School board puts hold on plan to build sports stadium

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Cape Girardeau school board won't move ahead with plans for a new high school football stadium, at least not yet.

Board members said Tuesday they want an overall facilities plan for the district that looks at all the building needs, not just high school athletic facilities.

Superintendent Dr. David Scala agreed. He said the district needs to set facility priorities and look at how to fund them.

Board member Steve Trautwein said it's unclear whether the district even needs to build a football stadium. The high school currently plays its home games at Southeast Missouri State University's Houck Stadium.

Board member Tom Reinagel said the board needs to address the stadium issue but not until an overall facilities plan has been crafted.

At a daylong retreat at the Cape Girardeau Country Club, board members said they want Scala and his administrative staff to develop a five-year facilities plan and a five-year financial plan by next summer.

Board members said a list of possible building projects, which were shown in an original draft of the strategic plan, weren't meant to be part of the planning document.

Any facilities plan must include an estimated cost for improvements, board members said.

As part of financial planning, school officials will conduct a detailed analysis of the district's revenue and expenditures. Scala said that analysis should start by August and be completed by November.

Those goals are contained in a five-year strategic plan that board members discussed and debated on Tuesday. The board could adopt the new, five-year plan at its regular meeting on Monday.

As part of the wide-ranging strategic plan, school officials also will explore the feasibility of going to year-round school. But it's not a top priority for the next school year, board members said.

Board member Laura Sparkman argued that year-round school could benefit students. Children get easily bored during the summer, she said. "My kids are bored after the first two weeks," Sparkman said.

But board member Kyle McDonald said year-round school would interfere with swimming and other summer recreational sports for children. Year-round school would lessen parents' involvement in educating their children, he said.

Besides facilities and financial plans, the board wants the district to focus on the following priorities in the coming school year:

* Better communicate with parents, students, staff and the general public. One way would be through development of a districtwide newsletter.

* Develop student assessment portfolios that would include examples of students' school work. The portfolios would help teachers spot any academic needs as the student moves from grade to grade through the school system.

* Develop advisory committees including a financial advisory board.

School board member Sharon Mueller said the board's overall goal is to make the district more accountable to the public at every level from the teachers to the principals to the central-office administrators.

The plan includes a goal of increasing teacher salaries within three to five years to bring them in line with the state or regional average, whichever is higher.

Other goals include exploring the feasibility of establishing a preschool program and creating a marketing plan for the district.

Board members and school administrators said the strategic plan will guide future decisions regarding all aspects of school operations.

"This is going to be the map," said Trautwein.

Assistant superintendent Pat Fanger said reliance on a five-year plan to help direct school operations is a change for the Cape Girardeau public schools. The previous school administration didn't use the five-year plan to guide its decisions, Fanger said. That plan was drawn up in 2000.

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