This may be a good time to provide information on where Clearwater, Ewing & Orchard Public Schools are on the school bond election process. I will try to outline what the timeline looks like leading up to the vote on passing a bond measure to build a new school.
Right now we are in the information discovery & planning phase. A team made up of Legal Counsel, Architect, Municipal Advisor, & Construction Manager are being put together. So far, the board members from the three schools have chosen Legal Counsel, a Municipal Advisor and an Architect. Potential site locations are being considered with the directive that the site selected will be a central location near the Summerland Road area. One of the next steps will be to hire a Construction Manager.
Legal counsel advises board and administration on taking appropriate legal action for land purchases, construction delivery, financing, and bonding of projects as well as contracting construction specialists. They also have been part of putting together the language necessary for the potential new reorganized school district.
The Municipal Advisor (MA) provides guidance and assistance for the information campaign. They help organize the financial data and coordinate with the board, administration and committee members on presenting information to the public in each district. First National Capital Markets was selected to provide this service.
The architect works with the visioning committee, which is made up of community members, school faculty, board members and administration to come up with the building design. The design method that has been chosen is Construction Manager @Risk. The construction manager (CM) works with the architect to put a cost to the design that is agreed to. In this design method, a Guaranteed Maximum Price is then negotiated for the building. If the bond passes, then the CM is the builder during the construction phase. The three schools are currently accepting proposals from CM firms and will be selecting several to interview the 2nd week of July, with hiring occurring at the next joint board meeting.
The first of three meetings of the Visioning Committee will be held June 19 in Clearwater. This committee’s input will be essential to the final school building design. There will be a 2nd Visioning Committee meeting in July, and the final one will be held in August. The joint boards will approve a concept design with a corresponding budget in August. If there are any community members interested in being a part of the visioning process, you are encouraged to contact your district administration.
The Information Campaign, where the results of the design process, the financial information, and any other prebond work will be shared, is scheduled to begin in September. This will be after all the decisions on the design, location, and finances are complete. The Bond Information Committee, working with the Municipal Advisor, will help get this information to the public. Social media, brochures, mailings, and public meetings all may be part of this process. There will be a town hall meeting held in each community to present and explain information and to respond to any questions that there might be. If there are any community members interested in being a part of the information campaign, you are also encouraged to contact your district administration.
The actual bond election will occur on November 12, if everything proceeds according to schedule. This very likely will be a mail in ballot sent out to all registered voters who have a residence in one of the three districts. The ballots are typically sent out 10-15 days ahead of the due date. Ballots would need to be received in the county offices by 5 pm on November 12. The measure would have to pass in all three districts separately in order for the districts to consolidate and build a new school facility.
The goal is to gather information useful in helping to make a sound decision on this issue. More information will be forthcoming as we get further along in the process.
By Daniel Dunn
In 1979 I was hired as a teach of science, assistant football coach, assistant basketball coach, and senior sponsor. I was fresh out of college and at the age of 21 started my teaching and coaching career in the village of Orchard, Nebraska. My wife, DiAnn, and I rented the house next door to the Conoco gas station owned by Tony Pruss. I have just completed 40 years of teaching and coaching. 37 of those years as a college coach and professor. For my first 3 years I taught and coached at Orchard High School. Below is what I learned and it has carried me throughout my career.
Leadership – My first boss was Marj Wagner. After 40 years of bosses she was the best. She was passionate, caring and patient. By listening and observing I learned how to treat others with respect and grace. Al Schlueter showed me how to lead by his example and his unique way of bringing everyone together and working toward a common goal.
Servanthood – I learned servanthood from Larry Mieras. Larry would do anything and everything for anyone. He loved students and made it his life’s passion to help them find their way in life.
Dedication – The person I learned dedication from is Bill Tabbert. Bill loves Orchard and he was a great teacher and coach. Bill was an educator who helped students realize their dreams to build with their minds and hands. Bill was a coaching lifer and helped me shape who I am as a coach.
