Lovinger attends last meeting as R-5 board member

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday turned out to be Dr. Warren Lovinger's last Nevada Board of Education meeting. After 18 years on the board, Lovinger decided not to run for another term. He was to have attended one more meeting before a replacement is elected; but instead, he will be escorting Cottey College students on their annual trip to Europe, which is to Italy this year.

"I have been on the board for 216 meetings and I believe that in all that time I have missed only two meetings," Lovinger said. "Unfortunately, I will be out of town for what was to be my last meeting."

Lovinger expressed his appreciation for the many people he has come in contact with over the years and said that the whatever the board accomplished was done with the help of the administration and staff of the district.

"I have been fortunate to serve with a good group of people," Lovinger said. "The school board, administration and teachers all working for what's best for the students. I've loved my time on the board, I've enjoyed every moment of my time here."

In a report to the board, Superintendent Dr. David Stephens told of the on-going discussions with Mike Hamm, CEO of Heartland Behavioral Services, concerning the payment of tuition for out-of-state students. Over the years the percentage of out-of-state students has increased until they represent approximately 50 percent of the students receiving instruction in the facility.

"During our talks we started out with a proposal, that Heartland simply pay for every student instead of the incremental steps we are currently using and they countered with their own proposal, that we cut the program to reduce costs, which we don't think is best for the students," Stephens said. "The third option is to figure out the excess costs and simply present them with a bill at the end of the year, or we could figure out the costs on a monthly basis and present them monthly to help their cash flow."

Lovinger pointed out that before the R-5 district took over the program Heartland had maintained a private school for their clients which had not been successful.

"Heartland had their own school and it was not successful," Lovinger said. "I think it's clear that R-5 has been far more successful."

Heartland was congratulated on their success in attracting out-of-state clients to their program but it was noted that R-5 patrons should not pick up the tab for their education.

"They deserve a lot of credit for attracting the out-of-state clients," Lovinger said. "A lot of states don't have anything to compare to Heartland's program. That shows they are working hard to make their program a success. However, we shouldn't pay for their clients."

Stephens said no decision had been reached and he would continue to discuss the issue with Hamm.

The Vernon County Youth Task Force is working with school districts in the county to apply for a Safe Schools, Healthy Student Grant. Stephens explained that a consortium would be formed that included Nevada, Bronaugh, Sheldon and Northeast Vernon County schools with Nevada being the leading school.

"I think it is appropriate that Nevada be the lead school on this, it is the county seat," Stephens said.

Along with the funds would come some additional personnel.

"There would be a grant administrator and a grant coordinator who would be taken care of by the grant," Stephens said.

Questions were raised about who the employer of the two would be and Stephens said it would be the consortium that would employ the two, not any individual school district.

Bids were received from two companies, OOPA and Fresh Ideas for the food service at the district's schools but Assistant Superintendent Christie Peterson said the district was seeking more information before recommending one be accepted.

Peterson said Fresh Ideas was a relatively new company created by the founder of Orscheln's.

"They run the 3M concessions and are in a few of the smaller colleges," Peterson said.

"We are not prepared tonight to make a recommendation," Peterson said. "The U.S.D.A. has commodities available that can be used to offset some of the costs. Our current provider, OOPA has provided that information but we're waiting on Fresh Ideas to supply information on what they would credit us for using the commodities."

The board discussed adopting new policies on collective bargaining agreements which ended with Lovinger casting his last public vote on the board against a policy the rest of the board approved. The policies were suggested to the board by the Missouri School Boards Association because of a lawsuit from a firefighter against a municipality that did not have such a policy.

"The court was very clear about this," Stephens said. "In the absence of a statute you must have a policy regarding collective bargaining agreements, otherwise you open the door to lawsuits."

Lovinger objected saying that, working together, the board, administrators and teachers had always put the interests of the students above their own.

"I am just against this," Lovinger said. "I think it would send the wrong message and possibly destroy the cooperation we've had where the board, the administration and the faculty are acting as advocates for the students."

Lovinger suggested adopting the policies but adding a foreword stating that the board opposed such a bargaining unit be formed but Stephens said that could be construed as coercion, which is illegal.

"If we did that it could be said that we're attempting to interfere in the teachers rights to organize," Stephens said. "If it does come up, at that time I could go to them and point out that if they do this it could destroy the tradition we have had of cooperation and turn it into an adversarial process."

The board voted to adopt the program with Lovinger voting no.

The board did not set a date for the start of the 2009-2010 school year but did vote to authorize a day more than 10 days before Labor Day. The date will be set at a later time after reviewing information on how many students would be affected by an opening on the Aug. 19, which is in the middle of the Missouri State Fair.

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