Thursday, July 30, 2015

Center Schools begin year with positive financial outlook

By Mary Wilson


The Center School Board received a quarterly financial report, summarizing the fiscal year of 2014-2015, at the regular meeting on Monday, July 27. Leading up to the report presented by Director of Business Dr. Michael Weishaar, the board of education has kept an eye on the budget given the current fiscal climate.

“We’ve had a lot happen in the last four or five weeks, good and bad,” said Weishaar.

Near the end of June 2015, the district received notification from Jackson County regarding protests to property taxes of approximately $300,000. For the year, Center School District received a hit of $900,000 total in protests.

“We have begun our talks to find out what we can do, if anything, to forecast this a little better going forward,” said Weishaar. “Some of those protests to taxes have gone back to 2012.”

Despite the nearly-million-dollar hit, the district completed the year at negative $1.1 million, a decrease of $500,000 from the prior year. Coincidentally, the proposal for the 2014-2015 budget was right on target with where the district ended up.

“Keeping in mind, six or seven months ago, we thought we’d be at $1.6 or $1.7 million deficit,” said Weishaar, “the conservative aspect we took all year certainly showed. We could have been under one-million dollars had we not been hit with the protests again.”

With the negative $1.1 million, the district’s reserves began the next fiscal year at 25%. Last month, the board of education approved a budget of negative $380,000.

“We’ve got some challenges and we need to be conservative again,” said Weishaar. “We don’t have any contingency fund built into the protests to taxes, so any that come up this year will come off of that bottom line.”

Weishaar went on to say that he believes the past year was unique in the amount of protests to taxes the district received. To continue the good news, however, the county delivered preliminary assessed valuation for the district of $380 million, $11 million higher than last year and a 3.1% increase.

“I’ve always said, for every million dollar increase, it’s about $55,000,” said Weishaar. “When assessed valuation is down and starts to climb back up, you don’t necessarily gain what you lost when it was down. When it goes up a lot like it did, it forces you to drop your tax rate ceiling.”

With an $11 million increase, the district will see their tax rate dramatically decrease. The final assessed valuation numbers will be received from Jackson County in September. This is the first time in eight years the district has seen an increase in assessed valuation.

“It is time to celebrate. Bottom line, we ended the year with the $500,000 decrease,” said Weishaar. “Kudos to the staff, the teachers, and the directors for keeping an eye on every dollar we spend. We couldn’t have done it without the group effort.”

The board also heard a report from Lorenzo Boyd, Managing Director with Stifel Financial, bond underwriters for the district, regarding their bond financing outlook. The district will continue, with Stifel’s partnership, to look for ways to save on interest in bond financing going forward.

Also at the meeting, Elizabeth Heide, Director of Human Resources and Student Services, presented to the board a new program to help meet the needs of students in the district. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a concept developed by Dr. Tim Lewis, a professor at the University of Missouri, which helps the district to create interventions to increase student success.

“As we analyzed our data last year, we realized we needed to look into how we can reach more kids,” said Heide. “We need to find where the holes are with our kids.”

The district will partner with Dr. Lewis and his team of researchers to begin looking into the data and discovering ways to provide interventions in the learning and behavior patterns of students. There is no charge for the partnership, as Lewis will use the research garnered to grow the program.

The Center School Board meets monthly at Boone Elementary. The next regular meeting will be on Monday, August 24.

Editor’s Note: The Jackson County Advocate is proud to increase our coverage to include Center School District news and sports.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grandview’s ‘Recycle Lady’ named Citizen of the Year

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

What began as an exercise routine many years ago has turned into local accolades for Grandview resident Katie Reimann. Walking five miles roundtrip in the morning and another five miles in the evening, Reimann has affectionately become known as the Grandview “Recycle Lady” by many neighbors and friends in the community.

Reimann, who has resided in Grandview since two days shy of Christmas in 1976 when her late husband was stationed at Richards- Gebaur, retired from nursing at St. Joseph Health Center and saw her three children graduate from Grandview High School.

Growing up with a father who lived in the Adirondack Mountains, Reimann and her sister would often go on walks with their dad through the woods.

“My dad always told us, ‘you carry it in, you carry it out.’ Whatever we took with us, gum or candy wrappers, always had to go back in the house,” said Reimann.

Today, on her daily walks, Reimann picks up recyclable materials and takes them along her journey.
She says she picks up some actual trash, though not all of it, and she knows where all the larger trash receptacles are around town.

“When I see stuff in the street, it drives me crazy,” said Reimann. She has been an active member of the Highgrove Estates Neighborhood Association and was Block Captain when informational flyers were distributed to neighbors.

On Tuesday, July 14, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones and the Board of Aldermen presented Reimann with a proclamation and named her Grandview’s 2015 Citizen of the Year. A resident is selected annually who has earned the respect and admiration of the Grandview community for his or her untiring efforts in improving the quality of life.

“I am so humbled by this,” said Reimann. “There are people that do so much more than me picking up trash. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, why me? I’m still in disbelief.”

Reimann said that she enjoys her walks outdoors because of the things she sees. She likes the bunnies, squirrels and birds, and she says it’s good for the waistline. In a thank-you letter to Mayor Jones, Reimann said she is sure that her father is looking down and smiling.

“I’m sure he’s proud that I’m still taking in what I brought out, even if it’s not mine,” said Reimann.
“We are grateful for Katie,” said Jones. “She has been a blessing and she is very selfless. We appreciate her very much.”