Hard Work – I watched this young man work as hard or harder than any athlete I have ever coached. There are many examples of this throughout my 3 years at Orchard. I admired this young man for his willingness to never give up and give every ounce his body could produce. Lee was my first of many. The pay Wayne Schacht gave me that day for the basketball lesson with his son was worth more than money: Nebraska beef. I have looked for the character qualities and work ethic that Lee Schacht possesses throughout my coaching career in other players. Lee taught me that hard work matters.
Sacrifice – When you coach for 40 years you see a lot of players’ sacrifice. In 1981 Bill Williamson made a selfless choice to put the team ahead of himself. I have never forgotten that and have shared that example with my teams down through the years as a reminder of what it looks like to give of yourself to advance the team.
Enthusiasm – I learned from Orchard that anything can be accomplished with an enthusiastic attitude. I cannot remember everyone that affected me with infectious enthusiasm and dogged determination, but I will try. Dennis, Dan, Julie, Jill, Darin, Troy, Jodi, Greg, Eugene, Ann, Tamara, Tammy, Marci, Kent, Jim Farrand, Mark, Andrew, Glen, Bruce, Ben, Erin, Diane, Trisha, and many, many more.
Loyalty – I experienced time and time again the young people and adults showing their loyalty to each other, their parents, teachers, and to the community. Loyalty to my teams and colleagues has allowed me to develop lifelong friendships.
Encouragement – I taught Chemistry at Orchard. Chemistry challenged me every day to teach the subject well. I felt inadequate in this subject. Years later, Claude Strope, a regent’s scholarship recipient, told me I pushed him to be better at Chemistry every day. I did think I pushed Claude, just not in that direction. Thank you Claude for the encouragement.
Community – I always enjoyed sitting in a lawn chair with some of the wiser men of the community in front of Tony’s gas station and listening to the men talk about life in Orchard. Those were relaxing times that allowed me to learn more about Orchard.
Friendship – I loved my time and experience living in Orchard, Nebraska. I made many friends and was treated well. I always appreciated the wisdom and kindness to me of the Wayne Schacht family, Twibell family, and the Willats family as students and as adults. I have fond memories of countless more families and individuals. The whole town helped me grow into a man who loves God, his family and friends.
Thank you Orchard, I learned about life from you.
This letter is to clarify misleading information in a recent article in the Neligh News & Leader regarding an audit that included the Antelope County Sheriff’s Department. It’s important you not only know how your tax dollars are spent, but also that you receive all of the facts.
First of all, the term “critical” was used in the headline of the article about the report. Deann Haeffer, assistant deputy auditor for the state of Nebraska, confirmed to me that never has the term “critical” been used with the county’s audit. The term “critical” was a misleading description. Secondly, please note the article referenced five years of audits. While I do not disagree with findings in the audits, the article neglected to acknowledge most of the issues were improved immediately. I wish I could say we will never have an audit error again, but that is unrealistic, though it is our goal.
Among deficiencies pointed out:
• $19 not properly claimed: We believe we have rectified this paperwork error.
• $14 petty cash spent on holiday cards: We no longer use petty cash for such purchases.
• $52 withdrawn for new checks: The expense was an automatic withdrawal that we believed had been turned in as a claim to the county. This was done immediately upon learning of the error.
• Detailed inmate balance not provided or cash on hand for June 30, 2018: The wrong forms were given to auditors. The right ones were later provided, confirming the funds were there in entirety.
• Accounts receivable of $4,211 in 2010 that had not been collected: These will be submitted for removal as noncollectable.
• Unexplained long cash of $4,049 on June 30, 2018: The auditor has been contacted, and the funds will be reallocated correctly.
• Fees not submitted to the county by Sept. 30, 2018, including social security incentive of $1,200: We believe we have rectified this paperwork error.
• Commissary account not properly reconciled and had an $8 overdraft charge: We believe we have rectified this paperwork error.
Again, our office does not deny any of these deficiencies in the five years of audits referred to and has worked diligently to correct all paperwork issues and create policies when necessary. I commend our staff for their hard work, especially our bookkeeper and office manager, for her efforts, which still includes dispatcher, 911 coordination and jailer duties on top of the paperwork.
