BELLE — Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said she had a community member come in to discuss the senior trip and how there was a student who could not go on the senior trip because he …
BELLE — Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said she had a community member come in to discuss the senior trip and how there was a student who could not go on the senior trip because he started college classes.
“It wasn’t that he chose not to go, he could not attend,” Basham said.
She added that the community member explained how the fundraiser procedures are unfair in the midst of a natural disaster or pandemic for those kinds of students.
The seniors left for the senior trip on June 27. Each student raised about $1,700 to go, so if the board decided to give a scholarship, they needed to let the trip advisor know not to spend the funds.
The board had previously discussed giving all senior trippers the funds raised for the trip or doing something else with the funds entirely. However, with fundraised monies, the legality of using it for another purpose than what it was intended for is hazy.
“I said ‘well, let me call the attorney again. This is the guidance we had gotten from him previously,’” Basham said. “Well when I called the attorney, I got a completely different view of their interpretation of things now. Their recommendations were ‘we can donate it to a charity, we can create a scholarship for the student who raised the money or we can divide the money between the students and give them money back even if it is a fundraiser. In times of pandemic or natural disasters only.’ Totally different, a complete 180.”
Basham said she told the MSBA attorney, Kelli Hopkins, that her office told the district previously that they couldn’t do that.
“She said ‘yeah, but since COVID has gone through, we have re-looked at what that looks like for schools,’” she said.
“Why did they think we were asking in the first place,” Director Amy Kiso asked.
Basham said the new guidance is that when students fill out the paperwork during trip signup, it specifies that a pandemic or natural disaster refund will be given to students; that if there is ever a pandemic again, the district has a right to make a decision to refund students.
Director Tom Kinsey asked if a hurricane in Florida would count as a natural disaster if it prevented them from going. Basham said yes. But students who simply decide not to go will not be reimbursed funds for the trip.
“Make sure all of the donators know about this up front,” Board President Joey Butler II said.
Basham said Hopkins advised them to run an advertisement in the paper letting donors know what happened to the donations and that it is a unique year. If they don’t like that, they can call the school and come in with their donation receipt for a refund. The school will then withhold the funds from being distributed to the students.
“So it puts the responsibility back on the donor?” Director Kenda Sanders asked. “Rather than giving it to the class.”
Basham said that is correct. Kinsey asked after this year, if they make it clear up front that this is an option in cases of natural disaster or pandemic, the district would not have to advertise or offer funds back to donors. Basham said that is correct.
“I don’t think we need to go back on our decision already,” Kinsey said. “Everything needs to stay the way — what if the kids that are goin’, what if a few of those decided not to go then?”
Basham said choosing not to go is not the same. Then they are just out of luck. But if they set a new date and a student could not go because they went into the military or started post-secondary courses, those are really the only two reasons you could scholarship it out.
“So this student who couldn’t go, we could vote to give them their portion of the money,” Director Dawn Hicks said. “A scholarship.”
Butler asked why they couldn’t leave it alone and let it be divided between the other students to go to extra curricular activities. Basham said they said they could do that too. Butler and Kinsey said they are for leaving it the way it is.
Sanders, Kiso and Hicks said they disagreed. The student who raised the funds should get a scholarship.
“If they could have gone when the senior trip was originally to have occurred but they couldn’t because of the pandemic, now he has already started school and can’t — I do not agree,” Sanders said.
Hicks said all or partial of the amount should go to the student because it is not his fault that the pandemic happened or that the trip was rescheduled and he had already begun classes.
“The senior trip wasn’t allowed to go because of what was going on,” Hicks said. “I don’t feel that he is at fault.”
Kinsey said they need a motion to keep discussing it.
“I make a motion that the money be refunded to the senior who has already started post-secondary,” Kiso said.
“The entire?” Basham asked.
Kiso said yes, why not.
“To him or to his school?” Basham asked.
Kiso said a scholarship for him. Butler asked if he was the only one and the group said yes.
“What Kenda said about it not being his fault — I don’t like to change our minds, but…” Butler said.
Director Garret Bialczyk said things have changed since he agreed to go and it really isn’t that student’s fault. Before they were given legal guidance and now it has changed.
“They specifically said military or college that the money could be given,” Hicks said. “They wasn’t saying if they found a job. It’s military or college.”
Kinsey said if it is always the same, he can go with that. Sanders said the new view on the fundraising means they need to get the word out about what has changed.
“Once we received our original view and had our discussion, I heard a lot of negativity about it and there was a lot of concern about the fundraising that would occur in the community going forward.
“So now with this new guidance, we really need to make it clear that things have changed,” Sanders said.
Butler said he thinks it is going to hurt the fundraising in the future.
“I really don’t like that we received guidance one way and then the next time a total turn around,” Kiso said.
Basham said she was rather surprised and that she spoke with two different people.
“The first one was Scott Summers,” Butler said.
“What Kelli Hopkins said is that they had a discussion at MSB level from their attorneys and they reinterpretted,” Basham said.
Hicks said she likes the new guidance and Kiso said it makes the board look foolish for going back on their original decision when they were acting on the information they received from the attorney.
Director Brent Stratman said and Kinsey said they can only do the best they can with the information they are given.
“It’s not like people in general are not used to things changing all the time because of this,” Sanders said.
Butler said he still thinks that it will somewhat affect the fundraisers because people will remember that there was a kid last year that got the cash and didn’t have to go and won’t donate as much or at all.
“I think we were going to have it the opposite way too because there were people who wouldn’t donate because we couldn’t guarantee that it would go to the students fundraising,” Basham said.
Sanders agreed that there are all these grandparents spending money at fundraisers because their grandchild is going on a trip and then they don’t get to go and can’t get their money back. They may not want to participate in the fundraiser again.
Hicks said she doesn’t think they will see a change because if this happens again and they don’t get to go, students will get a scholarship or something back. It’s not wasted.
The board voted to give the student a scholarship for the student to go to the school with a 7-0 vote.
The board also approved a policy for the future that if trip dates are changed after fundraising, students who cannot attend because they are leaving for the military or have started college will be given the option of donating their portion of the funds to a charity, create a scholarship for the student, or divide the money between the students and issue a check to each student.
Deposits and money given by the parent is refundable.
The board passed it with a 7-0 vote.
Families who simply choose not to participate in future trips would not be eligible.