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Swedeborg plans $10,000 payment tonight on tuition bill to Richland
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 19, 2010) — When the Richland R-IV School Board meets tonight, it will be offered a $10,000 payment on more than $26,000 owed by the Swedeborg R-III School District in tuition.

Swedeborg District Administrator Joe Dunlop strongly recommended at Monday night’s Swedeborg school board meeting that his district make the payment to show a good-faith attempt to pay its bills since the Richland board will vote tonight on whether to grant a tuition payment deferral to the cash-strapped Swedeborg district.

One option, Dunlop said, is to cash in a $12,000 certificate of deposit to pay the bills due to Richland.

“We have one remaining CD in the bank. I’ve guarded it like a mother hen but I think it’s time,” Dunlop said. “They aren’t expecting us to make it all up but they are expecting us to make some type of payment … When I talked to (Richland Superintendent Joe) Ridgeway, I asked how he would assess the situation, and he said Richland doesn’t even have any CDs right now.”

Swedeborg is Pulaski County’s last remaining K-8 district that doesn’t offer a high school program. That means Swedeborg students need to attend high school in another district, which most commonly means Richland but sometimes also means the Crocker R-II School District or the Waynesville R-VI School District.

Board member Chris Black asked why Dunlop wanted to cash in the CD when the district may have enough cash to pay the $10,000 bill; Dunlop said that could create cash-flow issues but said making a substantial payment is more important than the source of the payment.

“I just think that since tomorrow night is going to be the determining vote for our request they are expecting us to do something,” Dunlop said.

“If there’s enough cash there to pay it, let’s leave the CD there for now,” said board president Jamie Alexander. After learning there’s about $25,000 in the district’s cash account, board members agreed to follow that recommendation. Dunlop said the district currently has higher-than-normal cash balances because of property tax payments.

Newly appointed board member Judy Moss wanted more details.

“How did we get the money into the CD to begin with?” Moss asked.

Black said about a half-decade ago, the board had extra funds and purchased three certificates of deposit. The $12,000 CD is the last of the three remaining CDs, he said.

In other budget matters, Dunlop said he realizes staff cuts are often made by school districts facing financial trouble but said that’s probably not a good choice for Swedeborg since the district’s low Missouri Assessment Program test scores have triggered a state review.

“The way I see it, our educational priority in this district needs to be improving our MAP scores,” Dunlop said. “My big goal between now and April is to find a way to make as big a change in our MAP scores as we can … I’m totally convinced that nothing replaces having the right student-teacher ratio and having someone who can sit down and show a kid how to do the multiplication tables. If you don’t have that, all the frills you try to put in won’t matter.”

Dunlop said he’s also aggressively seeking grants and federal economic stimulus money for the Swedeborg district, including President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.

“We are on the list along with all the other schools in the Frisco League area,” Dunlop said. “It may turn out to be nothing at all, we may not be eligible due to our size, but on the other hand we may be.”

Responding to comments by one board member that the stimulus program is free money, Dunlop agreed and said that’s more reason to seek ways Swedeborg can participate.

“That’s right; I can smell it a hundred miles off,” Dunlop said.

In other business:

• Swedeborg board members received a $100 check and a plaque from the Sellers-Sexton car dealership for Katy Hensen, a first-year teacher selected by Swedeborg as its teacher of the quarter.

• Dunlop said the district will now have to meet federal title program criteria for the entire district, not just its preschool and kindergarten program. That will mean more paperwork, he said, but also means more students can receive services with federal funds.

• Dunlop presented policies from the Missouri School Boards Association for adoption on homeless and non-English speaking students, neither of which categories currently are present in the Swedeborg district, noting that the district has to have a policy in place in case students moved into the district who fit those categories. Dunlop said in the future, the Swedeborg district may be using the Missouri Association for Rural Education policy set rather than the MSBA policy set, which Dunlop and Alexander both said is better-designed for small rural districts.

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