It is disheartening our office was never contacted by the Neligh News & Leader to clarify the deficiencies or that the article did not acknowledged the errors are either fixed or in the process of being rectified. I hope this letter clarifies that your tax dollars are accounted for and there has not been a “critical report” issued with the Antelope County audits for five straight years.
We will continue to work on improvements within our office and thank you for taking the time to read our explanation of the deficiencies and the solutions.
Sheriff Bob Moore
Reminder: Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital or Antelope County News/Orchard News.
On January 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Orchard, the school boards of Clearwater, Orchard, Ewing, and Verdigre will meet to listen to the presentation of information on various school options compiled by Dr. Bob Uhling and Dr. Craig Pease.
As the discussion continues among board members and the public about future options, it is important to have all the information clarified as much as possible.
To that point, the Unified Board at our December meeting requested that I share information with the public about what the benefits of unification include.
I will attempt to do that to the best of my ability.
The benefits of Unification include:
1. A reduced cost for administration — The three schools have one superintendent and business manager rather than three.
2. Shared professional development activities — We have a shared focus on school improvement efforts, so that leads to staffs across the 3 schools working together in certain areas rather than being confined to one school and/or one teacher per grade level or curricular area. There are some reduced costs here due to anything that we purchase to assist in professional development can be at a reduced cost if it is one district.
3. Shared curriculum and teacher expertise — Our staffs have developed a common curriculum across the 3 schools in most areas. We are then able to share resources to a large extent as well. Textbooks and resources are reviewed as a district and then purchased based on the largest class sizes that we will experience in the next few years. We then transport these textbooks as needed at the start of each year.
4. Original districts retain local control via the Advisory Board which, with the building administrator, oversees building level issues.
5. Local representation is also maintained on the Unified Board with two members from each original district serving at this level and their focus is more with district issues.
6. The ability to maintain current school and staffs and do any reductions through normal attrition. Unification has helped give schools time to work through financial and enrollment issues.
7. The plan has also allowed for reorganization within unification and activity coops both within and outside of unification.
A con to unification might be that we do have a fairly high cost per student compared to the statewide average. The cost of keeping three schools open in our communities is significant.
I will also say that most small schools are experiencing similar issues with lower enrollments. The cost per student would be even higher if each school was on its own. School districts that have a higher enrollment and one school building to maintain will definitely have cost saving because of the economy of scale.
The more students that a district has enrolled and the less staff and building costs, the lower your expenses will be. You can have a lot of these same benefits or more through consolidation if that is what the communities choose to do.
Unification does allow us to plan for at least 7 years at a time which is helpful. Unification can be for anywhere from 3-7 years. It would be beneficial to be able to plan for longer than that as well.
I will say also that all three schools that unified agreed to come together and work as one unit. Originally the finances were more similar than they are now as far as valuations go, but each school puts in everything they have.
If anyone has any questions about the information presented in this article feel free to stop in and visit with me or give me a call.
I am in Clearwater on most Wednesdays, Verdigre on Fridays, and most of the rest of the time in Orchard at the central office.
I am writing concerning the Antelope County Agriculture Society’s ballot measure that will be voted on November 6, 2018.
There has been a large amount of confusion associated with this measure. To those who are not familiar with this measure, this will allow them to remove their restricted fund, allowing them to more easily use the money that they have.
What will this money be used for? The money accumulated from this measure allows for more growth in the areas of 4-H and FFA at the county fair. Growth in terms of the addition of building structures and improvements. These future improvements include the construction of a new small animal building for poultry, rabbits and bucket calves. The purchase of new fans for the show arena, and LED security lights at the fairground to add safety and security for our children. Currently, this cannot be done because their funds can only be used on existing projects at the fairgrounds.
Right now, the Ag Society’s annual operating expenses budget is $130,000, but their actual expenses are around $120,000.
Voting yes to this measure will not cause a sudden jump in taxes. The Ag Society’s current levy is .43 cents. If approved, their levy will change to .55 cents. Meaning, if you own a $100,000 piece of property, your contributions to the Ag Society will go from $4.30 to $5.50. This is only a little over one dollar a year going to our area youth!
