Mehlville Board of Education to consider reinstating free bus transportation


Reinstating free bus transportation for the coming school year is scheduled to be considered Wednesday, April 19, by the Mehlville Board of Education.

The Board of Education is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Mehlville Senior High School Learning Resource Center, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.

The Board of Education voted 5-2 March 10 to approve a motion by then-Secretary Mike Heins and seconded by Cindy Christopher to cut nearly $2.5 million from the 2006-2007 budget, including charging $375 per student for bus transportation for those who live within 3.5 miles of their school. Besides Heins and Christopher, voting to approve the motion were then-President Rita Diekemper, then-Vice President Bill Schornheuser and Tom Correnti.

Opposed were Karl Frank Jr. and Ken Leach. A substitute motion proposed by Frank as an alternative to charging for bus transportation died for lack of a second.

Within minutes after being sworn in last week, board member Micheal Ocello made a motion to call a special meeting of the board for April 12 “to discuss reinstatement of bus transportation by expensing the cost through the expected budget surplus.” Ocello’s motion was seconded by board member Tom Diehl, who also was sworn in April 10.

After discussion, however, Ocello withdrew his motion and agreed to have the item placed on the agenda for the April 19 meeting when updated revenue projections for the 2006-2007 school year are scheduled to be presented to the board.

Referring to the April 19 meeting, Ocello asked, “Would that also give us enough time in the event that we do restore the busing to meet a number of legal requirements we have in notifying parents?”

Superintendent Tim Ricker replied, “Yes.”

Diehl and Ocello were the top vote-getters for two seats on the board in the April 4 election, defeating four other challengers, including Heins and Schornheuser, who were seeking their second three-year terms.

The board also elected officers for 2006-2007 with Leach being named president over Correnti. Besides Leach, Ocello, Diehl and Frank voted to elect Leach president.

Voting to name Correnti president were Correnti, Diekemper and Christopher.

Board members voted 6-1, with Correnti opposed, to name Frank vice president and voted unanimously to elect Correnti secretary. Chief Financial Officer Stephen Keyser was unanimously elected treasurer.

Shortly after the election, Diehl and Ocello told the Call that they hope to start work immediately to possibly reverse some recent actions of the previous board, particularly the decision to begin charging $375 per student for bus transportation.

District voters in February overwhelmingly rejected Proposition A, a 97-cent tax-rate increase, and the school board has started to act on recommendations made by task force study groups appointed by Ricker to help build the 2006-2007 budget in the event Proposition A did not pass. The task force study groups had recommended such things as charging $375 for bus service, charging a fee for playing a high school sport and charging activity fees for elementary and middle school clubs.

The Board of Education has been considering a target of $4 million in budget reductions for the 2006-2007 school year and so far has made $3,497,550 in cuts, including establishing the fee for bus transportation and trimming four elementary physical education/music positions.

In February, Keyser presented three options to the board regarding transportation. Besides charging for transportation, which would result in an estimated savings of $695,000, he noted the board has the option of not making any changes in transportation, which would result in no savings.

He also presented an option for streamlining the existing bus routes, which would result in a projected savings of $350,000. That option would require a four-tier bus schedule, instead of the current three-tier schedule, and would necessitate a shift in school starting times.

On March 23, the board voted to trim four elementary physical education/music positions for a savings of $180,000.

Christopher’s motion to cut the four positions was seconded by Heins and approved with a 4-3 vote. Diekemper, Leach and Frank were opposed.

In an e-mail sent to Ricker last week, Frank said he would like the board to consider restoring the four elementary school teacher positions that were cut and eliminating two high school assistant principal positions. Each high school currently has a principal and four assistant principals.

In an April 13 memorandum to the Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources A.D. McClain, who will become associate superintendent July 1, wrote that the savings by eliminating two high school assistant principals would total $204,000.

However, he added, “As you know, all administrators are under contract for the upcoming two school years.”

During a March 23 closed session, the board voted to employ 16 principals, 12 assistant principals and three directors with two-year contracts for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. Heins’ motion to employ the principals, assistant principals and directors was seconded by Correnti and approved with a 6-1 vote. Frank was opposed. No salary increases were approved with the motion.

During a closed session April 10 before Diehl and Ocello were sworn in, the board voted to hire three administrators and extend them two-year contracts.

The board voted 5-2 to name Vicki VanLaere executive director of human resources for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years at a salary of $101,699. Frank and Leach were opposed to the motion made by Heins and seconded by Correnti.

She now serves as principal at Oakville Middle School at a salary of $100,810.20.

VanLaere will assume the duties previously performed by McClain, who has served as assistant superintendent for human resources since the 1999-2000 school year. Board members voted 5-2 March 23 to extend McClain’s two-year contract an additional year, promote him to associate superintendent and increase his salary to $126,360 from $114,877.85. Frank and Leach were opposed.

The board voted 5-2 to name Scott A. Andrews principal at Hagemann Elementary School for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years at a salary of $96,520. Leach and Frank were opposed to the motion made by Christopher and seconded by Correnti.

The board voted 5-2 to name Adam W. Smith assistant principal at Bernard Middle School for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years at a salary of $77,704. Leach and Frank were opposed to the motion made by Heins and seconded by Correnti.