsibilities. “We will be going to the same meets, just with separate girls’ divisions.”
Board member Erle Bennett asked if there would be a space issue, and if it applied to middle school wrestling. Gramke said there was sufficient space now and it would not apply to middle school wrestling.”
“The thing I am concerned about we are going to create a major space problem in the wrestling room,” Bennett said. “We already have that,” Gramke replied, saying he expected 40 wrestlers this year, when most schools Centralia’s size averaged 20 and there was already a space problem for wrestling.
“I have brought it up with every athletic director I’ve had.”
The board unanimously voted to start the program.
“104.9, this year, a tad over 105, last year” said Ford during his report, discussing school district enrollment and annual class size, what he called the “September count, the year’s first student census. “We’re pretty stable. Sometimes during the year it can be pretty dramatic what we gain or lose.” The count showed total enrollment at 1,363 students, compared to last year’s 1,367.
Ford also asked the board to spend $7,500 on a new high jump mat for the Centralia High School track. “It has been pointed out to me that it is a health risk and we should move on it,” Ford said. “We’re going to get bids.”
“It is a safety risk and has not held air properly for several years,” agreed Bennett. Board president Justin Romine said an athlete from Bowling Green was hurt on the mat last season.
Ford also discussed the board’s recent tour of the high school, which led to the board discussing CHS Principal Matt Smith’s list of concerns.
Smith, in his multi-page presentation said the primary concern is access to adequate educational resources. He also mentioned student apathy, storage, and catering to students
“Overwhelmingly the biggest challenge,” he wrote, “seen to be facing CHS is the access to adequate educational resources. Among the three other concerns raised, this topic was mentioned in some form or fashion by each staff leader. Over the past five-plus years we have had an ongoing debate over how to move forward with plans to invest in support resources for classroom instruction. This debate has involved discussing added technology in the form of student laptops, expanding the number of service carts in classrooms and departments, purchasing access to online textbooks, subscribing to formative assessment and progress tracking tools as well as replacing old textbooks with new.”
Board member Jason Hedrick said he wanted to know why the high school was using old textbooks.
“We have books from 1999, I want to make sure our priorities are straight. We just spent $7,500 on a mat, not provide paint for the kids and use books from 1999… we are nickel and diming our students while waiting for people to pass a bond. This is frustrating.” Bennett said that was because the district has been debating going with all computerized curriculums. Smith agreed, that was due to schools replacing textbooks while waiting for the district to decide regarding online texts.
“Your point is not lost,” said Board Member Harvey Million.
Smith said the school might need at least 250 more Chromebooks. He said the high school teachers are at a point where they are supportive of evolving the educational technology. “But if we are not going to do it, then let’s get off the rail and buy new text books.”
Bennett asked if the Chromebooks worked with every discipline. The answer seemed to be no, different devices might be needed for science.
Romine said he could name 20 families who do not have home internet and that was a concern about going to full computers. “Algebra is a study hall with a math teacher.”
Bennett said he was concerned about the building’s HVAC, roof drainage and tuck-pointing of the external walls. Ford agreed and said the building was in “really great shape structurally, but needed some attention.”
Before the debate concluded, Smith reminded the board he was asked what his biggest challenge was – “My biggest challenge is resources…” he said, regarding discussions versus purchasing computers or other technology, or moving forward with new paper textbooks. “My teachers are waiting for a path to be chosen.”
Bennett asked that the other principals submit they same type of document as Smith, outlining their buildings’ challenges.
Regarding whichever path they took, Bennett said: “If we are going to do it, we have to do it right. If we do it halfway, people are just going to be angry.”
They also agreed to schedule the next board visit/work session, November 2 at Chester Boren Middle School, starting with lunch with the students.
“We’ve got to have our ducks in a row, we have to be able to tell them exactly what they’re getting,” Bennett said regarding discussion of a no-tax-increase bond issue.”
Romine said they still needed a levy increase, “that is not an if, but when issue.”
Ford said the district would soon have to deficit spend if something is not done soon. The board seemed to agree that a levy and a bond were needed, but the question was “when.”
The board unanimously agreed to purchase a new mat for no more than $7,500.
District accountant Vanessa Ridgel presented her monthly financial report: “We are at 21 percent in funds 1 and 2, same as last year at this time. We do have more money in fund three and fund four than we did last year. Overall, we’re doing well in revenues and expenses. Revenues are a little short compared to last year.” She said this is due to less money going into activity accounts than at this time last year. “Expenses in those accounts are also running behind, but only by $22,000, compared to $60,000 in revenue. “She said the activity accounts had $164,000 in them at this time last year and $103.500 this year. “As far as expenses go, we are tracking well.