Maries R-1 superintendent attends budget, finance workshop

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 11/30/22

VIENNA — Maries R-1 Superintendent Teresa Messersmith presented her monthly report to school board members at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting.

After attending a budget and finance …

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Maries R-1 superintendent attends budget, finance workshop

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VIENNA — Maries R-1 Superintendent Teresa Messersmith presented her monthly report to school board members at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting.

After attending a budget and finance workshop, Messersmith had some ideas to share. She said she hopes a grant that helps schools pay their teachers a minimum salary of $38,000 per year will continue into next year so Maries R-1 could consider it again.

“I just want to bring it to the board’s attention because we don’t know if it will be available next year, but if it is, something that we’re going to have to keep in mind is that $38,000 minimum salary,” Messersmith said. “If not, we’re going to have a hard time getting applicants when we’re $8,000 below anyone around us. I think we might have some teachers who might consider leaving for an $8,000 raise. Keep in mind, if that grant is still there, we may have to look into it.”

Board member Mike Kleffner asked Messersmith if any surrounding schools moved to a minimum $38,000 teacher salary plan.

“All of them did,” Messersmith said. “Iberia, Dixon, Crocker, Fatima, St. Elizabeth, Belle, they all did it.”

“So if we did that, would everybody move to $38,000?” board member Matt Novak asked. “Or would we have to prorate it equal to the number of years of service?”

“It would be anyone who is not currently making $38,000,” Messersmith said.

Several board members showed concern that giving teachers making less than $38,000 per year a raise might upset teachers making more than $38,000 who do not receive a proportional raise. They also asked if anyone knew how long the grant would be available.

“There’s no guarantee,” Messersmith said. “It might not be available next year. No one knows how long it will be around, but predictions say it will be around as long as Governor Parson is in office because he is a big proponent and he is really pushing this. It’s just something to think about.”

Messersmith recommended a couple of other grants.

“The career ladder grant is kind of the same way,” she said. “We don’t know if it will be available, but if it is available, we should try to do that because that is something that supports our veteran teachers more than our new teachers.” A teacher retention grant would incentivize the district to retain and recruit teachers, and a “grow your own” teacher program would let the district give out scholarships to students pursuing degrees in education.

In other business:

Messersmith updated the board about enrollment numbers. The elementary school had 219 students, the middle school had 91 students and the high school had 168 students for a total of 478 students.

In the cafeteria, the district purchased two new tables.

“We plan to replace two of those every year until we get them all in good shape,” Messersmith said.

She also said Thermal Pro Heating & Cooling would work in the cafeteria on Nov. 23 to upsize the propane lines. A new stove will arrive on Nov. 29 from the food service equipment company Hobart.

Mary Halbrook donated $2,000 to the district to pay for lunch charges. 

“She wrote us a nice letter saying that she gives to other countries and she wanted to support her own community,” Messersmith said. “She doesn’t want the kids being embarrassed or anything by their lunch charges.” Messersmith said the district first applied the money to students who participate in the free and reduced lunch program and have shown exceptional need. Then, the district looked at factors such as the amount of money students owed and their grade levels. The district also prioritized high school juniors and seniors to avoid withholding diplomas because of unpaid lunch charges.

After applying the donations to student accounts, the district still had about $7,500 in unpaid lunch charges. Messersmith that number is a little deceiving because some of those outstanding charges are from faculty and staff who will eventually pay.

Four-day school weeks have been a major topic of discussion at conferences Messersmith attends. Cuba is moving to a four-day school week, and Steelville is considering switching to a four-day school week. 

“If this happens, we will be the only district left in our conference that is not on a four-day school week,” she said. “That’s something our teachers have been talking about. I see pros, and I see cons. One thing that helps us is Dixon, Iberia, Crocker, Fatima, all the schools around us, they’re not.”

Messersmith said she did not want to get into a major discussion of four-day weeks at the November meeting, but she wanted the board members to be aware of the changes happening at other schools in the conference.

“Cyber-security is one more thing that’s been a big topic,” Messersmith said. “We’ve talked about this before. MUSIC, our insurance company, is going to have some requirements we need to meet. If we don’t meet those requirements for cyber-security, they are not going to cover us for as much.”

She said she could not recall the exact numbers, but it was a drastic difference in coverage.

“We can’t afford to not do these requirements. It is going to cost somewhere around $50,000 to get your school equipped for cyber-security.”

She said district technology director Kevin Schwartze had been attending webinars through MUSIC, and he had begun implementing security measures such as multi-factor authentication for emails.

Messersmith attended an informational webinar about lead water testing, which she said would happen next year. Filters at the main entrance of water into the school’s system could cost between $40,000 and $50,000, but filters on pipes could increase the cost to the district to about $100,000 in total. Messersmith said there are some grants available to elementary schools to pay for the filters, and she would look into those.

Midwest Roofing completed work on the elementary school roof. 

“There have been no leaks with that, so that’s good,” Messersmith said. Missouri Builders Service will replace the middle school roof over the summer.

Integrated Facility Services completed the installation of the district’s new boiler on Nov. 10.

“It’s working great,” Messersmith said. “The temperature is steady down there.”

The elementary restrooms are having issues with toilets and sinks. Messersmith recommended that the board put the issue on the summer maintenance list.

Rommel’s Lock and Alarm ordered the parts the school needs to use a keyless entry on the door near the gym.

Messersmith said the hardware to repair the main entrance doors at the elementary has arrived. She has tried to get someone from Bales Construction, the company that installed the doors, to come to the school and make the repairs because the doors are under a one-year warranty. The company said someone from the school could install the parts, but board members were concerned that work on the doors done by anyone other than Bales Construction would void the warranty.

“If they don’t get here, they need to put something in writing that it won’t void the warranty,” board vice-president Penny Schoene said.

Messersmith said JC Harker plans to connect the district with people who can fix some issues in the agriculture shop. The shop needs a new exhaust fan and some repairs to a panel box and an outlet. Harker is also providing the district names of engineers who may be able to help with rewiring the elementary.

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