Riley County Commissioners Meeting for February 6, 2017

Report on the Board of Riley County Commissioners Meeting for February 6, 2017

Observer:  Bill Shenk-Hamlin

The following topics were covered.

Topics of the Business Meeting

  1. Pawnee Mental Health Services contract was unanamously approved without comment. The cost of the contract for one year is $257,400.
  2. CASA requested the use of the plaza area near the courthouse to celebrate childhood abuse prevention month on April 7, 2017. The request was unanimously approved without comment.
  3. Rich Vargo asked the commission to make 3 corrections in real estate taxes for three property owners. It was unanimously approved.
  4. Rich Vargo asked the commission to make 3 personnel changes (i.e., promotions or step changes) for employees of Riley County. Commissioners unanimously approved the changes.
  5. The minutes of the Feb 2, 2017 meeting were approved after Ben Wilson requested two changes in the wording of the minutes.

 

Press Conference Topics

 

  1. Clancy Holeman briefly discussed two bills pending in the State legislature that could have an impact on Manhattan.
    1. The State is considering a bill that will restrict the amount of revenue that municipalities can collect from residents for trash removal, street sweeping, etc. Opposition to the bill is likely to squelch it.
    2. The State is considering a Tort Liability Exemption for Counties for Lawsuits Based on County Employee Concealed Carry of Handguns that states that public employees are liable for their handguns when they are “not being carried in the course and scope of their employment.”
  2. Gina Scroggs from Downtown Manhattan told the commission that a 5-mile walk/run is being planned to benefit breast cancer research. Downtown Manhattan is planning the event with Johnson Cancer Research Center on campus.
  3. Captain Kyle from RCPD reported that, although certain types of crimes in Manhattan were up, others were down while comparing 2016 to 2015. Violent crime and property crime were up, while burglary, motor vehicle theft, DUI arrests, and accidents were down. This has given RCPD time to deal with other types of crime. In addition, RCPD has decided to not use the “Hotel Rule” when reporting crime. The Hotel Rule is a rule about how to count crimes that are related to each other. For example, if someone steals money from several hotel rooms. Using the Hotel Rule, the separate thefts are counted as one because the same person committed the theft. Now, each theft is counted separately. The change in reporting will have the effect of making the crime rate appear to spike when, in fact, it has actually been stable.
  4. Bids were taken on a spray truck that will cost in and around $36,000.
  5. Greg McClure told the commissioners that a Winter Ranch Management seminar will be held on February 15th in Olsburg, Kansas. In addition, a succession planning and communication seminar will be held at the Riley County Public Works Facility on February 17th.
  6. Leon Hobson discussed two transportation projects that the County wants to fulfill. The first extends K-18 to US 24, called the K-113 corridor. The study for the project will cost $395,000. Of that amount, KDOT will be responsible for $300,000, while Manhattan will “pony up” the remaining sum. The second project is a widening of a portion of Marlatt and Denison Avenues. The widening will occur from the fire station on Denison to Marlatt, and from Marlatt in both directions east and west for a segment of street bearing on the intersection. The County will contact K-State to detemine whether K-State can contribute to the project. Hobson believes that increased traffic from NBAF and the newly constructed apartment complexes will degrade the the affected intersections. So he wants to resolve the issue before it becomes a major problem.
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RILEY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY COUNCIL, January 25, 2017

RILEY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT                                                                     PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY COUNCIL

25January2017

Observer: Helen C. Estes

The Riley County Health Department Public Health Advisory Council (PHAC) met as scheduled.  The monthly meeting was called to order by Ginny Barnard.  All RCHDPHAC Board members were introduced as this meeting marks the beginning of new terms for four individuals.

The first order of business for PHAC was to elect a Chairperson and Co-chairperson for the upcoming year.  Adam Bowen was elected as the Chairperson and Ginny Barnard as the Co-chairperson.

Director’s Report:  (Given by Jennifer Green, RCHD Director.)