The ballot request is very comparable to our surrounding counties, with Madison being the highest at 1.1 cent, and Boone being the lowest at .51 cents.
Voting yes to the Agriculture Society’s measure is a vote for 4-H and FFA, and this is a vote that we cannot afford to lose!
Antelope County 4-H Council Vice-President
On November 6, it is time to exercise our right to vote. Locally, those of us who head to the polls will see a ballot from Antelope County Ag Society slightly increasing the levy, but more importantly, releasing restricted funds. By releasing restricted funds, this will free up capital for much needed future projects and for simply paying bills associated with the fair.
As it stands now, restricted funds can only be used to improve existing property. Our Ag Society Board members volunteer their time and manage resources to ensure a quality county fair and support Antelope County 4-H. We’ve seen the number of youth involved in 4-H grow from 115 to over 300 in the last 5 years and this measure will help support these growing numbers. As a 4-H Leader and 4-H Council Treasurer, I encourage you to vote FOR this measure releasing restricted funds to support Antelope County Fair and our local 4-H program.
What do you value? Hard work? Commitment? Integrity?
This is exactly what 4-H is working to instill in our young people.
Our Antelope County 4-H program is growing and flourishing right now. Just 5 years ago, there were 115 members and now there are a whopping 303 4-Hers! There are many reasons our numbers have more than doubled, and one of them is the Antelope County Ag Society's dedication to our county fair.
The Ag Society paid over $12,000 in 4-H premiums alone. Not to mention the costs to provide water, electricity and pay for judges. But our growing numbers are causing growing pains for the Ag Society.
Their own funds are restricted, making it tougher for them to pay the bills. The November ballot will have a measure that could change that. A vote FOR this measure will release the restricted funds and give the Ag Society the ability to make improvements.
The current levy is at $108,000/.43 cents. The asking would change to $140,000/.55 cents. This means if you owned a $100,000 piece of property, your contribution for the Ag Society would go from $4.30/year to $5.50/year. That's about $1 a year to help 4-H!
Passing this measure will free up capital for future projects, such as a new small animal building for poultry, rabbits and bucket calves. The Ag Society would also like to purchase new fans for the show arena and LED security lights at the fairgrounds. Right now, their funds may only be used to restore the existing property.
We know that some of the Ag Society's financial struggles are the direct result of our growing 4-H program. Please help 4-H continue to thrive and vote FOR the Ag Society's measure on November 6.
Antelope County 4-H Council President
To meet the proposed budget cuts proposed by the Governor, the University of Nebraska is eliminating Haskell Agricultural Laboratory (HAL) near Concord. I retired in January after 34 years as the soil scientist at HAL. If there was no HAL as a base, there would have been less research in the counties that serve this newspaper, and our recommendations would not be as relevant. For example, we partnered with the Nebraska Soybean Board to have summer field days in Holt and Antelope County, partnered with the NRDs to conduct nitrogen management demonstrations and research in your area over many years. The need for locally conducted research holds true for the other disciplines represented at HAL: weed science, entomology, and irrigation science. Before the powers in Lincoln decided not to refill positions at HAL, we have made contributions to the beef and swine industry.
Why is this happening? The budget cuts being imposed by the legislature are an excuse to eliminate HAL. The administrative leadership in Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources has not supported HAL for many years. Over the past decades, HAL has lost positions in Youth, Nutrition, Biosystems Engineering, Swine Management, Dairy Science, Beef Science, and Agricultural Economics. These losses are mainly due to a combination of how departments compete for positions and administrative neglect.
Why should you be concerned? The northeast district has a different growing season, soils, and topography than the rest of the state. Our district makes major contributions to the state’s economy. Our district has 32% of the farms, 35% of the market value of ag production, 41% of the livestock sales, and 29% of the corn acreage (2012 Ag statistics). Our center owns 320 acres, and we rent 160 acres. Compare this land resource to the 9,500 acres near Mead, the 4,100 acres in the Panhandle REC, and 2,000 acres at the WCREC near North Platte.
