Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 15, 2014

Eastern approves funding for renovations

Technology purchases approved

By Lauren Fitch Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — GREENTOWN – With just two more weeks of classes left in the current school year, the Eastern Howard County School Corp. board of education is looking ahead to the 2014-15 school year.

At a regular meeting Tuesday, the board finalized plans for a $2 million renovation at Eastern Sr./Jr. High School, which will be completed over the summer; approved another year of working with its cafeteria management company, Sodexo; and approved a lease agreement to keep up the district’s 1:1 technology initiative.

The final stage of renovations at the secondary building includes upgrades to the HVAC system, lighting ceilings and restrooms in some areas of the school. The board approved specifics of the project last month. Tuesday’s meeting included a public hearing on the project, the board’s approval of a patrons’ petition in support of the renovations and assigning contracts for the project to the Building Corporation.

The Building Corporation, which consists of a group of taxpayers, owns the building, handles contracts for work there and holds bonds. The school corporation makes payments to the building corporation until the debt is paid off.

Superintendent Tracy Caddell again noted the project will have no financial impact on taxpayers. Debt will be paid off on a previous renovation project at the elementary school, and a new levy will replace that for the jr./sr. high renovations.

Assistant jr./sr. high principal Lindsey Brown gave a report based on an internal audit of Sodexo, and she recommended the district agree to a one-year contract extension with the management company. Eastern hired Sodexo in 2012 to help the food services department comply with new federal regulations on the nutritional value of school lunches and to provide more purchasing power.

“What we determined was there are things that can be approved upon,” Brown said, adding that the top priorities moving forward will be providing more training opportunities for Eastern’s cafeteria staff and giving the cafeteria managers more ownership over planning the menus.

The board approved the contract extension with a 4-1 vote; President Brian Day opposed it.

There have been mixed reviews on Sodexo’s influence on Eastern’s food services, which Brown said stemmed mostly from a miscommunication about the role of the management company in working with Eastern employees.

Caddell agreed with her that the situation should improve moving forward.

“I certainly know there are people in the community who are not happy with Sodexo,” he said. “But it’s getting better. I think with these changes, you’re going to see a difference.”

The board also approved an American Capital Lease agreement for $137,700 to purchase technology equipment for the next school year. Payments on the lease will be made from the Capital Project Fund over the next four years.

“It allows us to budget for our technology needs, to spread it out over four years and continue our 1:1 [technology] initiative,” Caddell said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

• First readings of the Eastern Elementary School and Eastern Jr./Sr. High School handbooks were held.

• 2014-15 textbook fees for the jr./sr. high were approved.

• Retirees Connie Sproch, Brad Wilson, Brad Shrock, Sue Adams, Donna Guge, Sue Wyrick and Kathleen Echelbarger were honored. They had a combined total of more than 200 years of service at Eastern.

Education reporter Lauren Fitch can be reached at 765-454-8587, by email at lauren.fitch@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @LaurenBFitch.