  1.  New hires were announced including a nursing position @ RCHD & a part-time breast feeding counselor for a WIC position.
  2.  This is a busy time of the year as many important applications for grants/funding must be completed & submitted by March, 2017. Included in these grants are KDHE grants, two different Manhattan grants, a Kaplan grant, and a mental health grant suggested by board member, Robbin Cole.
  3.  Jennifer is in the process of wo
  4.  New hires were announced including a nursing position @ RCHD & a part-time breast feeding counselor for a WIC position.
  5.  This is a busy time of the year as many important applications for grants/funding must be completed & submitted by March, 2017. Included in these grants are KDHE grants, two different Manhattan grants, a Kaplan grant, and a mental health grant suggested by board member, Robbin Cole.
  6.  Jennifer is in the process of working on the Annual Report.
  7.  Jennifer used the remaining time to report on the Strategic Plan that has been a work-in-progress for the past year. She provided a packet of this overview to each PHAC member.  I didn’t receive these printed materials but will summarize much of what was presented.  This has been presented in community meeting & to the BOH as it’s developing
  8. working on the Annual Report.
  9.  Jennifer used the remaining time to report on the Strategic Plan that has been a work-in-progress for the past year. She provided a packet of this overview to each PHAC member.  I didn’t receive these printed materials but will summarize much of what was presented.  This has been presented in community meeting & to the BOH as its development has occurred.  Once it’s in its finalized form, it will again be presented to the BOH as the final phase of Implementation will begin.  She estimates that it take 3 years to get to this point.

The following was summarized:  PHAB sets the requirements for the Strategic Plan.  These are—

  1. Community Health Assessment
  2. Community Health Improvement Plan
  3. Organizational Strategic Plan (This is the packet distributed today.)
  4. Implementation of the Plan (This is the last component.)

The mission, vision, & values were presented & are elaborated in the packet.

Strategic priorities were identified.

  •               Promote & Protect Health
  •               Health promotion & disease prevention
  •               Communicable disease control
  •               Environmental health
  •               Maternal, family & child health
  •               Access to & linkages with clinical care
  •               Use evidence-based practices

Key Objectives

  •        By December, 2017:  Develop a Community Health Plan
  •        By December, 2018:  Develop an electronic database of community health & social services in the area
  •        By December, 2018:  Format all new programs using evidence-based practices
  •        By December, 2018:  Determine the number of programs remaining to be  programmed with evidence-based outcomes

Community Outreach

There were 3 specific goals here & are elaborated in the packet but time was past adjournment.  Jennifer emphasized that public involvement is considered extremely important & will be important to this process.

Goals will state specific numbers of public to be involved.

Strategic Sustainability & Quality

There were 2 goal topics in this category.  One of these referred to—Integrate continuous quality improvement.  This section

also included goals to upgrade the current electronic record system by 2019.  It was noted that additional funding will be needed to accomplish this.

The packet includes specific dates for when RCHD will actually apply for accreditation from PHAB.  This includes a date for

Submission of the application as well as when the actual accreditation visit will be.

Note:  PHAB is a non-partisan, non-profit organization.

Additional goals presented related to the staffing, employee satisfaction, retention, etc.

An announcement was made regarding 25February2017 @ First United Methodist Church.  Manhattan Poverty Simulation will take place.  The public is encouraged to participate.

The meeting was adjourned @ 5:05 p.m.

The next meeting is scheduled for 22February2017

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Riley County Commission, January 26, 2017

Riley County Commission

January 26, 2017

Joan Strickler, observer

Commissioners Wells, Rodriguez and Wilson present, Wells chair.

Assistant County Attorney Craig Cox updated the Commissioners on his work.  Benefit districts have expanded as property owners who originally refused to participate have changed their minds as the benefits of belonging become apparent.  Cox updated the Commissioners on code enforcement and delinquent tax actions.

The Commissioners discussed the goals they recommend setting for the current year. Commissioner Wells noted concerns about moving the ambulance services to the fire department location due to, what he sees as, unfair demands of K-State attorneys and Foundation staff during negotiations.  Wells said there is no sense in moving emergency services to a location where they could be kicked out after 12 months.  He said he is requesting a meeting with K-State’s president to clarify matters.

Commissioner Wilson listed several goals he sees for the current year.  The first would be to finalize arrangements for the police to use the Fort Riley shooting range in their training exercises.  He also would like the County to look into the advisability of running the ambulance services on its own rather than through a contract with Via Christi Hospital.  He added that he felt it would be wise to look into possible savings through reviewing fleet replacement practices of the County.

