Students and staff at Paddock Lane Elementary School in Beatrice held a pep rally Wednesday morning to show their support for the Beatrice High School varsity girls basketball team, which will compete in the Nebraska State Tournament Thursday evening. After the players were introduced, each elementary class took turns leading the rally in a cheer. Beatrice will play against Sidney at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
Two new applicants filed to run for the Beatrice Board of Education this week. Neither has held office before, but they both have school-age children.
As Thursday’s deadline for non-incumbents drew near, Andrew Pinney and Matt Langley put their names in the running for school board this week.
Pinney, who works for Nebraska Machine and Tool and has a daughter in preschool, said his reason for running was personal.
Back in November, the bus his daughter was riding home from school was involved in a crash. No one was injured, but when he attempted to call the bus company and the school district, he couldn’t get an answer, he said. The first information he was able to get was from a photo of the crash on the Daily Sun’s Facebook page, Pinney said.
“Honestly, every parent wants the safest and best possible education for their children, but I see so many issues that are going on right now,” Pinney said. “With communication, the transportation issues, obvious financial miscues. I want the opportunity to be part of the solution.”
With the crash, as with a recent lock out at Beatrice High School and Middle School, Pinney said the district has to get better at communicating with parents and setting up protocols for any emergency situation that might arise.
Pinney also said that the district and school board have taken steps in the wrong direction financially in recent years.
With recent financial problems facing Beatrice Public Schools and the board looking for items to cut from the budget, Pinney points a finger toward the 94 acre, $1.8 million property purchased by the district and approved by the school board back in 2014 where the district hoped to build a consolidated elementary school. A bond measure to build the proposed school was twice voted down by Beatrice residents.
The problems the district now faces, Pinney said, fall back to the land issue. The district won’t be purchasing new textbooks for the upcoming school year and, with talk of restructuring for the elementary system, Pinney said he’d like to see the district and the board reach out to parents before making big financial decisions.
“It's just like they're robbing Peter to pay Paul, and I think that it needs to stop,” Pinney said. “We need to get down to core basics, which is truly, giving the safest and best possible education.”
Though they might differ on some topics, Langley, who works as a branch manager for Farmers Cooperative in Diller, said having more parental involvement with the school board is key.
Langley, who has three kids, ages 5, 3 and 10 months, said that at Monday’s Beatrice Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting, the parents who spoke up to speak their minds had some great ideas. The parents who spoke really gave the board something to consider, he said, including things that the board might not have even considered.
“A body of seven can come up with some good ideas,” Langley said, “but there's others out there and those need to be put on public record to be dealt with.”
Langley said he’s hopeful about new changes coming to the Beatrice Public Schools administration next school year. He said incoming Superintendent Jason Alexander appears to be a great leader and said he’s excited about where Alexander will lead the schools.
The first time the district attempted to pass the bond measure to build a new elementary, Langley said he was a big proponent. He still is, he said, and he sees a lot of economic development opportunities that come with a new school. Langley praised NGage and the city of Beatrice for community improvement, but said that the school can be a vital part of economic development as well.
Langley said he’s looking to bring an agricultural perspective to the school board. With agriculture in a downturn at the moment, there’s a big discussion on how property taxes affect farmers and ranchers. Langley said he wants to do what’s best for the schools and for the agricultural sector, but said that he wants to do it right. The district is at its levy cap, he said, but the district can be successful in using the amount of money that’s coming in.
“Everybody wants the best for our kids,” Langley said. “I just want to bring to light that this is what's happening. I don't think I'll be able to lower property taxes, per se, but just to bring that mindset that 'let's remember that' when making decisions.”
Langley said that technology will play a huge role in schools in the future, and making the best use of current technology is imperative. With nearly every middle school and high school student carrying around a smartphone in their back pocket, he said it’s a good idea to encourage mobile devices being worked into the education system.
“My big thing is that I'm not bringing an agenda with me,” Langley said. “I've listened to a lot of the public, I've heard a lot of topics from board members. That's really what I do is first sit down and listen and get my mind wrapped around the big picture of what's going on here, then possibly start to look for issues and problems.”
The Gage County Board of Supervisors approved bids for fuel as well as rock and gravel at its meeting on Wednesday.
There were multiple bidders eager to provide the county’s supply of rock and gravel, but just one for fuel opened Wednesday morning.
Board member Terry Jurgens said that this year’s rock and gravel bids were different than previous years where the bids would come in twice a year.
“One difference this year, these bids are for the full year,” Jurgens said. “In the past, we've done spring and fall allocations.”
Years ago, he said, fuel prices could be pretty erratic and the price of rock delivery could vary from season to season.
The county also changed the time frame this year because previously, they never had enough time to have everything delivered in the fall, he said. Now, as rock and gravel allocations for townships around the county are completed in the spring, fall work can begin whenever the townships are ready to start on it.
The board accepted and approved all bids, starting from the lowest bidder to the highest bidder for various grades of gravel, and the Gage County Highway Department will review the bids to create a spreadsheet to work from.
There was just one bid for the county’s fuel needs this year, and it came from Sapp Brothers Petroleum of Filley.
For 63,000 gallons of diesel 2, Sapp Brothers bid the county’s contract for $2.228 per gallon, which excludes federal and state taxes and comes to a total of $140,364. For 32,000 gallons of unleaded E10 gasoline, Sapp Brothers quoted a price of $2.358—which included state tax but not federal tax—for a total of $75,456.
The county moved to a system of locking in a price for fuel seven years ago, Jurgens said. Back then, prices of fuel were fairly volatile and could spike above $4 a gallon.
“There's years where it's good and years where it's not,” he said. “I think this has treated us pretty good on the seven years we've been on.”
It’s a guess as to what gas prices will be in the future, he said, but typically, you know about where the market will be. But it is a commodity, he said, and even in the case that something happens which causes a spike in fuel prices, the price is locked in for the year.
Board member Gary Lytle said that going back to the pay-as-you-go model could be a possibility some time in the future. With increased U.S. production and oil exports, the game has changed a bit and the price of gasoline has remained relatively stable for a while now.
“I don't think the volatility is probably as much of a risk as what it has been in the last seven or eight years,” Lytle said. “At some point, let's see how this year goes, but at some point, we might want to look at going back to having flexibility of buying as we go again. But, this has paid off for us the last seven years.”
A 13-year-old boy was taken to the hospital on Tuesday after suffering an accidental gunshot wound to the foot.
Just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Gage County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the Beatrice Community Hospital after the boy had been brought to the emergency room with a gunshot wound.
Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson said the boy was at home in a rural area when the family dogs started barking. The sheriff said the boy thought he heard intruders outside and went to investigate.
“He grabbed, I think, a .38 revolver and went outside to check what was going on and the gun went off,” Gustafson said. “It went through the top of his foot and exited out the bottom.”
Deputies determined the gunshot wound was accidental and that no laws were believed to have been broken.
The boy’s injuries were not life-threatening, Gustafson said, and he was transported to Lincoln for additional medical treatment.
Gustafson said that the family told deputies that they’d had a problem with ammunition malfunctioning.
The deputies were dispatched to the hospital, Gustafson said, which is protocol in such cases, to make sure the wounds really were caused by an accident.
“Sometimes people might not tell the truth, believe it or not,” Gustfson said. “And the hospital is obligated to call us.”