James outlines $500,000 loan plan to resurface R-2 track

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 12/13/23

James outlines $500,000 loan plan to resurface R-2 track

BY NEAL A. Johnson

UD Editor


LINN   — At their November meeting, Linn R-2 Superintendent …

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James outlines $500,000 loan plan to resurface R-2 track


LINN  — At their November meeting, Linn R-2 Superintendent Bob James explained a payment plan to borrow $500,000 to resurface the track to board members.

“Looking at our track, it definitely needs a resurface,” said James. “It’s thin and cracked. We had it repaired, and it’s least ready for competition this year, but it’s by no means in good shape. You can already tell there are holes, and it needs to be patched again.”

Linn last resurfaced the track 15 years ago, and James said it’s time to do it again.

“You generally get 10 or 12 years out of a track,” he added. “It’s less than ideal to go with a lease purchase to do this. However, if we go with bonding, it could be a year or two before we’re able to do it. We could pay another $15,000 to $30,000 for patches and repairs to get us through, but the cheapest time to build is now.”

Previous estimates came in around $300,000, but James said the south and west corners of the track are significantly lower than their counterparts. Soil shifting due to drainage is causing the track to undulate.

James noted estimates have come in as high as $800,000 to repair it completely. He believes resurfacing would come in around $300,000.

He added that some changes will be required at the track. “We’re not talking about necessarily lifting the edge of the track, but fixing that substrate and undulation,” James said. “It will be great for competition and look good for another 10 years.”

James also noted that lighting and the leaning fence need to be addressed.

“We should be able to get all that done with the $500,000,” said James. “The caution is that annual payment in the $56,000 range. Everything we do to encumber the future assessed valuation growth means we have less flexibility each year as we go into budget discussions. I don’t believe we have a choice but to do something sooner than later, and it will never be cheaper than it is right now.”

Next year’s budget will encounter less flexibility once this deal goes through.

“For us to stay in the hunt with benefits and wages, we have to focus on having as much flexibility as possible,” James said. “It limits us, but I don’t know that we have a lot of options.”

Board President Dr. Shawn Strong asked if the school could roll the $500,000 loan into the building for which the district plans to seek voter approval to sell bonds.

“There are some things we can do,” said James, adding he would defer to Stifel Finance Managing Director Joe Kinder, who explained the district’s bonding options earlier in the meeting. “The answer is yes, based on conversations with Jason Hoffman and others.”

Linn R-2 could roll the loan if the school doesn’t like the deal and there is bonding room. “We could roll a lease purchase into our bond if we have the room,” said James.

“I think that is where I really like the solution because if we get to a year from now and the wheels fall off, we could roll it into the bigger bond,” said Dr. Strong. “I don’t think we’ll do that, but knowing we need to do all this work, we have a parachute if we need it.”

“The reason I would even look at a lease purchase is because we are limited by statute to borrow 15 percent of our assessed valuation, which is at $84 million and some change,” James noted. “That puts us at about $12.6 million (we can borrow), but we owe money on the elementary building, and that limits what we can bond.”

By moving this loan into the bond, James said the school would save $500,000 earmarked from other funds to pay for the track. “If we’re in a good position when we go to bond, we can just roll it in,” he added.

Kinder added that the bond issue needs specific language. “We would need cause included in your ballot language,” he said.

“If we move forward with making the lease purchase, we would want to include that in our bond language so we would have the option at some point, right?” VP Hannah Swann asked.

“You can do that,” Kinder replied.

“Makes sense,” Dr. Strong added. “On the lease purchase language, I know we mentioned three things. Can we use that money for other things?”

He noted the football committee has raised about half the money needed to build a press box, and inquired if the other half could come from the sale of bonds.

“We would have to change the verbiage in our application for a lease purchase because they wanted to know what we were doing,” said James. “Maybe if we went more general and said stadium improvements, we might be able to. I can find out.”

“Or, get to a point where we find out everything we’re going to do will cost way more than half a million dollars,” said Dr. Strong. “We don’t want money to be sitting on the table and spend more on lights than we should just because we need to spend the money.”

“I had the same thought,” James said.

