Board says site visits were beneficial

MARSHALL – At the regular board meeting Monday, Marshall Public School board members were eager to share their thoughts about recent site visits to two regional educational centers, noting that the experience was eye-opening and beneficial.

As the process of re-branding the district’s alternative school into Marshall Area Youth Technical and Educational Center (MAY-TEC) continues, excitement has also continued to grow.

“I was impressed with how engaged the kids were,” board Chairman Jeff Chapman said. “They were excited and engaged in their projects. This field trip made me realize that we can start out small and end up where they are.”

Northeast Technical High School, located in Watertown, S.D., has provided career and technical education to students for more than 40 years. The system currently services students from nine area high schools in 12 career areas, including automotive technology, biomedical, building trades, cabinetmaking, culinary arts, digital electronics/principles of engineering, engineering design/civil engineering and architecture, exploratory, health science, human services, machine tool technology and welding technology.

“I echo Jeff’s thoughts,” board member Bill Mulso said. “It’s a complete different model, but I think this is the path we need to take a look at. I think this is where the future is at.”

Board member Matt Coleman noted that good instructors were key at the facilities. He was also impressed by the opportunities that students realized they had.

“In one of the medical classes, one students was learning about being a surgeon, who makes $210,000 a year,” he said. “You can see the lofty goals these kids have.”

MPS Superintendent Klint Willert pointed out that the classrooms used were not much bigger than the typical classrooms.

“It’s just how they deliver the program in that room,” he said.

The traveling team of educators also toured the Career and Technical Education Academy in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has 850 students enrolled.

One noticeable difference from the Watertown school was that CTEA had “very robust partnerships” with businesses in the community, Willert said. The opportunity allowed students to explore culinary arts, automotive trades, marketing strategies, video production and much more.

“Students are employed within one year out of high school in welding positions, making $90,000 a year,” he said. “This is what we’re trying to draw in for MAY-TEC.”

Willert also remarked about the expensive chairs and business-like environment in the business and finance area. Most impressive, though, was the fact that the center only employed 23 people.

Hoffman & Brobst representatives Lisa Zmeskal and Tamara Bliss presented an annual auditor’s report to the board members, highlighting six points in particular.

“Expenditures exceeded revenues by $209,000,” Zmeskal said. “But the economic outlook for the state has improved. Payments to schools are back on track. They’re currently at 90 percent, so cash is showing a better answer at the end of the year.”

Zmeskal also pointed out that MPS had $21,155,000 of proceeds from advance refunding bonds, which saved taxpayers $2.5 million by refinancing. The district also received two awards – the Meritorious Budget Award for the 2013 budget and the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for the fiscal year 2012 comprehensive annual financial report.

The board also approved the resolution to withdraw from the Southwest Conference and authorize membership in the newly-created Big South Conference. The action dissolves a 100-plus year membership in the SWC and begins a new era in the Big South effective at the start of the 2014-15 school year.