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Looking to new year, school district continues to grow

The Dickinson Public School Board re-elected Brent Seaks as president of the Dickinson Public School Board among other orders of business at this month's meeting Monday, the first meeting for new superintendent Shon Hocker.

"It's been a pleasure to have been here for a week; it's been a great first week," Hocker said in his superintendent's report at the outset of the meeting.

The school board went through a lengthy agenda at a brisk clip, approving bids for the purchase of three new school buses and hearing reports from business manager Kent Anderson on the district's membership level and transportation usage—both of which have increased, qualifying the district for more state money.

"This is an important report.This is what drives our foundation funding from the state. For context, the report ... shows 3,706 students for our spring report. This is up about 239 students from last year's report," Anderson said. "That will help a lot."

Anderson estimates this will result in about $2.3 million in increased foundation aid for the coming school year. In terms of transportation, Anderson reported that the district was experiencing an increase in bus rides and miles driven as a result of the opening of the new middle school.

"Both our miles and rides were up significantly in '17-'18 in large part due to busing to the new middle school. So we anticipated this, but we don't get the impact of those increased costs until we see the final data. We turn that in to the state so then they use that ... for our next school year reimbursement," Anderson said. "So ... if it goes up from one year, you actually have to wait a year to get that funding from the state, because they don't know that until you file your spring report."

The district's growth had seen its existing fleet of buses unable to accomodate all of the district's children, resulting in a "waiting list" that board member Kim Schwartz was happy to see eliminated as she moved "enthusiastically" to purchase three additional buses.

"I'm just happy to hear we will not have a waiting list and we will be helping get these children to school," she said.

The new buses will cost $286,950 she said.

Schwartz also motioned for DPS to enter into a partnership with the Roughrider Education Services Program (RESP), which had approached the new administration to suggest an arrangement that Hocker said the district had "no reason" not to participate in.

"This will open up some avenues for us for some professional development for our staff. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from the partnership," he said, presenting some details of the partnership to the board. "The partnership has offered to waive the $1,500 membership fee for the district, which is outstanding and allowed a $10,000 allowance for professional development usage."

The RESP is one of several educational service districts scattered across the state that provide services to school districts based on geography—RESP serves the southwest corner of the state, Hocker said. Partnering with them allows RESP to receive more state money while providing Dickinson educators and administrators training opportunities.

"We'll be the largest district they service (so) we can (have programs specifically) tailored to what we need. So if we need mental health services, we could bring in somebody and if it costs five grand, they'll pay for it," Hocker said. "(We can) spend up to 10 grand without them billing us."