Commissioner Wells said the office space needs of the County still remain to be addressed.

It was mentioned that decisions about emergency radio communications must also made.

Commissioner Rodriguez said he still believes all Commissioners should receive the same pay.  After extensive discussion Commissioner Rodriguez offered a motion to set a uniform salary for all Commissioners at (approximately) $43000 for 2017.  Wells seconded the motion.  Rodriguez and Wells voted yes, Wilson no.  Motion passed

 

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USD 383 Board of Education, Jan. 18, 2016

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Services, provided the board with information regarding the governor’s proposal for school funding.  The proposal called for freezing KPERS at 2016 levels and delaying payments, which amounts to an $89 million deficit.  The balance of $13 million in the extraordinary needs fund (which is a fund created to help districts experiencing hardships under the block grant funding) will be kept by the state instead of being distributed to school districts.  The final state aid payment will be delayed again this year.  Funding plans for 2018-19 call for a continued freeze of KPERS, districts will be asked to contribute to the extraordinary needs fund but no funds will be disbursed, general state aid will be reduced by $47.2 million statewide, and the state will keep any additional revenue resulting from increased valuations and generated by the state required 20 mills.  Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, added that the block grant funding was originally intended to last two years while the Legislature worked on a new formula, but no progress has been made, so it’s looking like block grants will continue for another year.  Board member Aaron Estabrook commented that it was ironic that the extraordinary needs fund was created to help struggling districts, and now it’s being used to help the state’s budget.  Leah Fliter added that there are comments floating around to the effect of state funding is at the highest level it’s ever been, but operating funds for districts are not, they have declined, and they have lagged behind the rate of inflation almost every year.

The board received a report on Career and Technical Education (CTE).  The district offers 10 clusters and 17 pathways, and the pathways are focused on what makes sense for our community.  Last year, 1,261 students were enrolled in at least one CTE course, and the majority enrolled in more than one.  The program is in the process of working on a several-tiered process for job-shadowing in the Manhattan community.

Board members discussed committee appointments to the MHS mascot committee. The committee will include MHS students, faculty, representatives from both sides of the issue, district administration, and school board members.  Committee members are as follows:  Zach Bergeron, Laverne Bitsie-Baldwin, Matt Davis, Elizabeth Fiser-Gaume, Bill Hsu, Elke Lorenz, Mike Matson, Kate Moore, Maggie Morgan, Alex Red Corn, Mike Smith, and Doug Stigge.  Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, will serve as chair.  The board selected Dave Colburn and Curt Herrman to serve as the board’s representatives with Aaron Estabrook as the alternate.  All of the committee’s meetings will be open to the public.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Jan. 4, 2017

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board was provided with an update by BG Consultants, which is the firm that was hired to help the district with long-range facility planning.  The consultants are in the information gathering and analysis phase of the planning process.  The consultants have collected information on the age and condition of facilities, identified areas where growth is occurring, looked at the district’s criteria for class sizes, and met with school Site Councils to ask them what are their greatest challenges to learning and what things represent the spirit of their school that should be maintained.  District-wide trends emerged from the information gathering, including safety and security needs, space and program needs, technology, special education, and issues specific to a site.  Safety and security needs included creating secure entrances, enhancing security, and eliminating indoor-outdoor transitions, such as students traveling to and from classroom trailers.  Space and program needs included having adequate space for elective subjects because growth has challenged the ability to maintain spaces for electives. For special education, many schools need to adapt the spaces they have to meet current teaching methods.

The consultants had looked at building capacities and reported that four elementary schools are over capacity, one is at capacity, and three are slightly below capacity, which essentially means all of the elementary schools are at capacity.  If the portable classroom trailers are no longer used, the capacity issue becomes even more critical.  The middle schools were both below capacity.  MHS East Campus is at 55% capacity, and MHS West Campus is at 79% capacity.

BG Consultants will start developing options to consider in the spring, and the decision phase will occur in the summer.  There will be public input opportunities during the planning process.

