Preston School District is preparing to go back to the public to renew a plant facility levy for the district’s upcoming efforts to meet the demands of growth. For the last four years, the district has funded the completion of several projects with $900,000 per year from the five-year-levy.

In that time, the district has spent $3.2 million to add classrooms, a gymnasium, lunchroom and cafeteria to the Pioneer Elementary, begun remodeling classrooms to be secure in the Oakwood Elementary, added classrooms to the high school and built a crows nest and upper concourse for the football field, improved parking lots and playgrounds, and built a new maintenance shop, said district superintendent Marc Gee.

“I’ve been in three or four schools with basketball traveling around, and … they have same problems we do — old areas of school, ruts in parking lots, we’ve done a good job. Hats off to our crew who are working internally. They are doing good job,” said board member Brandon Roberts.

District leaders feel there is much left to do to either maintain or improve the district’s facilities, and they say it can be done without increasing current taxing levels.

With new plant facility levy funds, they plan the following at each of the district’s schools:

Pioneer: Replace the HVAC system.

Oakwood: Remodel classrooms to provide better security, such as doors.

Preston Junior High: resurface broken pavement where the busses park, eliminate the disparity between classroom temperatures and add air conditioning, add two new classrooms, and an additional music room, and additional parking in front of building.

Preston High School: renovate classrooms in the original section of the building, improve the HVAC system in the classrooms and auditorium, replace the roof on the original section of the school, replace the district’s deteriorating track and add privacy fencing, replace the sprinkling system there, level out the soccer field, build bleachers at the football field, replace interior door locks and replace damaged bleachers in the new gymnasium.

Although the district is asking for more money from the community, board members hope the community sees the value of its investment when it comes time to vote.

“We are the most financially solvent district in the state,” said outgoing board member Fred Titensor, who has served the school board for the last 12 years. “Our house is in order.”

“We need this (new plant facility) or your house will not be in order in another five years” said board chair, Joy Christensen.

In other business, the district discussed ways to improve accountability for funds and ways to prevent opportunities for fraud or embezzlement. Board members offered several ideas from their experience of operating their own businesses and farms. The district is currently in the process of prosecuting a former employee for embezzlement.

That being said, the district is thankful for the integrity they have noted in most of their employees, especially those currently working for them, said Gee.

Future Farmers of America

Representatives of the PHS FFA delegation thanks the board for their support in taking 17 students on a trip to the National FFA Convention back East in October. In addition to meeting with 65,000 youth from around the country at the conference, PHS students were able to visit a variety of venues, from the Indy Motor Speedway race track to the St. Louis Archway, Anheueser Busch factory with his teams of Clydesdale horses, Nauvoo and its historical sites and Caterpillar’s showroom.

“We took 17 kids. It is a beneficial educational opportunity for years to come,” said advisor Katie Wells.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to go back there this year,” said student Tori Benoit. She also reported that she and other members of the PHS Poultry Judging team took 18th in the nation while at the convention.

New high school Spanish teacher, Dakota Atkinson asked the district for support in providing an opportunity for his students to discover the world through international travel. He described the experiences he has had taking students from Century High, were he last taught, to Costa Rica, Europe and other places.

“The goal and desire of my classes is to (have the students) speak it (Spanish). As I’ve done these trips, it is amazing to have kids come and say that they were able to ask for something and understand the answer,” he said. “I had one kid say, with tears in his eyes, ‘you were right this is the most amazing experience I’ve had in my life.’”

He hopes to create trips with teacher from other disciplines a the school as well, to incorporate science, history or art in the experience.

Although the trips would not be school sanctioned, the board supported his idea. Atkinson plans the trips for summertime and invites parents to participate as well.

“It is super exciting. Thanks for taking initiative to do it,” Titensor told Atkinson.

New board members

Titensor and Roberts were thanked by Preston Education Association representative, Camille Jensen, for their leadership on the board. Both are ending their terms in December. They will be replaced with uncontested candidates, Darren Cole of Whitney and Kayla Roberts of Fairview. Because Cole and Roberts ran unopposed, the county chose to save money by not printing their names on the ballot during the recent election, said Gee.

“We want to tell Mr. Titensor and Mr. Roberts how much we appreciate what you’ve done for us (teachers),” said Jensen.

Kristin Skinner reported on the district’s after-school program, stating that 59 students now participate in the program at Preston Junior High. She is working to expand it to the elementary school as well.

Board member Jody Shumway noted that he was impressed with the way Preston’s youth have “risen to the occasion,” as they have competed against larger schools in their sports division. He also noted the efforts of Preston’s coaches have made “to help kids compete at this level. Our girls have 12 years competing at state and boys team finished second for the second year in a row, and the girls finished seventh. I’m just impressed with what they do with opportunity,” he said.

Titensor expressed his admiration for auto mechanic teacher Kasey Keller’s program. When Titensor visited the class, Keller “had a group of kids up to their elbows in grease. They were getting phenomenal instruction. That program, for years was a shining star — it was our alternative school. Now it is getting back to good numbers. I was really impressed,” he said.

Board member Joy Christensen said that it was important that the story of education is told. “Eighty percent of the workforce in the United States are public school graduates. We’re doing ok.” She noted that the time frame the public school system uses to educate students thasn’t change ed in 100 years, “but the subject and information that is required to cover has increased immensely,” she said. “We do need to do a better job of telling our story” and remember that “You can’t run schools like a business.”

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