Who would gain? When they close HAL and sell the land, the proceeds will go to Yale University. If you care about northeast Nebraska, then let your State Senator, the Governor, our Regent, and the university administration know how you feel.
Society of Agronomy
University of Nebraska
Reminder: Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital, Antelope County News, The Orchard News or its staff.
Will future industrial wind towers be built by you with no noise regulations?
No towers around your home yet? Then you need to be concerned because they have signed leases in all parts of the county and the Commissioners and Zoning Board are proposing dropping the noise limits entirely on future projects. The public hearing will be on September 12 at 1 p.m. in the courthouse meeting room. Speak up now or you may have your peaceful home destroyed by uncontrolled noise.
The county has already had complaints that the 50 dBa is too loud on current projects, so why are they dropping the noise limits altogether now? Who are they protecting? The residents of Antelope County or the wind developers?
Another line item in the zoning regulations, says they can be built with black blades. Do you want to be surrounded by towers with black blades?
Now is the time to come to the Antelope County Commissioners hearing to express your concerns about industrial wind towers being allowed to be built without noise restrictions being placed on them. Tuesday, September 12, at 1 p.m. at the courthouse.
- Judy Wilcox of Tilden, NE
Reminder: Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital, Antelope County News, The Orchard News or its staff.
Editor's Note: This number
* * *
The school consolidation proposals that have made their way to our communities and school boards are rare opportunities and are long overdue. However, it is all too easy for any single participant to disrupt an opportunity our communities, students and taxpayers desperately need. We are currently facing a time of high taxes and poor markets, a time of rapidly changing education needs and a time of persistent, slow community decay. Now is the time to consider consolidation options for our schools.
US News & World Report puts Nebraska as #2 in high school graduation rates but only #22 in college readiness. This is likely due to so many Nebraskan schools being too small to offer a variety of stimulating classes for their students. Small schools, like the ones in our communities, provide many benefits, among them: low student-to-faculty ratios, the ability for faculty to connect with their students and student bodies where most students know each other. However, schools that are too small suffer other problems: lack of advanced classes; the inability to hire teachers that provide accelerated, skill-building and career-oriented classes; lack of resources for their brightest, most capable students; too few teachers for constructive intra-departmental curriculum planning and development; inability to sufficiently support extracurricular activities that engage students’ varying abilities and interests; and uncertainty for the continuance of existing academic and extracurricular programs.
Many of these issues plague our schools already and will only get worse. As an example, in the 2016-2017 school year, Neligh-Oakdale was unable to compete for a state title in football after having a completed a perfect season because there was not enough interest by the small student body to support the eleven-man team they were required to have to compete for a state title. Shrinking student bodies will make it increasingly difficult for sports and other extracurricular activities to not only succeed in competing against other schools, but also to even keep programs open.
Right now our schools are unable to properly promote STEM and will be unable to in the future if they stay at the size they are. For those that do not know, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has been the driving force behind American innovation and world leadership (politicians and business leaders cannot drive us forward without someone actually doing the innovative work). In fact, STEM is as essential to modern agriculture as the farmers and as essential to modern medicine as the practitioners. Giving our students advanced STEM classes prepares them for college, the workplace and encourages them to be innovators — ones that are interested in innovating for the needs of Nebraska and Nebraskans.
This, too, is already affecting students. Neligh-Oakdale did not offer a calculus class to class of 2015 seniors due to very few students taking it per year (another consequence of size). Calculus is often a requirement for the engineering schools that train our innovators and engineers; thus, many high schools around the nation offer as many as three years of calculus to ensure their students have the ability to succeed. Half a dozen of the exceptional students in Neligh-Oakdale’s class of 2016 (three of which achieved ACT scores over 30 — the first time any student had scored over thirty in at least over six years at Neligh-Oakdale — and two of which had intentions to and did attend engineering colleges) were eager for a calculus class. Unsurprisingly, Neligh-Oakdale had no intentions of offering a calculus class and, if it were not for the resolve of the students in this class and the support of their classmates in petitioning to get the school to offer calculus, Neligh-Oakdale would not have offered calculus.
