The Junior High Library at Mason I.S.D. was packed on Monday night as supporters and opponents of continuing the daycare operation at MISD packed the room to share their opinions with school board trustees.
Board president, Jeff Owen, opened the public comment portion of the meeting by noting that he would allow up to three supporters and three opponents of the issue to speak. Three supporters spoke first: two teachers, and a student mother who are all using the daycare and espoused the positive effect it has had upon them and their families. The student mother told the group that it was having the daycare that had allowed her to return to school to finish her education and to get her diploma.
Two opponents of the daycare spoke next. The first admitted that this was a wonderful program; but, as a taxpayer, felt it was not something he should be subsidizing. The second opponent explained that she had heard a great deal of negative response to the board's decision to fund a daycare, and had seen donations to the Mason I.S.D. Education Foundation drop off because of that same decision.
The board's discussion of the issue looked at the daycare from every position. Tommy Bierschwale stated that he felt Steady Steps could now handle much of the need being met by the school's daycare; but, it was pointed out that Steady Steps did not have enough vacancies to handle the additional workload.
Michelle Chapman reminded the board that they had voted 7-0 to approve the daycare, knowing it would take time to become self-sustaining, because it was for the greater good of the school system and the children.
Shannon Worrell stated that, "We had a need that wasn't being met, and we found a way to fulfill it."
She also stated that she felt the daycare was doing rather well for a new venture, and reminded the board and the audience that taxes did not have to be increased to fund the operation.
Helen Dockal worried that the daycare was causing some dissension in the community. She noted that one of the board's responsibilities is to foster a positive image of the school system in the community and worried this was doing just the opposite.
Shannon Worrell told the board that she felt they had come so far financially as a district that it had allowed them the opportunity to take this risk, and she moved to accept the proposed budget for a period of two years and allow the daycare the opportunity to prove itself. The motion was seconded by Michelle Chapman.
Superintendent Pam Kruse asked the board to remind her about what conditions or boundaries had been established by the board when they voted to approve the daycare since she was not superintendent at the time.
Helen Dockal responded that she was worried that budget numbers had fluctuated repeatedly since they had voted to approve the operation. She asked about the possibility of raising the rates for those using the daycare to help offset some of the budget numbers.
The board continued to discuss some of the different options for financing, including a rate increase, grant applications and other venues before finally taking a vote.
Those voting for were: Jeff Owen, Shannon Worrell, Tina Cantu and Michelle Chapman.
Those voting against were: Tommy Bierschwale, Helen Dockal and Buddy Schuessler.
The board next heard a presentation from the Student Health Advisory Committee regarding a possible change to cafeteria menus. The group fielded several speakers who discussed the growing obesity problem in Mason, and the attendant health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They suggested a plan of improved meals using fresh ingredients, along with a student and parent education component to help Mason County families eat healthier.
The group will return at the next meeting with budget numbers for what such a plan would cost the district.
Superintendent Kruse announced that the search committee for high school principal had unanimously recommended the hiring of Chris Habecker for that position.
The board adjourned at 8:54 p.m.