Board approves COVID-19 advisory committee, positive case dashboard

At the Sept. 14 meeting, the board created a 17-member advisory committee for future decisions on school learning models

District+Superintendent+Frank+Harwood+speaks+during+graduation.+Harwood%2C+along+with+all+other+Johnson+County+school+districts%2C+put+out+a+statement+announcing+school+closures+Monday%2C+March+16.

By Kristen Garrett

District Superintendent Frank Harwood speaks during graduation. Harwood, along with all other Johnson County school districts, put out a statement announcing school closures Monday, March 16.

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

The board approved a COVID-19 advisory committee for future decisions on learning models and announced the creation of a COVID-19 dashboard on the district website with information about positive cases both district-wide and within individual schools at a Sept. 14 meeting.

Superintendent Frank Harwood proposed the committee, which the board had tasked him to create at their previous meeting. 

The committee will be composed of 13 voting members: five parents from across the district, one elementary teacher, one secondary teacher, one health services staff member, one mental health services staff member, one human resources representative, one public health expert, one doctor, and one mental health specialist. 

Harwood will oversee the committee along with three board members, but the four will not vote. The advisory committee will make recommendations to the board at each meeting regarding the district’s model for school based on the Kansas State Department of Education’s gating criteria. 

The board will still make all decisions on different learning models used within schools, taking into account the recommendations of the advisory board. Board member Ashley Spaulding voiced her support for the board keeping this power. 

“Ultimately, the responsibility should lie with us. This is an advisory committee, not a committee that we’re passing off responsibility to,” Spaulding said. “I also believe that our patrons deserve transparency.” 

In the interest of that transparency, the board also approved the COVID-19 dashboard on the district website. While announcing the dashboard, Harwood shared up-to-date information about COVID-19 in the district: since July, 121 staff and students have been in quarantine or isolation due to exposure to the virus.

Ultimately, the responsibility should lie with us. This is an advisory committee, not a committee that we’re passing off responsibility to.”

— board member Ashley Spaulding

At the meeting, Harwood also announced that the district and De Soto Teachers Association reached a consensus on labor negotiations for the upcoming school year. Harwood voiced his satisfaction with the agreement.

“The district tries to always do its best for staff,” Harwood said. “It was a pleasure to work with the DTA on these negotiations.”

DTA negotiator Jeff Wieland also addressed the board, and he shared Harwood’s contentment with the new agreement. 

“We know the money is not always there as much as we would like, but we appreciate the fact that the district shares our same goal [of competitive compensation for teachers],” Wieland said.

The board called for a special meeting Monday, Sept. 28 to receive the advisory committee’s first recommendation. 

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will take place Monday, Oct. 5.

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