R-5 schools earn high marks in academics and special education

Friday, October 15, 2004

By Lynn A. Wade

Nevada Daily Mail

The Nevada R-5 school district has earned top honors in several areas recently, according to reports presented to the board of education Wednesday night.

Nevertheless, Superintendent Ted Davis said that it's impossible to keep doing more with less -- less funding, that is.

The district's accomplishments brought praise from the board members and from administrators.

For example, a recent self-assessment of special education issues passed state muster with flying colors.

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state evaluates performance results, reviews student files and public input, evaluates unique conditions and notes persistent compliance or non-compliance. The special education services were found to be in compliance with the rules, and the report was complete, so no on-site visit by state officials was deemed necessary. Davis said that's a major accomplishment, and Director of Special Services Gerry Johnson agreed.

"They said if they could give stars, we'd get five," Johnson said.

Skipping the on-site review is not only an applaudable administrative effort, but doing so allows the staff to focus on instruction rather than on preparing for an on-site visit.

In addition, the district's annual audit report, presented by Renda Armstrong of Daniel and Associates, revealed little criticism of the district's finances and accounting practices.

The lone issue of concern was that there isn't enough segregation of duties when it comes to handling the flow of money, leaving some opportunity for problems. However, Armstrong noted that there are many secondary fail-safes in place.

Auditors also suggested that if signature stamps are used that the signor keep the stamp at all times so there's little opportunity for misuse of the stamp.

Other district accomplishments include the accreditation with distinction announced last month.

Davis noted that the designation indicates Nevada's schools are among about the top 20 percent in the state, in terms of the Missouri School Improvement Plan. A document from the DESE indicated that the district met all of DESE's requirements in district performance on Missouri academic placement tests.

"We are not average at all in academics. We're well above average. But we are below average in funding. If we'd spent the average (compared with other districts in the state), we would have spent $3.7 million more. We continue to look at a major deficit," Davis said.

He reported that last year, the district reduced spending by about $200 per student, but cautioned, "Don't think we can expect to spend significantly less than others and expect to give a greater service to our students."

A few more cents would make a tremendous difference, Davis said, and the only way to get more funds from the state is to generate more local funds.

A 39-cent tax levy increase will be on the February 8 ballot.

If the voters approve the measure, the R-5 levy will be $3.85, which will still be 17 cents below the state average.

In other business, the board:

* Approved minor policy changes relating to closed meetings.

* Heard a report about Nevada Regional Technical Center and the Adult Education programs.

* Hired Randy Blasdel and Thomas Denney as para-professionals for the Heartland Treatment Center during a closed session. Student disciplinary matters were also reviewed.

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