Board member Pat Hudgins reported on the status of the mascot committee.  Citizens who are interested in serving on the committee were encouraged to submit their names for consideration (the deadline was Jan. 5).  Board members will have the opportunity to provide input about potential committee members, and committee members will be announced at the Jan. 18 meeting.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Dec. 7, 2017

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board held a discussion about the MHS mascot.  Marcia Rozell, board president, began the discussion by saying she was thankful for how the public input forum had gone on Nov. 30.

Dave Colburn started the discussion by saying the board was stuck in the middle of a national debate, and they can’t solve all of it, but maybe the board can do something locally.  He said that advocates for re-imaging the mascot are not all KSU faculty, as had been claimed by some, and he said he had received many email from a variety of people who supported change.  He said he was disappointed by some who have implied that a future bond issue would be held hostage if a mascot vote didn’t go the right way, meaning people have said they won’t support a future bond election if the mascot is retired.  Mr. Colburn said it would be wrong to hold hostage a bond election, which may not come up for some time and may be a different board of education by then.  He commented that student safety and suicides are a major concern.  He said that there are two ways that people are looking at the issue:  advocates for retaining the mascot have a micro view and only see Coach Prentup, who the Indian mascot is claimed to honor, and advocates for re-imaging see the macro view and the larger problems with stereotypes.  He said we need to come out of this united for our kids’ sake, and we’ve seen on the national level that a vote alone doesn’t solve division.  Mr. Colburn said he can’t support changing the mascot because of the costs associated with doing so, because we don’t know what would replace it, and because he thinks there’s a responsibility to honor Coach Prentup.  But, he said he also can’t support the status quo and said many people have contacted him urging the board to find the middle ground.  Mr. Colburn proposed establishing a committee that would include students and administrators that would be charged with four tasks as follows:  1. To figure out a better way to honor Frank Prentup; 2. To create an educational program to know more about Native American culture; 3. To consider a mascot that kids can have fun with that has nothing to do with the Indian name and image; and 4. To determine what would be the true costs to change the name and the image and what the timeline might be.  He concluded by saying the Indian name and image have to be retained, and the school district can be a model for the whole country with people coming together to work on the issue.

Aaron Estabrook had talked to Native Americans on both sides of the issue and was surprised with how willing they are to work on a solution, and he thought maybe the board had missed a step by not doing more with Native Americans.  He said he found it hard to vote on the issue when he doesn’t know what the costs are and when there isn’t a replacement plan for the mascot.  For those who might say that Mr. Colburn’s committee suggestion just pushes the issue further down the path, Mr. Estabrook said the district has had success in the past with committees helping with difficult issues.

Darell Edie said he agreed with Mr. Colburn on several points.  He would like to see a good educational program with Native Americans.  He planned to vote to maintain the mascot because he didn’t want to renege on something again with Native Americans, meaning the commitment to honor Coach Prentup.  He said many Kansas high schools and Haskell Indian Nations University use Indian mascots, and many towns, rivers, and the state itself use Indian words.

Pat Hudgins said she had been asked if she was a “born here,” “raised here,” or a “just lives here,” and thought it was a shame that some want to treat people differently depending on their answer to the question.  People treat you differently depending on the space you occupy.  She said the issue can’t be split down the middle, and the worst time to settle an argument is when people are still emotional about it, which makes the decision tough.  She said social justice cries out as the way to change the world for education.  She’d thought about civil rights and the Civil Rights Movement and said the board needs to make a trip to the Brown v. the Board of Education site in Topeka.  With Brown v. Board, it came about because someone was brave enough to break the mold, and change happens as a series of tiny changes.  Ms. Hudgins had thought about the cost and said things like ADA compliance didn’t change overnight, but there was a deadline to meet, and she thought the change could be phased in slowly without a deadline to meet.  She said “where all can learn” is part of the district’s mission statement, and the mission doesn’t say anything about athletics.  She said that “re-image” to her said to look at it differently — not necessarily retire or change — because things have changed in the 75 years since the Indian mascot was adopted.  She said when she was a little girl, she had been called “Negro,” and there’s something in a name.  They’re asking to not be called the name, and it bothers some such that they can’t learn.  Ms. Hudgins said “re-image” meant to her let’s compromise and figure out a way.  Fifteen years ago when the mascot issue was last formally discussed, the board made promises that didn’t happen, so if the board started a process, she didn’t want to see it die in 5-6 months and expressed a lack of confidence that a committee would work.  She would like to see something named for Coach Prentup to keep the family’s legacy going.  She concluded with saying the board has to find the political courage to make a change for a better tomorrow.