Kinder noted the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority (MOHEFA) administers a special, limited grant at a much lower interest rate for districts, currently at 2.9%. “It’s well below market rates, especially for a lease purchase project,” said Kinder, adding that MOHEFA has limited resources. “It’s better than 50 percent less. It’s a great program.”

James noted the district used MOHEFA with the last bond issue.

“So, it’s not a done deal. We would get this because it’s a limited amount of money, or do we feel pretty good about it?” Dr. Strong asked.

“All we have to do is sign the paperwork,” said James, noting the board is not required to vote on it. “I wanted you to see the repayment schedule. That $56,000 is still a big number, so I wanted to make sure to put that in front of you again.”

“I think it’s an amazing rate, and we should sign that paperwork immediately,” said board member Mark Baker.

“The only thing I would say is make sure the language doesn’t preclude us from something else,” said Dr. Strong.

With a loan of $500,000 on Dec. 13, the district would make its first payment on Feb. 1, 2024, totaling $4,694.12. After 120 months, the loan would be retired on Jan. 1, 2034. By the end of the loan, the school will have paid $563,294.10 unless it’s rolled into the bond issue.

In other business, board members approved FFA’s request for their week-long trip to the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. This trip will include Mrs. Niederhelm, another chaperone, and up to 10 FFA members who have excelled in their participation in FFA activities. The Washington Leadership Conference is an intensive leadership conference during the summer months where students can meet other FFA members from other states, advocate for agriculture, and tour the historical city.

This conference is built on the following statement by the National FFA: “The WLC curriculum is based on four tenets: ME, WE, DO, and SERVE. Building upon each of these four tenets gets students to the overall objective of the conference, which is becoming an engaged citizen who can make a measurable positive difference in their community.”

The conference will be held April 24-28, 2024, in Chicago, Ill.


In his report, James said the district continues to focus on academic and competitive culture, not only with students but with staff.

• James said he was still looking for a kitchen manager and noted there are still a couple of coaching openings.

“We’re going to have to ramp up our recruitment and retention, from pay to attending job and recruitment fairs,” said James. “Everyone is having the same issue.”

• Professional Development (PD) is another point of focus. James said he wants teachers to experience things at other districts and bring information back to share with others.

• In other PD news, James said using sporadic Mondays is not working very well, and he would like to consider other options for next year. “We’ll come back with creative ideas on how to rearrange those days,” he said.

• Regarding budget and finance, James said he is already planning for next year, noting that campuses and programs are strictly coding items. “That will gain us the clearest picture of planned spending and anticipation,” he said.

• The state has a $6 billion surplus, well above the typical $500 million mark. “It is likely that transportation and the formula will be fully funded,” James said. “That still has to go through appropriations, but the money is there, and I’m optimistic.”

• James noted the State Adequacy Target (SAT) will increase, but it’s changing.

High School Principal Erin Sassmann noted in her report that with the amazing new lunches this year, more students are eating, and there are more delicious choices. 

“This has caused a good problem,” she added. “It is taking a little longer to get everyone through the lunch line.  We have been working on this over the last few weeks.”

Staff is putting a sign up each day with the lunch choices so students can be prepared with what they want when they get into the kitchen. It also gives students time to get their lunch cards out and ready. “Students are aware that if they do not feel they have enough time to eat, they can stay and finish,” said Sassmann. “They will get a pass to class and not be tardy.”

• During the October PD day, teachers visited area schools.  “They observed teachers in their content and grade level,” said Sassmann. “I enjoyed their reflections on the experience.  Many were able to get new ideas to bring back and try in their classroom.  For some of our teachers, it validated what they were doing in their classroom already and helped them know they were on the right track.  This visit also showed teachers that other schools in our area face challenges similar to ours.  Sometimes, we feel like we are the only ones facing these issues.  It was nice to hear how they are dealing with educational challenges, and we were able to share our ideas as well.”

• The first round of planned teacher observations is almost completed.  “I have seen many teachers trying cooperative learning strategies in their classrooms during these observations, which is one of our goals this year,” said Sassmann. “Teachers are using group work and movement to help keep students more engaged in the classroom.  I look forward to seeing what they can do as the year continues.”

