January 15, 2020

Present:  John Besser, Bill Mees, Eric Seaman, Greg Leonard, Lottie Bushmann, Eric Wood, Jean Neely, Nancy Bedan, Eric Reuter, Laura Hillman, Joanna Reuter

Nature School Proposal:  The meeting was devoted to discussion of the Boone County Nature School project and the proposal to commit $30,000 in CAS funds for construction of a “council house” facility on  Nature School property. John B reviewed the Nature School plans, which were discussed in detail at a special CAS Board meeting on Dec. 18, 2019. The Nature School is a joint project of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Columbia Public Schools.

John noted that fifth graders would attend classes at the Nature School four days in the fall semester and three days in the spring semester. Board members discussed staffing at the school. Bill M said that Columbia Public Schools will have an educator onsite to assist CPS teachers whose students are attending. He noted that MDC has educators, each of whom interface with school districts in multiple counties. In the future, MDC will assign a single member of its education staff to concentrate on Boone county school districts for Nature School coordination and activities. Jean N asked if there would be a curriculum that other teachers could use. Bill said other teachers could use either their own curriculum or the MDC curriculum. He noted that state science standards dictate curriculum for fifth graders, and that it’s up to school districts to adopt a curriculum that supports those standards. Lottie B noted there are choices in deciding how and where to address the standards. Bill provided a handout about the types of subjects that will be taught at the Nature School; the handout addresses concerns, which were raised by board members at the December meeting, about whether the Nature School curriculum would adequately cover subjects key to the Audubon mission.

John B discussed the proposal for CAS involvement and reviewed the two options suggested for CAS support—the pavilion and the council house, noting that the council house was most attractive to board members who attended the December meeting. CAS would be able to name the facility. Architectural work for the Nature School began in December, and MDC and CPS plan to have a groundbreaking ceremony on March 31. The pavilion and council house structures would be built before the Nature School itself.

John reviewed the proposal to donate $30,000 from the CAS Foundation, which is funded by a large gift from the Joseph “Bo” Koster estate in 2011, for the construction of the council house facility at the Nature School site. The project is in line with our mission, he said, and gives students the opportunity for in-depth interaction with nature. John said the plan is to publish the proposal in the February “Chat” and discuss the proposal at the February meeting to see if the membership is supportive. Bill M said we should have agreement among board members in order to present the proposal to the membership, and he reviewed the section of the CAS by-laws related to major expenditures. [CAS By-laws, Article VI, Section 5:  “Substantial gifts to the Society, substantial expenditures, or the undertaking of major projects by the Society must be discussed with the general membership of the Society, either at a regular meeting or at a special meeting called for the specific purpose to consider such gifts, expenditures or projects, prior to final acceptance or approval by the Board of Directors.”] 

Laura H asked Treasurer Eric S if CAS would have any financial problems if the organization made a $30,000 donation in a single payment. Eric S said none of the $38,000 in earnings from 2011 estate gift has been spent, and the principal would still be intact after the donation. Eric S said the Nature School partners would like to have the CAS contribution now so the council house could be built this year. He also noted that there are no restrictions on use of the Koster funds.

Eric R spoke against the proposed donation. He said CAS isn’t keeping up with the properties it owns, and he opposes committing CAS funds to someone else’s project without a broader discussion of options. He said CAS doesn’t have the “people power” to carry out its own programs. He also said the proposed council house looks redundant with the other planned pavilion and has no clear educational purpose. The funds could be better spent, he said, on other projects, such as buying towers for the Motus international wildlife tracking project or paying for teachers from the CAS six-county area to attend nature and science programs. He said projects like these would have a more direct impact on the CAS mission.

John B said he agreed with Eric that CAS can’t support the project with teachers or person power, but that he was less skeptical about the value of having a place where all 100 students, who would attend the Nature School on a given day, could meet together.

Bill M said CAS has been cautious with its funds and is in a position to contribute to the Nature School project, which has the advantage of not requiring person power. Eric R argued that CAS is overreaching what the board and limited volunteers are able to handle and suggested that the group consider hiring staff to manage the overall workload if the group wants to operate at this level.

The board voted as follows:

  • Bill M moved (Laura H seconded) that the CAS board support the proposal to donate $30,000 to the Nature School project for construction of a council house facility and present the proposal to the CAS membership at the February meeting. Motion withdrawn.
  • Bill M moved (Greg L seconded) that the CAS board support the proposal to donate $30,000 to the Nature School project for construction of a council house facility. Motion approved 8-2.
  • Bill M moved (Laura H seconded) that the CAS board present the Nature School proposal to CAS membership at the Feb. 19, 2020, meeting. Motion approved 10-0.

Meeting was adjourned at 6:55 p.m.