Dr. Jeremy Burright, Superintendent
The Fairfax R-3 School District has many things to be thankful for as we close the 2018-2019 school year. We deeply understand our role as stewards of our community’s educational resources and we work constantly to ensure that the trust given to us is earned. We do this by taking advantage of opportunities to guarantee progress occurs in our district while we preserve the traditions of our community. It’s good to be a Bulldog!
First and foremost, the district benefited from the support of our increased tax levy through construction and teacher raises. Overall, we will be contributing $189,000 to our reserve this year. This contribution is being made in accordance to the plan shared with the community during the discussions about an increased tax levy. We did our best to construct a financial model that accounted for inflation while prioritizing items that needed immediate action. Over the next few years, and barring emergencies, we will be able to contribute to our reserves while we prepare for inflation to catch up with our supply of steady revenue.
Construction on our gym and gym locker rooms came in under budget to the tune of $57,000. This money will be used to update our fire alarm system and take care of as many remaining items as we can squeeze out of it. We are also in the final stages of our insurance claim, which allowed us roof replacements for the elementary school, high school, cafeteria, and gym. While we have been able to secure the infrastructure of our gym and upgrade our locker rooms and bathrooms, we still have several projects that had to be tabled due to good fiscal stewardship and urgency. We will be looking for ways to finance a camera system in the buildings, upgrade our cafeteria, update our football field bleachers, and replace worn-out windows in our facility. While we know we have outstanding projects, we also understand that an increased tax rate places a burden on our stakeholders. We appreciate the continuing financial support of the community and the work we have been able to do because of it. That support has helped us preserve our facility along with the history and traditions associated with it.
This year we were also able to participate in a Department of Natural Resources grant that fully funded a bus for our district. We expect the new bus to be here prior to the start of the school 2019-2020 school year and can’t wait to put it to work as our trip and athletic transportation vehicle. Along with this, the district is in the process of slowly replacing our school vans and we hope to have a new van for transporting small groups of students in the fall of the 2019-2020 school year. The purchase of this vehicle is made possible through the fiscal management of the board and the funds available through the increase in local funding.
Fortunately, our teachers and non-certified staff will receive raises for the 2019-2020 school year. Unfortunately, because of increasing insurance costs many employees will have a significant increase in their out-of-pocket insurance expenses. Though the board continues to pay the same percentage of insurance for employees as it has in the past, for some the increase in pay of 2% for certified staff and 4% for non-certified staff will be just enough to offset insurance premium costs. These pay increases represent the largest increases in pay in the last four years and the district remains dedicated to increasing employee pay. In fact, the board sees employee pay as a budgeting priority moving forward. Additionally, we are committed to caring for our staff by doing whatever we can to find affordable and effective health insurance for them. We want our district to be a place that great teachers want to come to and stay. Having competitive wages and benefits is one of the ways we can do this.
We’re grateful to our legislative representatives, especially Allen Andrews, for the work they did this year on House Bill 220. Representative Andrews sponsored this successful bill which changed the way windmill developments, owned by public utilities, are taxed and how those taxes are distributed. Because of the work of Representative Andrews and our state and local officials, local counties will now receive any tax money generated by a wind farm in the ownership of a public utility. This is great for Northwest Missouri because part of this money will go to local school districts through the normal property tax process. This bill, which was signed by the governor on July 10, 2019, will serve to buoy operating budgets, allow districts and counties to be more progressive, and may even reduce the tax burden on the citizen through lower levy amounts.
Fairfax R-3 implemented new assessment practices in 2018-2019 to better diagnose the learning needs of our students. In the 2019-2020 school year we will be changing reading curriculum in hopes of increasing reading comprehension and student literacy. Especially in our information age, literacy is a gateway skill. Because of this it is important to guarantee our students are strong in their ability to process digital and hardcopy text effectively.
We continue to take steps to give our students access to 21st century learning through new assessments and instructional models. After being implemented in all of our elementary classrooms in 2018-2019, our Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program will expand into the middle school in the 2019-2020 school year. Almost all of the new learning in PLTW has been made possible by donations and this is again an example of the unwavering community support for the work of our district and its students. PLTW gives students the opportunity to exercise advance problem solving skills while learning our science curriculum. While literacy is a gateway skill that opens doors of understanding in all content areas and subjects, problem solving is a key life skill that cannot be overlooked. Giving our students access to PLTW curriculum better prepares them for life without instructions.
Unfortunately, for this update we do not have academic scores to share from state testing. However, we will keep the community informed as those become available. It is always exciting to see how well the hard work done throughout the school year impacts these measurements. For a glance at last year’s scores, feel free to take a look at the MCDS portal on the DESE website. Once scores are made public, they are all posted in this location.
We are quickly moving out of the summer and soon will be thinking about getting the school year started. Here are some dates to remember as we wind down the summer break: Our athletic dead week is August 3 through 11, registration will be August 6, the Fairfax Fair will be August 9 and 10, teacher work days begin on August 12, Back to School Night is August 13, and the first day of school is August 15. If you are a Fairfax R-3 family, don’t forget that the first two days of school are scheduled, early outs.
Lastly, we want to welcome our new teachers into our community. We will miss those staff members who must leave us but we are also excited to have such great people joining us. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, we will be welcoming Aleesha Ball, Agriculture; Garret Jackson, Secondary Math; and Jonnie Kemerling, Secondary English. Our elementary team has new faces as well. We look forward to working with Krystal Schieffer, LoryAnne Daugherty, and Betsy Larson in our elementary classrooms this year.
The Fairfax R-3 School District sends a huge “thank you” to all of our supporters in our Fairfax and Atchison County community. We are proof that, because of the involvement of the community and the smart, hard work of our personnel, our model of public schools is effective. We are a district filled with and surrounded by wonderful people that keep the children of this community at the forefront of our collective thinking and planning. We look forward to another year of working in partnership with our stakeholders.