Congratulations to the 26 staff members who are retiring this year. We are extremely grateful for the tremendous impact they made during their 474 years of service to the Fort Osage School District. Their last year in education certainly didn't end the way anyone would have wanted but it doesn't overshadow the impact they made on the hundreds of students they impacted. On behalf of the entire Fort Osage community we thank you for your years of service. Congratulations on your well deserved retirement!
Lori Benson- Teacher at Osage Trail
Lisa Burgess- Teacher at the Career and Technology Center
Diane Davis- Teacher at Blue Hills
Carol Rosheim-Dittmer- Teacher at Elm Grove
Maria Fleming- Assistant Superintendent
Karen Harrach- Principal at Woodland Early Childhood Center
Don Hesson- Teacher at the High School
Lori Huber- Teacher at Elm Grove
Kim Kramer- Teacher at Osage Trail
Cheryl Linville- Transportation Department
Don Long- Teacher at Fire Prairie
Jan Maxwell- Transportation Department
Denyce Moore- Transportation Department
Patricia Morgan- Food Service at the High School
Claudia Payne- Food Service at the High School
Jim Pederson- Counselor at the Career and Technology Center
Elaine Pottberg- Teacher at Buckner
Eve Raymond- Para Professional at the High School
Carla Rose- Transportation Department
Johnalyn Sapp- Teacher at Cler-Mont
Laura Shirley- Teacher at Fire Prairie
Julie Stout- Principal at Cler-Mont
Theresa Stutts- Food Service at Osage Trail
Jeff Tuell- Technology Department
Mary White- Transportation Department
Allen Winningham- Teacher at Fire Prairie
Team Fort Osage met virtually on May 7. There was discussion about Fort's response to the COVID 19 crisis, health insurance for the January 1, 2021 renewal, the CSD Trust (optional retirement accounts), the budget, and EdCounsel policy services. Information is provided below on each of these topics. The next Team Fort Osage meeting is scheduled for June 2.
The pandemic has posed several challenges that we have continued to work through. The information below was discussed regarding changes to our normal business.
In June the District will hold summer school virtually for students 9-12 as well as K-12 students with Extended School Year (ESY) in their IEP. Further, if local guidelines will allow, the District is planning to have an in person summer school session for students K-12 from July 6-23 for 4 hours in the morning each day. There will be several safety measures implemented in order to keep students and staff safe. Transportation will not be offered and depending on the enrollment, sites may be combined.
School in the Fall
Our plan is to be in session in person with students on August 24 but know we need to continue to be nimble regarding the guidelines that are in place at that time.
Fort's claims loss through March is 104% (for every $1.00 paid in premiums Cigna is paying $1.04 in claims). Although the claims have improved over the past few months this is still an area of concern as we get closer to our January 1 renewal. We are planning to go to bid this summer for our 2021 health insurance provider and coverage. This will help us to determine our best options for health insurance as we move forward. A decision regarding our insurance provider and the plans that we offer will be made by the September board meeting. Team Fort Osage provided affirmation to continue to consider deductibles and out of pocket costs as insurance decisions are made.
A decision regarding moving to the Trust for staff member voluntary retirement investments has been put on hold at this time. Team Fort agreed that a possible change of financial advisors during the volatile market is not advisable.
Creating a budget during a pandemic presents many challenges as there are several unknowns regarding funding. Thus far, during the current fiscal year (FY 20) the Governor has made several state budget cuts due to a loss in sales tax. Up to now the impact of these cuts on Fort Osage has been a $40,000 reduction to transportation funding. However, just this week the Governor has communicated with school district superintendents that there will be further cuts in the current budget year and more to come in FY 21. We are currently working through the impact these cuts will have on Fort’s budget.
As the pandemic continues, the FY 21 budget is even more challenging to consider. Maintaining a balanced budget is a priority for the Board, and my goal is to achieve that while continuing to provide appropriate staffing, good health insurance coverage, and provide steps and movement for staff.
In a nutshell, after budgeting for probable reductions in Prop C (sales tax), transportation funding and the property tax collection rate, Fort would be facing a deficit budget. However, the federal CARES Act funds the District will be receiving due to the pandemic may allow the District to provide steps and movement while maintaining a balanced budget.
Since information regarding the economy is updated regularly, we continue to monitor the budget and will make appropriate changes as necessary. The FY 21 budget will be provided to the Board at the June meeting for their adoption.
EdCounsel Policy Services
The Board has entered into an agreement with EdCounsel, who provides the District’s legal counsel, to review and adopt new board policies that follow state statute but are also aligned to Fort Osage’s practices. As part of the service, EdCounsel has also worked with building principals to create a student/parent handbook for each school as well as an employee manual that will serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for staff. These policies and handbooks are being adopted this spring and will go into effect on July 1, 2020.
One change in practice the board is considering is to require liquidated damages from contracted employees who resign after June 1. Under this policy, staff would be required to pay the District on a sliding scale if they resign after June 1, because when staff leave the District on short notice it creates additional expenses and challenges for all involved. The Board may consider extreme circumstances when applying this policy.
Despite the challenging times, there are an unbelievable amount of positive things occurring in our district. Teachers are engaging students in ways we never could have imagined. Students are completing assignments at home with encouragement and direction from staff and parents. The food service team is serving approximately 18,000 meals per week and is on pace to serve over 160,000 meals through the end of May. The technology department is providing support for teachers and students which has been crucial for our success with distance learning. The custodial and maintenance department are continuing to take excellent care of our campuses. There are staff in every department and school making a positive difference. We have an amazing team doing incredible work. Thank you for your continued dedication to make these challenging times a success.
Among the many concerns that COVID-19 has created is the impact on the economy. Since Fort Osage relies heavily on the state budget, next year certainly presents financial issues. Thus far Governor Parson has made two cuts to the current state budget (FY 20) which have directly impacted Fort Osage's transportation budget by a reduction of 7%. The state is currently projecting between a $700 million and $1 billion shortfall for next year's budget (FY 21). The legislators are working to pass a budget by the May 8 deadline although a special session to complete this task isn't out of the question. I will be meeting with Team Fort Osage on May 7 to discuss salary and benefits for the coming year. One factor that always impacts the budget is rising health insurance costs. We are keeping this likely increase in mind as we plan for next year’s budget. Maintaining a balanced budget is a priority for the Board, and my goal is to achieve that while continuing to provide appropriate staffing, good health insurance coverage, and fund steps and movement for staff.
It's important to end the school year strong. For the week of May 18 each building principal is creating a plan for students to retrieve belongings from their building, return items and 'check out' for the school year. In order to help with this process staff will be asked to assist. Social distancing measures will be implemented to help keep everyone safe. Additional information will be sent prior to May 18 regarding the specific details.
A $25.00 gift card to Frye's Greenhouse located at 2910 N Buckner Tarsney Road in Buckner will be given away to one lucky winner utilizing the RNG. For those of you interested, please send an email to email@example.com with ‘Plants' in the subject line. Entries will be accepted until 8:00 am on Monday, May 4. The card will be mailed to the winner's home address.
Give Away prizes are not purchased with District funds. Only Fort Osage employees are eligible to enter the drawing.
In my career as an educational leader I have never had to think outside the box as much as the past few weeks. Our 'norm' as we have known it changed immediately with the COVID-19 school closure. Although we may not know the entire impact of COVID-19 for years to come, I know without question that I appreciate the amazing students and staff at Fort Osage more than ever. We have shown that in times of need we can overcome any challenge and still provide supports for students and each other. I know we will get through this challenging time.... Together......