North Lyon County school board - January 2022

The North Lyon County school board held its first meeting of 2022 Wednesday night. One new member was missing due to a family emergency,

The North Lyon County school district staff is used to wearing many hats.

“All you have to do is walk into either one of our school buildings and see how many people are filling in, helping with each other,” USD 251 board President Matt Horton said in praise Wednesday night. “They’re covering for each other.”

The Kansas State Board of Education may have opened the door for more of that Wednesday. It approved an emergency change in the standards for hiring substitute teachers, because of a COVID-19 shortage. A high school diploma will be sufficient to teach.

“All of us school districts had been surveyed,” Superintendent Robert Blair said during the North Lyon County district board meeting. The survey revealed “97% of our school districts told the state board we could not fill our substitute needs.”

Blair reserved judgment on the state decision until he receives more information from Topeka Thursday. But he said he received many emails about it before the board meeting.

“That might help relieve the stress on our district,” Blair said.

One permanent hiring decision was made Wednesday night. The board selected David Watkins as the new principal of Northern Heights High School.

Details about Watkins’s background were not disclosed during the meeting. But Horton said the board had “three rock star candidates” as finalists. The other two were not named.

Two new members joined the school board Wednesday night. Josh Hamlin and Russ Heins were elected in November. A third newcomer, Perry Petersen, missed the meeting due to a family emergency.

The board also accepted the results of an outside audit of the district. Council Grove accountant Cindy Jensen determined the district ended last June with a cash balance of $3.63 million, up about $550,000 from the year before.

Jensen’s summary found no faults with the district’s finances.

In other action Wednesday night at the USD 251 board meeting:

  • Blair admitted the district is seeing a “bump” in coronavirus cases. Six students have tested positive for the virus since Monday, leading to 18 students in quarantine. Both numbers are double the week before.
  • Gary Heine was the only board member to wear a face mask. A Wichita Board of Education meeting was abruptly canceled this week after three new board members refused to wear masks as a coronavirus precaution.
  • Alloy Architecture of Wichita presented results of a study into the mechanical needs of the district. Among other things, it suggested changing the windows atop the Northern Heights gym from single-pane to double-pane at a cost of $105,000.
  • Members discussed holding a retreat sometime in February. The main goal would be to review proposed long-term capital outlay projects, while allowing old and new board members to meet each other.

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