Following the Nov. 2017 elections, Joyce Warshaw was elected to both the Dodge City Commission and the USD 443 Board of Education. Warshaw made the decision to take a seat on the commission, leaving a vacancy on the school board.
In January, the administration announced that it would accept applications from the community to fill the seat. At Monday's meeting, board members interviewed three applicants for the position. According to the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the selection process must be done in a public session.
Board members interviewed registered nurse Holly Legg, realtor Joseph Nuci, Jr., and Lewis Automotive Group vice president Jamey Lewis-Gonzales.
By a 4-2 vote the board appointed Lewis-Gonzales to fill the vacancy. Jeff Hiers made the motion to appoint Lewis-Gonzales, with Ryan Ausmus seconding. Board President Lisa Killion and Vice President Tammie West voted against Lewis-Gonzales' appointment.
Addressing the three applicants prior to the vote, Killion said each individual's qualifications and obvious passion for the position made the board's job a tough one.
"The three of you have made this decision very difficult," she said, "but I don't think we can go wrong with whoever we choose."
Hiers said his recommendation stemmed in part from Lewis-Gonzales' participation in November's election and that she would have been elected had Warshaw withdrawn from the race as planned.
"I have a feeling about this position since the beginning," Hiers said. "I'm sorry the election turned out the way it did and put people in this position. In my mind it should be the next man up. Jamey ... ran for election and went through this process already. I respect that. This has nothing to do with anybody being any more qualified."
Ausmus said the willingness of Lewis-Gonzales to put her name on the ballot last year had a lot of influence on his decision, regardless of the qualifications of all three applicants.
"I've been on a ballot myself so I understand that," he said. "All of you in many ways are qualified. No one of you is any less qualified than another, but the fact that Jamey did put herself out there in that way means a lot to me."
The appointment will be for the remainder of the unexpired term to which Warshaw was initially elected.
In other business, the board voted to renew its endorsement of a partnership with the Dodge City Family YMCA for a grant application to the 21st Century Community Learning Center.
In 2012, the board approved a similar partnership with the YMCA that enabled the organization to conduct after-school activities for students at the district's elementary schools. The grant which funds those partnership activities is now expiring and the district's endorsement is seen as vital to the YMCA being awarded the CCLC grants.
As part of the vehicle replacement cycle of the district's transportation plan, new vehicle purchases were approved by the board Monday.
Two new school buses were approved for purchase by the board. The buses, priced at $84,254 each with trade-in, will be purchased from Kansas Truck Equipment.
The board also approved a purchase order for three vehicles from Lewis Chevrolet. Three 2018 Chevy Suburbans were approved at a total cost of $116,093. Administrators also presented a request for a 2018 Chevy Silverado 2500HD at $43,414 to be used by the maintenance department, but the board asked for additional information as to the need for that vehicle prior to approval.
The board heard an update on the school finance lawsuit from attorney John Robb. Robb said the latest attempt by the legislature to fix the equity issues in Kansas school funding was shot down by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The court said the $293 million increase under Senate Bill 19 was still not adequate to address state needs. The state board of education has stated that an additional $893 million increase is needed. The court also found several equity violations that serve to tilt funding issues in favor of wealthy school districts.
Robb said the court has given the legislature until June 30 to fix the funding and equity issues it has declared to be inadequately funded for the last 12 years. The court appeared serious in not extending the deadline, and that it had no intention to be "complicit actors in the continuing depravation of constitutionally adequate and equitable education."
Unfortunately, the Kansas House and Senate appear to be heading in different directions. Robb said the House is seeking a constitutional amendment that would simply nullify the education article, therefore removing any oversight by the courts and allow the legislature to do as it pleases. The Senate has commissioned a new cost study in an attempt to show current funding is adequate.
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