Leah Fliter said the board needs to retire the mascot and the image.  She said she understands why it was created, but it’s no longer appropriate to use an ethnic group as a symbol or mascot, especially when the majority of the student body is not part of the ethnic group and when the group was almost wiped out.  We can’t say the same things about mascots like Vikings, Swedes, devils, etc.  The tomahawk chop and the middle school Papoose mascot were phased out, which shows the mascot is problematic.  She realized that changing the mascot would cause pain to the Prentup family, and she would like to see him honored in some other way.  She would like to see the painting and mosaic installed in a place of honor with a photo of Coach Prentup that would explain how the mascot came to be and why it was changed.  She said she realized the cost to change could be significant, but the change could be phased in with athletic uniforms not being replaced until they were scheduled to be replaced.  Ms. Fliter said the real and emotional costs can’t stand in the way of doing what’s best for students, and that’s why she supported retiring the mascot because retaining it is disrespectful, reduces people to a single image, and tells students that changes can’t be made if they’re difficult or unpopular.

Curt Herrman said the Indian is a symbol and represents how Coach Prentup treated kids, and it isn’t a mascot.  He said the Indian is a tribute to a culture that thrived for thousands of years before the Europeans.  He suggested having an orientation for all students.  He said the district should educate about all minority students and shouldn’t lose sight of other groups.  He said that changing the mascot is way too expensive.  He said the high school would have to change the school colors, too, or otherwise people would still wear their Indian-themed gear, so then we’d have to create a police state at the high school about what students can and can’t wear.  Mr. Herrman said he can’t support changing the mascot.

Mr. Estabrook said he had first been approached about the mascot issue about a year ago, and he said he feels there is good faith on both sides of the issue, and it’s time to make constructive changes, but as a responsible and measured change.  Ms. Rozell said she wanted to keep the name “Indians,” and thought a solution might be the situation with the Chiefs.  She said the board needs to move forward and come to some agreement.

Mr. Estabrook moved that “USD 383 create a committee comprised of stakeholders, including but not limited to students, teachers, administrators, representatives of the re-image and retain committees and others as seen fit by the board for four topics: 1. finding an additional way or ways to honor Frank Prentup; 2. developing a teaching program and plan, which educates our students, faculty/staff, and community about Native American history, religion, and culture; 3. explore the creation of a mascot for students to rally around at sporting events which is distinct from the Indian name and image; and 4. establish what the true cost would be and the timeline if the board decided to retire the mascot; and the Indian name and current image shall remain the official name and image of MHS until the committee completes those tasks.”  Mr. Estabrook said as the four tasks are completed, it would become easier to make change decisions than with the limited information the board has now.

Ms. Rozell agreed that it’s hard to retire the mascot without knowing what it would be replaced with.  Mr. Edie thought the board should first vote on a motion to retain or retire the mascot before voting on Mr. Estabrook’s motion.  Mr. Herrman agreed and said he didn’t want a committee to be part of a motion. Mr. Colburn said he supported Mr. Estabrook’s motion.  Ms. Hudgins said she would like to see a timeline associated with the motion because there could be a new board seated by the time a decision is made.  Ms. Rozell suggested forming the committee in Jan. 2017 with a decision from the committee coming to the board by the end of 2017, and Mr. Edie suggested that the committee could make decisions by Sept. 2017.  Mr. Herrman said he felt the board was just kicking the issue a year down the road and will back to the same place in a year, and he preferred to not have it in a motion in order to have more flexibility.  The board discussed various tweaks to the motion and whether or not to include the committee as part of the motion, and Mr. Colburn said including the committee in the motion is an attempt to codify some of this that wasn’t done when the mascot issue was discussed 15 years ago.