Parent-teacher conferences went well.  The halls were full of parents partnering with our teachers to better their student’s education.  We appreciate all who attended!

• Choir members participated in Conference Choir at Fatima on Nov. 3. “They sounded great,” said Sassmann.

• The National Honor Society and Mrs. Francis did a great job planning the Veterans Day Assembly, Sassmann noted. “Thank you to all who participated and attended,” she added.

• Adam Maasen will join the school as a full-time Social Studies sub during the second semester. “We look forward to his excitement for teaching and new ideas for our students,” Sassmann said.

Facilities Director Cliff Wilson told the board his department has been focused on moving from outside to inside. “We’re working on getting the grounds maintenance done one last time and bathrooms at the softball/baseball field winterized,” said Wilson, noting he has also completed the lead testing assessment.

In response to a question from Dr. Strong, Wilson said the football field has yet to be winterized.


In the annual Ag Education report by Niederhelm and fellow advisor Terry Shepherd, there are 100 members, including graduates, with 86 in high school; 26% of Ag students are not enrolled dues-paying FFA members.

• Shepherd has three rotations of eighth-graders with 37 students, and Niederhelm has the same 17 students all year.

• Accomplishments for the past year:

— Five members earned American FFA Degrees, the highest degree bestowed upon FFA members from the national organization.

— Ten State Degrees were awarded this year from the Linn chapter, the highest number advisors can fill out and achieve.

— Four Proficiency Area winners moved on to state and represented the area at the State FFA Convention

— Advisors filled out and reviewed 12 applications at the area level.

— Reid Baker and Karley Frank attended HYMAX Academy, an intense leadership academy for the state’s top 75 first-year FFA members.

— Two students were selected to participate in the State FFA Chorus at the State FFA Convention.


Alicia Troesser reported this year’s program currently has 46 students identified as gifted, including 14 in grades 3-5, 11 in grades 6-8, and 21 in grades 9-12.

• State-approved gifted programs require a minimum of 150 minutes per week of direct instructional time, divided into two periods for all students. Classes grouped by grade level are 90 minutes, and the all-group class is 60 minutes. Grades 6-12 class time is on Tuesday from 10:00-11:30; grade 3 meets on Wednesday from 8-9:30; grades 4-5 have class on Friday from 1-2:30, and the all-group session is on Friday from 2:30-3:30

During the grade-level class meeting times, students come from their regular classrooms to meet with their assigned groups.

“Grade-level class meeting times are mostly used for in-depth, topic-based projects,” said Troesser.

During the all-group class meeting time, students come from their regular classrooms, and the time is used for social-emotional (SEL) curriculum, problem-solving practice, exploratory and extended thinking strategies, and Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) challenges, among other activities. It also provides time for middle and high school students to meet with the Gifted teacher for assistance on various things, such as contest opportunities, college and career searches, scholarship applications, etc. All Gifted classes meet in the Elementary Art room.

The screening process used to identify students for the program has two stages: universal screening and further evaluation. Since fall 2022, 31 students received further evaluation, 11 of whom qualified for the program. Additionally, two transfer students were placed in the program based on gifted identification records received from their former school districts.

During universal screening, all students are considered for further evaluation through a review of standardized test scores, grades, observations, and referrals from teachers, parents, and administrators. As part of the universal screening process, Troesser provides all teachers with referral guidelines and forms to assist them in observing students and making referrals. A parent inventory form is also sent out to parents with permission to screen letters for students selected for further evaluation.

During further evaluation, students must meet criteria requirements in three of four areas: general mental ability, academic ability, creativity/reasoning/problem solving, and other. Assessment tools used by the district for evaluation in these four areas include standardized achievement tests, the SAGES-3 (Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students), the WISC intelligence test, and the GATES-2 (Gifted and Talented Evaluation Scales) Teacher Rating Scales.

Data collection forms and evaluation and identification forms are still being used to organize and evaluate all information during the screening process, such as scores from the parent inventory form, scores from teacher rating scales, standardized test scores, and student grades, as well as results of district identification criteria from the further evaluation process. Additionally, files are continually being maintained on all students who receive further evaluation for the program, along with an inventory list of screening records. Troesser has been communicating with DESE’s director of gifted education about the district’s current requirements for student identification and reviewing the potential need for implementation of an Alternate Identification Plan in the district.

