Fayette superintendent to retire at school year’s end

Fayette schools superintendent Dr. Tamara Kimball on Wednesday announced to members of the Board of Education her intention to retire at the conclusion of the current school year. The announcement was made during closed session of the board’s monthly meeting.

She has served as superintendent in Fayette since 2013.

“I’m very proud of the projects that we’ve had and the things that we’ve gotten done,” Dr. Kimball told this newspaper on Friday. “All are special and very meaningful. You kind of know when it’s time and I have 35 years.

Dr. Kimball has spent more than three decades in the public school system, both in California and Missouri. She served as a teacher, director, assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools in Missouri as well as an elementary and high school teacher in California. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development from California State University at Los Angeles, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum from UCLA, an Education Specialist Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Central Missouri and a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University.

She also served as president of the Fayette Rotary Club.

Dr. Kimball’s first job in public education was at Foster Elementary. The mascot was a falcon. “I told the staff yesterday morning that coming here has enabled me to end my career as I started it from a Foster Falcon to Fayette Falcon,” she said. “And that might not mean much of anything to most people but it’s symbolic for me and special for the community and the staff.”

When she began her tenure in Fayette six years ago, Daly Elementary had been deemed a focus school by the state. That means it had essentially been singled out by the state as a school that needed immediate improvement. “Daly Elementary is no longer a focus school. We had excellent professional development and lots of good things have happened as a result of that. And Clark Middle School was a beneficiary of some of those things,” she said.

Dr. Kimball said her announcement was timed in order to give the Fayette R-III Board of Education appropriate time to find a suitable replacement. 

“The sooner you do it the sooner the plans can be made for the transition and a replacement,” Dr. Kimball explained. “And so I just wanted to make sure that the board had time to decide what they want to do and then to be able to act on that.” Dr. Kimball’s tenure officially ends on June 30 of 2019. Her replacement must be hired to begin work on July 1. The board has a few options in its task of hiring a new superintendant. It may promote from within. It may post the position and review applications. Or it could hire a search company to find suitable candidates. That’s what it did six years ago when Dr. Kimball was hired.

School Board Meets

The two major topics addressed in recent months by the Fayette R-III Board of Education – a proposed four-day school week, and the operating tax levy which will appear on ballots in April – once again took center stage during the publicly open portion the group’s meeting Wednesday night.

Members discussed different options for school day lengths if and when the board votes to adopt the new schedule. Elementary, middle, and high school principals each had different opinions on what type of schedule would work best for their respective grade levels.

Dr. Kimball presented results of a recent survey of parents, students and staff members, with regard to the proposed schedule change. Not surprisingly, staff and students overwhelmingly gave their approval of switching from a five-day, to a four-day school week. More than 83 percent of students in grades eight through 11 said they would be interested in making the change.

Only five community members completed the survey. Community members are identified as living in the school district, but neither a parent or a school staff member. Two respondents thought a four-day school week would have a positive effect, while three said it would have a negative effect.

A larger poll of 354 people who identified themselves as parents or guardians, community members, and/or staff members was less conclusive. Although 58.1 percent of those surveyed approved of changing to a four-day week, just 52 percent of those who identified themselves as parents of elementary school children said they would be interested in the change. 

Twenty-eight percent of elementary parents voted no and 20 percent said they were unsure.

While 82.9 percent of elementary parents said their child would have enough food over the extended weekends, 2.3 percent said no and 14.8 percent were not sure. This was a concern voiced by board member Michelle Howell during the November board meeting, as a part–albeit a small minority – of the student body relies on the school for meals.

Only 48 percent of elementary parents said the four-day schedule would have a positive effect on their families.

What is less clear in the results of this survey are the opinions of parents who have no affiliation with the school outside of their children’s attendance. Of the 354 people who took the survey, 82 people, or 23.3 percent, identified themselves as staff members. It is already known that the vast majority of school staff have given their approval to a shorter work week. What is not revealed are the wishes of parents who work five-day schedules not affiliated with the district.

Of these 354 respondents, the chief concern was childcare. It is unknown how local day cares will deal with an influx of more children just one day a week. 

Forty five survey takers identified that saving money would be the biggest benefit of eight categories. Actual monetary savings projections vary depending on which schedule model board members ultimately decide. While cost savings associated with four-day schedules often under perform expectations when implemented, smaller savings do exist. Dr. Kimball proposed realistic possible savings between $151,137 and $166,378 per year.

Two community forums have been scheduled for the public to ask questions and raise concerns. The first forum will be held Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Fayette High School Library. The second will be Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Armstrong City Hall/Community Center.

Dr. Kimball told the board that a second survey will be given once the public forums have taken place, to further gauge the community’s attitude toward the proposed change.

Operating Levy

With the deadline to provide ballot language to elections coming up in January, the board voted unanimously to ask voters in April for an increase of 72 cents to the operating tax levy. 

It has been 20 years since a tax increase was passed. The district tried and narrowly failed to pass an increase of 70 cents during the 2018 August primary.

Board members are working to provide a list of what programs to reinstate or introduce if the measure passes. Several board members expressed their desires to reinstate a two-year preschool program, should the tax increase find approval. The current program was scaled back to one year due to budget constraints.

In other business, the newly formed transportation committee recommended that a 1.8 mile extension be made to Bus E in order to drop off students on a gravel road rather than the highway, with the stipulation that the parents maintain the tree limbs to insure no damage occurs to the bus while on the gravel road. The board approved with a 5-0 vote. Board member John Stroupe abstained and Michelle Howell was absent.

The board also gave unanimous approval to the FFA’s application for the Midway Trap Shoot Sports Grant.

The next regular meeting for the BOE will deviate slightly from its traditional setting. It will take place at 3 p.m. at the central office. The public is invited to attend.

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