The revised motion as read back by the board clerk stated that “USD 383 create a committee team comprised of stakeholders, including students, teachers, administrators, representatives of the two committees and others as seen fit by the board will work on at least the four topics beginning in Jan. 2017: 1. finding a portion of or an entire facility to name for Frank Prentup along with a scholarship; 2. develop a teaching program for students, faculty, and community about Native American history, religion, and culture; 3. explore the creation of a mascot for students to rally around which is distinct from the Indian name and the image; 4. establish what the true costs would be and what the timeline would look like if the name and image were to be retired; the Indian name and current image shall remain the official name and image of MHS.”  The motion read by the board clerk was slightly different than the original motion, notably the original last lines had read “the Indian name and current image shall remain the official name and image of MHS until the committee completes those tasks” and the version the clerk read had omitted “until the committee completes those tasks.”  The board approved the motion 7-0, but it was unclear the precise language of the motion the board had approved.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Nov. 30, 2016

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board held a public input forum to receive comments about the MHS mascot.  Board members listened to comments and made none themselves.  The board will vote on whether or not to change the mascot during its Dec. 7 meeting.

The first presenter was Duke Prentup, son of Frank Prentup, who was of Native American descent and coached and taught at MHS.  The MHS mascot was changed to the “Indian” in 1940, reportedly in honor of Coach Prentup.  Mr. Prentup provided information about his family’s history.  He said he is opposed to re-imaging the mascot and believes that the “hows” and “whys” of naming the mascot in 1940 are unknown or have been forgotten.  Coach Prentup came to MHS during the Depression; instilled in students the qualities of honesty and integrity; and earned the respect of administrators, faculty, and students.  Coach Prentup was called “Chief” because he was a leader.  Mr. Prentup noted the name change occurred as an honor bestowed upon an Indian man for his skills in building character and for the qualities exemplified by him, misguided political correctness would be an extinguishment of his father’s legacy, it would be expensive to change the mascot and would result in the destruction of magnificent artwork, and the suggestion that the football field could be renamed for Coach Prentup as a trade-off is a condescending offer, and the field is already named for Lew Lane.  Mr. Prentup said the mascot is iconic and spiritual and suggested that the word “symbol” be employed instead of “mascot.”  He also suggested Native American history could be promoted in the curriculum and encouraged the board to not forget who the mascot honors and why.

Following Mr. Prentup’s comments, organized groups made presentations.  The first group was the student group in favor of retaining the mascot.  The student representing the group began by saying a survey of students had shown that 84% preferred keeping the mascot, 13% had no opinion, and 3% wanted change.  The student said the mascot honors Indians and doesn’t perpetuate any stereotypes, and those who feel offense don’t understand the reverance the mascot receives.  The mascot image was drawn by Brent Yancey, who is of Native American descent, so that invalidates arguments that the image was drawn as offensive.  The ReimageMHK (the group wanting to change the mascot) members’ opinions don’t matter if Coach Prentup’s son thinks the mascot is an honor, and the Reimage members aren’t MHS alumni and so they don’t understand.  The student said the mascot perpetuates diversity, honors minority groups, and Native Americans can’t be erased from our history.  Coach Prentup symbolized honesty and integrity, and the headdress reflects his nickname of “Chief” and the feathers symbolize respect.  If the mascot is changed, it would mean letting go of the past.  The student also addressed costs and said it would be silly to spend the money to rebrand the school when there are many other needs.  Adidas has offered to help schools redesign their mascots and to supplement the costs of change, but that may not mean Adidas will fully fund the change and it requires a 5-year contract with Adidas, which eliminates the option of working with local businesses.  Retiring the mascot would hurt the district financially and the money should be used to facilitate learning.  The student said times may have changed, but should we change the mascot, and she added that a change for political correctness silences the many.

The students representing the group in favor of changing the mascot said the mascot excludes some people, people shouldn’t be numbers, and people shouldn’t be mascots.  The mascot prevents the school from being as inclusive as it should be.  The school won’t change because the mascot changes, and MHS will be as great with a new mascot.  There are only two approved designs of the mascot, which limits students’ expression, and the students asked fellow students to imagine what it would be like to have a mascot that could be fully embraced and to have someone dressed as the mascot leading cheers.  The students said the mascot is wrong and we shouldn’t define and stereotype a whole race.  Things have changed, no matter how alumni feel, and we can do better.  The students said the rhetoric of great respect and the strict guidelines for use of the mascot show the mascot is prone to abuse.  When students were surveyed, some also provided written comments, and some of the comments were violent and too inappropriate to share at the forum.  How other schools treat the mascot with disrespect can’t be controlled.  The students concluded by saying the school environment should be comfortable for all.

