by Alan McArthur and Ivan Foley
The Platte County R-3 School Board on Thursday solicited comments from patrons during a public forum about the board's search for a new superintendent for the 2009-2010 school year.
Dr. Mark Harpst has already announced the upcoming 2008-09 school year will be his last as superintendent.
If board members were hoping for a large turnout from the public, they almost certainly were disappointed. Only about three members of the public made comments, and two of those had to be prompted to do so by the board president.
Those who spoke said they had already submitted comments through the district's online survey available on the web at www.plattecountyschooldistrict.com/au_boardmem.htm.
“We want to hear from as many people as possible,” said Bob Shaw, board president.
“The school system is on a good track, and I'd hate to bring someone in who'd change everything,” said Paul Whitters, a Platte City resident. “I think this is a good-rounded school already and we need somebody who can manage and communicate.”
Whitters said his comments shouldn’t be taken to indicate he feels the district isn’t currently being managed effectively. He said he thinks it is.
Whitters told the board he believes the new superintendent should be very good at management and business, and that being a teacher was not as important.
Whitters, a senior citizen, said times have changed.
“When I was in school, a superintendent was a teacher and that was it,” he remarked.
“There are a lot of steps left to take,” said Shaw. “We are working on it, and take it very seriously.”
Shaw continued to say that the district was going to look nationwide for the best superintendent candidate.
According to Shaw, the board will continue to receive comments from the public concerning the search for the next month before they analyze the results. The board will then accept applications until a mid-October deadline before conducting interviews in November.
Shaw said they then hope to hire someone in December or maybe January. The new superintendent will officially take charge of the district on July 1.
In other matters, according Harpst the district is going to be over budget on gasoline expenses, but under budget on other items.
“The (end of the fiscal year) budget will be very close to balanced,” said Harpst.
“We’ll be within one percent, not a lot of surplus but not over budget, which is a good thing with protested taxes, etc.,” Harpst said.
The board also approved a preliminary budget for the 2008-2009 school year, including an expanded fund for gasoline. The district also hopes to save a substantial amount of money on gas by having the district's buses parked centrally at the District Education Center (Stiles Building) in Platte City.
“We'll save $40,000 to $50,000 by moving the bus barn,” said Harpst. “We were way over budget this year, we'll probably look at this again.”
The district can still update the budget before approving the final budget and setting the tax levy rate in August. Harpst explained that the buses get about 5 to 6 miles per gallon on diesel fuel.
The preliminary budget includes a number of new staff positions as well as some decreases in funding.
“We took a big hit from the airport,” said Harpst.
The Kansas City International Airport consolidated the rental car facilities into one location, which is on the south side of Cookingham Drive. The facilities were originally on the north side, which is in the Platte County R-3 School District's boundary; the new location is virtually across the street but is in the Park Hill School District.
It was also announced the district should have its Early Childhood Center (located in the structure formerly known as the Stiles Building) ready in time for the start of the upcoming school year.