As of now, there has only been a discussion of the district’s current guidelines, and no suggestions have been made as to whether the district should consider developing an Alternate Identification Plan to be approved by DESE.

• Troesser has been continuing to work on aligning program components with the DESE Gifted Education Program guidelines. As part of this process, she has been using the annual “Missouri Gifted Education Self-Assessment Tool” to determine tasks the program has been completing successfully each year, as well as items the district needs to address. As another part of this process, Troesser has been reviewing and drafting suggestions for revisions to the district’s “Osage R-II Gifted Program Quality Assurance Plan.”

Troesser has also been focused on the development of the program curriculum. Some new topics that have been covered so far this school year include simple machines, molecular gastronomy, solar cooking, and robotics. Students also regularly complete extended-thinking activities, SCAMPER thinking strategies, and the engineering design process, as well as STEM and engineering design challenges.

During the all-group class time, students will continue to create their student newspaper titled the “Wildcat Corner,” which contains fun and informational facts, riddles, and puzzles.

Also, as part of the SEL curriculum established by DESE, students participate in activities related to learning styles, perfectionism, and failure, as well as SEL-related discussions, among other activities.

To help teachers support gifted students in the regular classroom, Troesser provides suggestions and resources for teachers to use in the traditional classroom. She also developed a set of best practices guidelines, which was reviewed by administrators and shared with all teachers in the district.

Recently, Troesser observed gifted classes at Owensville, where she gained valuable insights into their teaching resources, curriculum ideas, and program format. Additionally, she continues to connect with other gifted teachers and research the curriculum and components of gifted programs in other districts.


FCCLA Sponsor Christine Miller noted there are currently 35 members in the program.

Accomplishments for the past year:

— Linn’s FCCLA Lifesmarts team made it to nationals as one of the top 16 in the country. Students chose not to compete due to the cost and timing of the event. Linn made it to state and competed in Jefferson City. 

— Madaleigh Wilson was elected Regional President. 

• This year, Linn FCCLA continued the Adopt-a-Teacher program in the middle and high school. “We have every teacher and staff member covered,” she said.

— The chapter hosted the Linn Area Craft and Vendor Show in October.

— Miller said members are also making Osage Caring Projects baskets again this year. “We will collect different types of baskets from all the organizations to donate to local families,” she explained.

— Linn will have one or two students run for regional office.

— FCCLA is hosting STAR events at Linn in January, and Miller anticipates a large turnout of Linn competitors.

— Miller is encouraging students to apply for legislative shadowing, where they will be able to follow local legislators.

— FCCLA’s state leadership conference is planned for March 17-19 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Lake of the Ozarks.

— Students are working on more ideas for the local chapter. “We have decided to work hard on our local chapter next year due to the fact that we lost so many seniors last year,” said Miller. “We have a lot of younger students to train and get excited.”

• Miller noted the chapter’s strength is that students are willing to lead and help out. “We have many students leaving their comfort zones and trying to compete in a project,” she added. “We have also had a great year of getting members, with this year being such a weird school year.”

One growth area the officer team would like to focus on is getting more students involved at a higher level. “We have a lot of members that join and may help with fundraisers,” said Miller. “Students want to increase this level of involvement.”


In their Student Council report, Sophie Voss and Reid Baker told the board that Mrs. Wolfe took several juniors and seniors to the “Build My Future” event in Jefferson City.

• Four student council members enjoyed helping athletes at the Special Olympics competition at South Callaway.

• Several FFA students put on Food for America Day for the elementary school’s Grandparents Day. Kids brought in animals and machinery.

• Eight choir students participated in the all-conference choir at Fatima.

• Several students and teachers dressed up for Halloween, and the student council had a contest for those dressed up.

• Several donors attended FBLA’s blood drive for the American Red Cross on Nov. 7.

• Voss and Baker encouraged everyone to check out the high school library, where monster sculptures created by students are displayed.