The next group was a group comprised of alumni, parents of alumni, and citizens in favor of retaining the mascot, and Mike Smith spoke for the group.  Mr. Smith said the Indian is a symbol, and there hasn’t been a mascot for 20 years.  The current design was done by Mr. Yancey, who is of Native American descent.  The school board had discussed changing the mascot in 2001 and had decided to retain it and to learn more about Native American culture.  The mascot was selected to honor Coach Prentup, and there is no disrespect to Indian culture.  A 2001 Civil Rights Commission Statement said there should be no images that mock or trivialize religion and culture, and inappropriate images block contemporary understanding of Native Americans.  Mr. Smith said that the K-State Indigenous Alliance had called those who disagree with them as “hangs around the fort Indians.”  Schools are where diverse groups come together, and that’s why MHS is so successful.  Mr. Smith said teachers should teach the historic truth, and the image of Coach Prentup is historic truth.  He said new families should be welcomed, and he suggested that flags could be displayed representing where students are from, families could tell their stories in the classroom, and students could make field trips, such as to archaeological sites, to extend their education.  Mr. Smith said the retain group has tried to work with ReimageMHK, and it may not be perfect, but it could be better.

ReimageMHK members made their presentation of changing the mascot.  They said the mascot is a stereotype that hurts students and oversimplifies real Native Americans.  The mascot is a stereotype and uses Hollywood images of Native Americans.  The speakers presented several statistics about the impact of mascots and said that even neutral and positive stereotypes can hurt students and can cause them to not perform as well as they might have.  The mascot hurts Native American students, but it also hurts all students because it positions some students to feel superior.  The speakers said a Native American mascot increases biases, especially in towns with a Native American mascot.  They provided examples of how the mascot has been used, including a T-shirt that says “tribal elder,” a school team called “Cyborg Indians,” an incorrect use of a medicine wheel on the yearbook cover, and inappropriate cheers, like “Stomp the Indians.”  The speakers said these examples abuse Native American spirituality, contribute to anti-Indian racism, and define “Indianness.”  The speakers said there’s a better way to honor Coach Prentup, such as with a scholarship named for him, a street, or a building.  They encouraged the board to retire the stereotype and to honor the man.

For the rest of the discussion, the forum was opened to all speakers, with the order determined by lottery.  Speakers in favor of retaining the mascot cited reasons such as continuing to honor Coach Prentup and his family’s support of it, the mascot is respectful and symbolizes strength, the mascot isn’t demeaning or degrading, only 3% of surveyed students want to change it, changing the mascot would be a triumph to political correctness, the costs associated with changing the mascot, and a speaker of Native American descent who was also a MHS alumnus said she feels the mascot is an honor and described the issue as an “Indian vs. Indian” cause.  Steve Prentup and Patty Prentup French also spoke in favor of retaining the mascot, saying the mascot represents the things their father stood for, and his values and ethics should be continued.

People speaking in favor of changing the mascot provided reasons such as our culture has changed and the message and meaning have changed over time; there’s a better way to honor Coach Prentup; the mascot stereotypes and is racist; the mascot echoes the national problem of indifference to Native Americans (a number of speakers referenced the ongoing protests at Standing Rock and the treatment of Native American protestors); Native American culture and identity, especially a marginalized culture, shouldn’t be a mascot; empirical evidence shows the mascot is harmful, and so changing it isn’t only about political correctness; it’s easy for the dominant culture to be blind to the impact; over 2,000 Native American mascots have been changed since 1970; the benefits to all students far outweigh costs; the cost for changing will likely be less than estimated because some uniforms, for example, don’t use the word Indian or mascot imagery on them.  One speaker said she had grown up in the South under Jim Crow, and many people at the time had been proud of that symbol, too.  She said keeping the mascot is making people live under a stereotype, it’s oppressive and broader than Native Americans, and keeping it means you’re OK with keeping Jim Crow.

 

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Riley County Commission, November 28, 2016

Joan Strickler, observer

Commissioners Wilson, Boyd and Wells present, Wilson chair.

