Members of the Houston board of education reorganized Tuesday night following the recent election, engaged an architectural firm for long-term planning and heard of grant awards that will spark improvements on campus.
Two new members — Tressie Neugebauer and Dustin Hartman — joined the board. A third person, Darren Ice, was re-elected. They are three-year terms. Officers also were selected. They are: Jennifer Scheets, president; Ice, vice president; and Jeff Gettys, secretary-treasurer. Board member Charlie Malam is the district’s representative to the Missouri School Boards’ Association. Tanya Bathon is the executive secretary to the board.
The board formalized the scope of services for long-term planning that will be provided by Dake Wells Architecture in Springfield. Dr. Justin Copley, superintendent, said the engagement will look at facilities, possible projects, providing cost estimating and design services. The district will form a committee of staff and community members who will assist with advising and planning.
Work is expected to begin before the end of the school year, Copley said.
•Heard from Pat Oakley and Beth Williamson, retired school teachers, who asked the board to consider continuing its practice of paying a membership to the Missouri Retired Teachers Association for the district’s retirees. Membership for a 19-month term is $44. It was okayed.
•Learned that health insurance premiums will be nearly unchanged for employees. The district will pay a monthly premium of $636. That’s up about $6 monthly from the prior year. Salary and benefits constitute about 69 percent of total expenditures at the district.
•Continue to work toward implementing a School Protection Officer on campus. Using established guidelines, identified persons on campus would be allowed to carry a gun.
•Heard a presentation from the district’s Jeff McNiell on an electric display that could help memorialize the district’s athletic and academic accomplishments.
•Received a report on “Tigers Give Back,” a one-hour program that brought staff out into the community to provide service projects last Monday. It was developed by the district’s professional development committee.
•Heard Copley give a financial report as the board prepares to tackle the 2023-’24 school year. The budget year begins July 1. The overview included a report on two series of general obligation bonds (issued 2013 and 2019) that are on the books, as well as two lease-purchase agreements for buses that have now been paid.
•Received an update on the installation of a greenhouse on the northwest portion of the Piney River Technical Center parking lot. It will be used by the agriculture department.
•Are examining scoreboard repair options for the middle school softball field.
•Heard that the school district has been awarded a $100,000 early childhood grant that will provide two key features: An indoor playground area at the Early Childhood Center at Hill Street. Additionally, an awning will be extended to the south and jog to the west to provide additional protection from the elements.
A look at a new playground coming to the Early Childhood Center.
•Learned that the district has been awarded a grant for water testing to inventory any lead pipe issues on campus.
•Discussed a $480,000 grant award that will result in additional safety measures in the district. Of that amount, the district will provide 25 percent. It will pay for cameras, fencing, improvements to interior and exterior doors. Among the structures targeted are the Early Childhood Center and the Piney River Technical Center. Better response time in the event of an emergency also will result with a key that can be used at any location.
The board also heard that a Missouri School Boards Association safety advisor had recently visited campus as part of its ongoing safety review processes.
Members of the Houston board of education handled several personnel matters following their regular meeting on Tuesday.