A new year is upon us and it appears some things never change. In October at the Platte County R-3 School Board meeting, enrollment numbers were presented. The numbers were way off (much lower) than the district projections from as late as January of 2021. I waited to see if the stagnate numbers were mentioned in any correspondence to the taxpayers, like the Treasures newsletter, and they were not. The district ALWAYS reported numbers immediately when they were seeing big enrollment increases or were preparing for a bond or tax levy increase, but now we are looking at enrollment numbers lower than three years ago. Enrollment is only up 44 students from five years ago, and no mention of it from the school district.
This year in November, the district reported to the state of Missouri that its enrollment was just 4222 students. In 2018-19 enrollment was 4178. Only two of the six R-3 schools show growth from 2018.
In the past 10 years, the district has only seen growth of about 1% per year on average.
How does that 4222 enrollment number for this year match up to projections the past 10 years that the district paid $15,000 to $20,000 per study for? The 2012 projection said we would could have as high as 5981 students by 2020. That missed so badly they then just started projecting out five years, so in 2017 the projection for 2020-21 was 4423. That missed high by 10 classroom sizes (218 students).
The latest enrollment projections presented in January of 2021 showed growth to 4436 students for the current year. That number also missed high by over 200 students.
Have you noticed the trend? As I have pointed out before, these projected enrollment numbers are pretty much always high and the district keeps paying the same people to do them. Why you would pay the same people to keep giving you bad numbers? Hmmm.
I told this newspaper eight years ago the district was riding a wave of students from all of the building in the early 2000’s and it would come to an end. Houses in my neighborhood had at one time 15 kids going to R-3, now there are less than 5. We are approaching or have hit the bottom of the wave where enrollment levels out, or goes down like it has in Kearney and Smithville over the past several years.
The latest ASBR report by the state of Missouri shows R-3 is back where it was at several years ago as a leader in debt for the entire state. Total debt for the district is shown as $124,837,341, which is more than $29,000 per student. Interest payments were $4,734,481 or $1,123 dollars per year per student.
Grain Valley, which has grown faster and larger even through COVID than R-3, spends only $453 dollars per year on interest per student. Granted, Grain Valley does not have a new “fieldhouse” with an indoor track and Jumbotron.
Am I the only one who thinks important information like enrollment numbers and bad test scores should come from our school board and superintendent and not some guy writing a letter to the paper?
The Annual Report and Treasures should be used to let us know where the district stands, good and bad. This includes academics, test scores and ACT scores, which also appear to be down. Don’t just pick through the data and publish or highlight what you want us to see while leaving other important information out.
When some “new blood” got on the school board a few years ago and then we got a new superintendent, I stepped back and hoped we would start to have some transparency, but apparently I was wrong. This kind of information is easy to get and if I need to start publishing it again online I will.
It would be much easier if the district and the people we pay six figure salaries would do it themselves.
If you agree the district is not being transparent, vote out the incumbents and keep voting them out until things change. If the school board members don’t know where to find the state’s district information on the budget and test scores, The Landmark has my contact info and I will be happy to help.
--Kirby Holden Rural Platte County