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School board forms committee to advise on growth

Article Date: 
28 February, 2014 (All day)

The Morgan County School Board of Education wants input on how to handle anticipated growth, especially as it relates to expected increases in public school enrollment.  To get that input, the board has formed a growth advisory committee/task force.
“I envision producing a written report from the committee with different ideas we have contemplated, what we perceive the challenge is and different ways to meet the challenges,” said school board member Mark Farmer.  “The objective is to come up with ideas, and vet those ideas for long-term finances of the district, especially as related to population growth.”
The group’s first meeting will be the first Thursday in March.  It is anticipated that the group will produce a final written report by the end of first quarter 2015.
The group is comprised of all who applied for what was originally called the “finance committee.”  All committee members were appointed during the school board’s February meeting to serve on the growth committee for one year.
Community members on the committee include John Barber, Kera Birkeland, Brent Campbell, Brenda Crossley, Jennie Earl, Greg Richens, Natalie Sill, Ted Taylor and Ryan Windley.
Courtney Wallin will represent the Mountain Green Elementary School Community Council, to be joined with as yet unnamed representatives of community councils from the other three area schools. Farmer will represent the school board while Superintendent Doug Jacobs, Business Administrator D’Lynn Poll and District Maintenance Supervisor Darren Garner will represent the district.  Wade Murdock will represent the school principals while Jared Barlow will represent secondary teachers.  The committee is seeking for an elementary teacher representative. 
School board member Ken Durrant said the group may need to look at population projections, logistics and future elementary school.
School Board Chairman Bruce Galbraith said state projections predict the Morgan School District could grow by as many as 300 students in the next two years.
“This is a challenge and an opportunity,” Galbraith said.  “We are looking at some things that are going to be phenomenal.”
Farmer said the growth group’s focus would be on capital finances rather than operational finances. The district formed a separate Finance Committee to take a look at operational expenses and the district’s budget and also advise on money-saving tactics.
The Finance Committee includes Farmer, school board member Jody Hipwell, Superintendent Jacobs, and Poll.  Farmer said the finance group began operating in November.  Jacobs said the finance group is still in development and determined the need for a growth subcommittee.
“The Finance Committee is more of a special purpose board committee,” Farmer said.  “The purpose is for a couple of us to focus more fully on some of the board’s financial matters such as audits, so that we can get more comfortable with complex financial matters without spending as much time on them in the board meetings.  The issues we discuss there will also be brought up in the regular board meetings, but hopefully we can streamline the discussion in board meetings.”
Jacobs admitted that what started out as the desire for a finance group has “evolved” into the growth committee.  He said the growth committee is an offshoot of the Finance Committee.
“The finance committee has evolved,” Jacobs said.  “The (school) board felt that ‘finance’ was too limiting because the committee would need to look not only at financial matters, but also at other aspects of the school program.  The name ‘Growth Task Force’ seemed a more suitable name.”
Jacobs said the Finance Committee and growth committee are two of several other special purpose board committees addressing topics such as transportation, technology, district policies, curriculum and instruction, Morgan Education Foundation, Morgan High School scholarships, and Morgan Empowered.
Durrant said he is worried that with as many as 20 people on the growth advisory committee, the group may be too big.
“It can get cumbersome,” Durrant said of large group decisions.  “I wish you luck on keeping people on task.”
“All of us who attend this meeting will have preconceived notions of where things should go,” Farmer said.  “The task force might have some departures.  The hope is to set a common goal we can all get behind.”
Durrant said that although the committee will be compiling ideas for the board to consider, the school board itself should not rest easy.
“That doesn’t mean the board can sit back and allow a year’s time to see what their report will be,” Durrant said.  “Time is of the essence.”