School Board approves bond issue, new summer school contract

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA – Columbia Public School's students won't be getting $100 for perfect attendance at summer school this year after the Columbia School Board's unanimous decision Monday evening.

The board also voted unanimously to place the $120 million bond issue on the April 6 ballot, putting the decision to implement the bond package in the hands of district voters.

The district’s 2010–11 summer school program will be operated through a one-year contract by RnB Learning LLC formed by Roy Moeller, former employee of EdisonLearning. The district had previously contracted through EdisonLearning for the past six years. Although gift cards were an option in the contract with RnB Learning, the School Board said other incentives will be offered.

This approach to summer school programming would allow the district to not commit to ongoing employees in order to evaluate the success of the new program design, said Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer for Columbia Public Schools.

Lyon described the district’s plan to make up for the expected enrollment drop because of the lost gift card incentives. Recruitment and raffles are in the works.

“There’s nothing quite so powerful as a personal invitation,” Lyon said. "Recruitment is key."

She explained that this year invitations will be sent to students’ homes in addition to drawings for prizes throughout summer school to improve upon consistency in student attendance during the summer months.

Board member Ines Segert said the district will be able to maintain its control of the program’s curriculum through this contractor. Curriculum planning for the summer school program will begin tomorrow, Lyon said. 

Superintendent Chris Belcher and the administration recommended that the board approve the motion to place the bond issue on the ballot before voters.

“The bond fund in this district has been managed very, very well,” Belcher said. “It has been done in such a way that has been the best use of the tax payer’s funds.”

In addition to the $120 million bond issue, $18 million will be used from the five-year spending plan from a previous bond issued in 2007, totaling $138 million in funding. Most of the money from the bond will be used in the construction of a new high school and elementary school.

Board Vice President Tom Rose said that the bond issue would not involve a tax increase. Rose said that funds were evaluated to determine that this was something that the district could afford.

Board member Karla DeSpain said that while the revenue projection is a "cloudy crystal ball," the expected increase in student population is not so cloudy, adding that Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools are both at capacity. Hickman is overcapacity, DeSpain said.

“I believe that this is a very good plan," Belcher said. "It decreases crowding, provides better programming at the secondary level, and allows the district to maintain existing buildings and technology. All of this with no increase in the debt service levy.”

The board also discussed:

  • The first evaluations for Belcher, which will be conducted by the school board in early February. 
  • Improving communication with the community through talk radio, board-produced columns, podcasts and videocasts.

Missourian reporter Allison Ziemba contributed to this story.

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