As part of her recognition, the Recycle Lady Katie Reimann will serve as the Grand Marshal in the 2016 Truman Heritage Festival Parade.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Leech Leaves Lasting Legacy on GHS Sports

by Paul Thompson

 
When the school year begins anew in August, Andy Leech will assume his new role as the interim assistant principal of Martin City K-8.

The position represents a promotion for the former Grandview High School engineering teacher, so it might be surprising to learn that the move will be somewhat bittersweet for Leech. That’s because after six-plus years as Grandview’s varsity football and boys’ track and field coach, Leech will be stepping down in both capacities. In some ways, he says he’s still getting used to calling himself ‘Mr. Leech.’

"I feel like I need more time to digest. It’s not going to be an easy change losing football," admitted Leech, sitting in the coaches office at Grandview’s athletic fieldhouse. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really excited to be at Martin City. I’m hoping to dive in and just work like crazy, because that’s what I’ll have to do."

The notion of coaching was ingrained into Leech’s mind from a young age. While he has come to love his time coaching the high school’s track and field program – winning five straight state championships certainly helps – he says that football has always been his biggest passion. In fact, Leech claims that his mother still has evidence of his early interest in coaching.

"In second grade, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and then they posted it in the paper," he said. "My mom still has it: ‘Andy Leech, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I had football coach. Not football player, but football coach. My whole life, football has been my number-one love."

Leech would have liked to win more games during his stint as Grandview’s head football coach, but he remains proud of the way he and his staff have been able to send players off to the next level. Several Grandview players have gone on to play Division I college football during his tenure, and the team has had as many as 10 players sign college scholarships in the same season.

"I wish we had done better record-wise, but there’s a lot more to it than just record. It’s really the kids you affect, and watching what they do when they leave the program," said Leech. "That’s the other thing that makes this so hard, is that we’ve got another great group of kids. We’ll probably have 10 kids on signing day again this year."

Of course, Leech has also shepherded a talented group of track and field athletes over the past five years. When invited to a recent C-4 Board of Education meeting to celebrate the track team’s fifth consecutive state championship, superintendent Ralph Teran asked Leech to describe the feeling. Even then, Leech said he had trouble grasping what had happened over the previous five years.

"(Winning) four is unheard of, and there are no words to describe five. It was an amazing effort by all those kids," he said. "It was an amazing run, and it’s not over. I really think they’re going to win it next year. Most of our points are returning, with some great young talent. It could stretch to six or seven pretty easily."

Teaching a group of kids to believe in themselves is often a team effort, and Leech knows that it takes an entire coaching staff to help student-athletes blossom. He mentions the cadre of talented assistant coaches who have helped guide the team’s success, and champions Grandview’s youth track and field programs as a key influence in the team’s long-running success.

"It’s not just me. The staff is all about showing kids their potential," Leech said. "Whether their potential be earning a scholarship, be turning in their assignments and realizing that school matters, or whether their potential is to win state – we’ve had a lot of kids do some amazing things."

While assistant coach Jeremie Picard has been named interim head football coach, no replacement has yet to be announced for the Grandview track and field head coaching job. Leech doubts the district will have much trouble finding a suitable candidate.

"There’s still the track piece, but who wouldn’t want to coach track at Grandview?" said Leech with a laugh. "We’re not going to have any trouble finding someone."

Leech’s appetite for coaching only becomes more apparent as he reminisces about his career. He began as an assistant football coach at Grandview in 1999. But over the years, somehow, he’s added more responsibility to his resume. He picked up a role on the track and field team during his second year teaching, coached middle school and freshman basketball for a handful of years, and continued to move up the coaching ladder. He was named the head track and field coach in 2007, and picked up the football head-coaching duties a couple of years later.

Perhaps his passion is best exemplified by his first year in the Grandview football program. Leech and his wife wed on August 7, 1999. The couple enjoyed just two days of married life before they headed back to Grandview on August 9 so Leech could attend football practice.

"We got up after our wedding day, opened gifts, and then drove to Grandview and got ready for two-a-days the next morning," says Leech. "She has never complained; she’s been fantastic."

Still, after all these years patrolling the sidelines, Leech knew it was time to take a step back, while also taking a step forward. He’s looking forward to facing new trials as an administrator, and he’s excited to join his new teammates at a new school.

"July 15 will be my first day at Martin City," said Leech. "We’ve talked, and I’ve got my list of things to do. It’s extensive, which is good. I’ll dive right in and try to do the best job possible. It’s a new challenge, and that’s really what it’s all about for me."

The new role will also afford Leech more opportunities to keep track of his former players, many of whom are still competing at the college level. His responsibilities to the football program typically consisted of Friday night games followed by early-morning film sessions, so he’s now looking forward to more free Saturdays.

"I didn’t get to nearly as many games as I wanted to when I was coaching. It was always after the season, we’d get two or three weeks," said Leech. Now I’m going to make that trip to Lincoln to see Freedom (Akinmoladun) do his thing, and I’d love to get out to Wyoming to see Ry’one (Winters)."

Having been around so much transcendent talent, Leech will have his hands full if he wants to keep tabs on all his former student-athletes. From national record-holding high jumpers to future NFL quarterbacks, Leech has been around for some impressive moments in Grandview sports history.

"Not too many coaches have seen what I’ve seen over the last 16 years at Grandview High School," said Leech. "A 7’6" high jumper (James White), Romey Reaws winning state and breaking the school record in his last attempt at the pole vault, Dapo (Akinmoladun) running a 13.56 in the 110 meter hurdles at state, Apa (Visinia) pancaking 100 kids in a season, Brandon Kinney and Josh Freeman doing all the things that they did, Maliek and Harvey Kendall; we’ve just had some unbelievable athletes come through. It’s just awesome to be a part of that in any way."