During the public comment period incoming Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez argued against the Commission’s intent to lower his salary as a new Commissioner from the amount currently paid Robert Boyd the existing Commissioner. Commission Chair Wilson spoke of the McGrath study that reviewed and recommended pay schedule tiers for all County employees based on education, experience and years of service. The recommendations for County Commission members are based on that study. Rodriquez pointed out that the only qualification for becoming a County Commissioner is to get elected and the salaries should be comparable. Wilson said he would consider the matter for the next meeting.

Lori Feldcamp, Director of Big Lakes Developmental Center, reported delays and backlogs in the registration system for Medicaid reimbursements. Medicaid is the main support for their facility but State match funds are required to bring down the federal funds. The KANCARE system is lowering costs but doing so by cutting services and delaying reimbursements. The KANCARE Legislative Oversite Committee is working at re-submitting the State plan for approval this year.

Feldcamp said Big Lakes is mailing out letters requesting support for its Foundation. The Big Lakes Foundation funds building projects and other needs but also is being dipped into to meet operations costs.

Cheryl Collins, Director of the Riley County Historical Museum, spoke of its new centennial exhibit, “The Riley County Historical Museum: Celebrating 100 Years of History and Heritage” now open. Notable objects include a section of the original seating from the Wareham Opera House, a penny-farthing bicycle owned by Guy Varney and a hand-carved sunflower clock made from local wood for the world’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The exhibition will run through 2017.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Nov. 16, 2016

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board was provided with information about the district’s annual financial audit, which was prepared by Varney and Associates.  Michelle Crow, with Varney and Associates, gave the district’s finances a “clean bill of health” and didn’t have any suggestions for improvements.  Board members voted to accept the financial audit report 7-0.

The governor has asked for input from school districts in regards to state education finance, which board members have discussed during previous meetings and also held a public input meeting on Nov. 10.  A resolution was drafted containing the components board members felt should be included in a new finance formula, which included items such as funding based on student enrollment and funding for technology infrastructure, as well as addressed educational needs such as at-risk, early childhood and kindergarten, special education, virtual education, Career and Technical Education, and students with a military connection.  The resolution also included items that board members don’t want to see be included in a new formula, such as merit pay for teachers, incentives that support private schools (such as vouchers), accountability requirements that cost districts to perform but don’t include additional financial support, and prohibiting districts from using funds for extracurricular activities.  The board approved the resolution 7-0.

Board members also approved 7-0 a resolution to execute a warranty deed to convey the board’s interest in property to Westar.  Westar plans to construct a substation on a parcel of land owned by MATC.

 

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USD 383 Board of Education, Nov. 2, 2016

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board received a report on the Manhattan Virtual Academy, which is in its third year of being run independently by USD 383.  Enrollment for full-time students was up, but enrollment for part-time students was down.  Due to changes in state funding for part-time students, part-time students were no longer accepted into the program unless they were also attending a “bricks and mortar” school of USD 383.

Matt Davis, Dir. of Maintenance, provided board members with a report on completed capital outlay projects.  Items completed across the district included playground work, parking lot repairs, masonry repairs, roof replacement, termite treatment, addressing drainage issues, cafeteria table replacement, new carpet, and safety and accessibility improvements, as well as many other items.

The governor has asked for input from school districts in regards to state education finance, which board members have discussed during previous meetings, and they reviewed the list of items being considered.  Items included funding based on student enrollment, weightings (students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, at-risk, English for Speakers of Other Languages, students identified as homeless), military-connected students, funding for early childhood and kindergarten students, fully funding special education, funding for virtual education programs, funding for Career and Technical Educational programs, funding for technology infrastructure, and developing a formula that’s reliable and equitable.

The board discussed a resolution to extend terms of office, which is a result of the Legislature moving local school board elections from the spring to the fall.  The board had previously voted on a resolution in the spring, and the resolution had failed to be approved. Board members had been against changing the election date, and board member Aaron Estabrook had testified against the proposed state law.  USD 383’s resolution stated the board “begrudgingly agrees to pass said resolution in order to comply with state law.”  The resolution was approved 6-0, with Mr. Estabrook abstaining.

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