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Varied expenses ratified by District U-46 Board

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 unanimously approved over $500,000 of expenditures from a program audit to vehicle replacement at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 8.
  The items, which were presented on Monday, Feb. 1, included $39,680 to NC3T-National Center for College and Career Transition for an audit of the district’s 12 Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The audit will be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through a federal Carl D. Perkins grant.
  Board member Sue Kerr inquired about what programs would be audited and Kinasha Brown, the district’s CTE coordinator, said the programs range from precision manufacturing to fashion and apparel textile design.
  “Basically we’ll be looking at all of our CTE programs that our district currently offers,” Brown said.
  Kerr asked: “We’re hoping to make them more efficient, perhaps to consolidate some of them?”
  “Absolutely we want to make them efficient,” Brown said. “That’s why we’re having this audit.”
  Brown added: “The idea behind it is just to go through a thoughtful process. Earlier this year we started looking at our career pathways, how we deliberate them, how they place our students to be college and career ready.”
  Board member Jeanette Ward said she’s “assuming that we’re expecting that they will find efficiencies that we could implement that would save us more than” the $40,000 price tag and asked for a “ballpark” of what the district expects.
  Brown didn’t have an estimate but said that looking at the audit’s findings will help U-46 “strategically plan.”
  “What I can tell you is that it costs us more not to fix the problem and adjust when we’re looking at classroom sizes, when we look at replacing equipment,” Brown said.
  There was only one bid for the audit which board member Phil Costello asked why there appeared to be no competition. Brown said that 27 vendors looked at the proposal, but only one met the district’s specifications for the audit.
  “When you talk about career and technical education, it is a very specialized area,” Brown said. “It’s not one of those areas where it’s just an umbrella because you’ve got so many different programs. And so, it was important to us to find an agency that specializes in this type of work.”
  The board also approved a contract of $187,120, to be paid out of the education fund, with Great Minds to provide professional development (PD) for Eureka math, a new resource aligned with Common Core that started being used this year at the elementary level which will hit middle schools next year.
  Ward said she has “heard rumblings about Eureka math” from teachers, but Trisha Shrode, director of Curriculum and Instruction, said those concerns have been around a lock of PD.
  “I think one strong statement that we’ve heard is that we’ve made some missteps along the way, and that when we induct a new resource… we will do one year’s worth of PD,” Shrode said. “We’ll induct a new resource and then we have so many changes within our district where people are changing grade levels and changing buildings, and we don’t continue to invest in the development of our teachers.”
  Shrode called it “one small piece of a larger plan” after Kerr asked about support offered to teachers who may miss a PD day.
  Two proposals were approved dealing with vehicle replacement, $95,910 with Landmark Ford Dealership to purchase five replacement vehicles for driver’s education as well as a total of $217,041 split between Currie Motors and Bigger’s Chevrolet for a total of seven replacement vehicles for the district’s plant operations department.
  Kerr asked about the lifespan of the driver’s education cars which Rickey Sparks, director of Business Services, said “generally, eight, nine years, somewhere around there.”
  Through some levity between Ward and Sparks, the public learned students won’t be learning to drive in Lamborghinis but rather 2016 Ford Taurus SEs.
  On the plant operation’s vehicles, Kerr asked about the older vehicles that will be replaced and that department’s director Chris Allen said that “obviously we have a long life cycle on the vehicles, and we have several that we’re using as parts. There’s just no value in any kind of trade-in or junking purposes. So we take them as far [as] we can take them.”
  Both Ward and Costello expressed appreciation for “stretching the dollar” in using older vehicles for parts, but Costello noted some of the photos provided in the proposal that were “somewhat disturbing.” He asked: “Those are only used for parts, correct? They’re not on the road?”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said some of the vehicles in use have missing floor boards, but Allen said those vehicles are “definitely in there” for replacement. The vehicles include three Chevy cargo vans and four Ford pickup trucks.



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