By ROBERT SHEARON
Special to the LCJ/Ledger
HOWE–Howe Public Schools will enter the new school year with the highest fund balance ever, despite tight economic times, according to Superintendent Scott Parks.
Parks told the school board at its meeting on Monday that the general fund balance is now $1.056 million, roughly $200,000 over the same period last year.
“We are in a strong position to weather the storm,” he said. “We have been able to outplace the cuts (revenue cuts by the state).”
He explained the district foresaw the state’s economic crisis that caused many agencies to have to slash budgets when tax revenues crashed during the past fiscal year. He said the district made some cuts “early on” during the crisis. Those cuts, combined with student growth, helped the district to stay ahead of the financial crisis, he said. He added that the district has had steady growth for the past 18 years, growing from 289 to over 600 students in that period.
In other matters, Parks announced the school would offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students this school year. He said roughly 82 percent of the district’s students were eligible for free or reduced price lunches under federal guidelines, which allows the district to offer the program to all students.
The school board adopted policy updates by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, including a provision to allow teachers to carry firearms on campus, with some restrictions.
Parks said the policy goes along with a law adopted by the state. He said the rule doesn’t mean teachers can show up armed at school at will. He said the rules allow for teachers to take specific training by the Council for Law Enforcement Education and Training, the same group that trains law police officers.
Besides being CLEET-trained, the staff must be authorized by the board of education before they can bring a weapon to school.
School registration is going high tech. Elementary Principal Jeremy Dyer told the board that students had the opportunity to register online this year. He said the last time he checked over 100 of the school’s 400 students had enrolled using the online option. “It’s quick and easy and you don’t have to leave the house,” he said.
High school principal Dennis Shoupe said high school students are also taking advantage of online registration. He said seven to eight students registered online during the first day of registration.
The advantage of registering online is that instead of filling out an 18-page form, the online form can sometimes be completed by answering three questions, if the student was enrolled in the district the previous year.
The district also renewed its transportation contract with Kiamichi Technology Center. KTC pays the district $21,000 to transport students enrolled in career tech classes between the school and KTC.
The board postponed a vote on staff salaries until August. Parks said the district would use the state minimum guidelines.
The board accepted the resignation of Dustin Long, a high school math and science teacher. Long has been offered employment with the Bokoshe School District.
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