While small class sizes are a problem, some people may be concerned about a school merger resulting in class sizes being too large. According to the preliminary merger numbers provided during the July Neligh-Oakdale school board meeting, even under a five school merger, total class sizes would be roughly 65-75 people. This becomes large enough to fully support an array of classes such as: Advanced Placement (AP) classes, additional STEM classes, college dual-credit classes, career focused classes and modern technology classes. Yet, it is not too large to allow students to know their peers well. Elementary students will still get the individual attention they need, as their teaching class sizes are unlikely to increase by much. As Neligh-Oakdale’s Superintendent Gregory stated: “you can have fifteen kids in a room and still meet individual needs by having paras in there...the paras under this system [a merger] would benefit very much, because I don’t see much reduction for them.” Junior high and high school students will not see many individual classes increase in size since there will be more specialized classes to split students between. Even under a five school merger, class sizes are small enough to receive all the benefits of small schools and classes, yet large enough to receive all the benefits of a larger school.
It is easy to talk about the benefits or greatness of a new school facility without talking about finances and discussing finances is of utmost importance right now. As most people know, property taxes are far too high in many areas during these times of difficult market conditions, destabilizing our local agricultural economy that may have heavy ripple effects through the rest of our local economy. Not to mention, high property taxes unnecessarily burden all of our businesses and community members. Any businesses and families considering moving to our communities must also consider the high property taxes and are likely to choose other communities with lower taxes, persisting community decay instead of rejuvenating community growth.
The preliminary school levy numbers provided at the July Neligh-Oakdale school board meeting are promising. For those that do not know, the estimated school levies for combined general budget and facility bond are: 0.4910 (Clearwater, Ewing, Elgin, N-O, Orchard), 0.6076 (Clearwater, Ewing, N-O, Orchard), 0.5289 (Clearwater, Elgin, Ewing, N-O), and 0.7259 (Clearwater, Ewing, N-O). And, according to Nebraska Department of Revenue each of these districts’ school levies were: 0.3365 (Elgin), 0.6658 (Clearwater), 0.8604 (Neligh-Oakdale), 0.7202 (Ewing), and 0.6507 (Orchard). The numbers speak for themselves.
If one of the proposed merger consolidations that does not include all five schools ends up going through, schools not involved will only suffer more. There will be many parents that will opt-out of their school district and opt-in the consolidated school. It is not a question of if, it is a question of how many. A consolidated school with more and better academic and extracurricular options will be an attractive alternative parents have not yet had. As parents opt-out of their districts, these districts will decay faster and faster when fewer students result in worse and fewer academic and extracurricular options. Soon, school districts face the threat of spiraling out of existence.
Members from five community school boards getting together and actually sitting down to discuss possible arrangements for school mergers and the numbers involved is a monumental achievement. It shows that our communities have the ability to overcome any differences they may have to consider and plan for the future of our students and the communities themselves. It is also a very fragile thing to have so many elected officials representing so many differing constituent views to discuss such matters with no formal requirement for anything to be done. Thus, as a result, our communities saw the positive, fruitful results this meeting achieved. Unfortunately, they then quickly saw two boards make the decision to withdraw from further discussions without formal input from their constituents or even time for their constituents to consider the proposals. A decision to consolidate does not have to be made today but to make a decision to withdraw without community input, careful consideration and proper inter-community discussion is to ignore problems facing our communities and blindly deprive our students of a chance for even better education.
It is our hope that community members will read this and realize the benefits such a merger will bring to communities, students’ academic and extracurricular offerings, and taxpayers. At the very least, this is a request for everyone to ensure they and their elected officials take careful consideration and engage in meaningful communication with others about the future of our schools and the students they serve.
- Brian and Bryce Frey of Tilden
Reminder: Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital, Antelope County News, The Orchard News or its staff.
Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital LLC, Antelope County News, The Orchard News or its staff.
News That Matters To Antelope County - Your News. Your Way. Every Day!
© Pitzer Digital, LLC