The Highland School Board had a discussion at its July 25 meeting about the possible implementation of a drug testing policy for extracurricular activities.
In June, board member Robert Miller requested a discussion on the topic be included on the July agenda. His said his concern was that the district had no proactive policy currently in place to deter students from using drugs. He said that several parents and students had approached him with concern about the topic. He also added that implementing a drug testing policy could give kids an excuse to say no to drugs, instead of submitting to peer pressure.
Superintendent Mike Sutton said that, after researching the issues, he found that Triad High School is the only school in the area that has a random drug testing policy. At the school, student-athletes are the only children who are tested, according to Sutton.
Sutton said that the school has paid for the testing by increasing its athletic fee by $5. This provides about two to three random tests per month, costing anywhere from $8,000-$10,000 per year in total.
Board member Rene Friedel said that the district needs to be careful when implementing such a policy, because it could cause a lot of backlash within the community. Whereas board member Joe Mott said that he does not think such a policy would be a huge deterrent for students participating in sports.
Currently, Sutton said that the district teaches preventative classes to help spread awareness about drugs. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Derek Hacke said that, if a policy was implemented, it could not target activities where students receive a grade.
No action was taken during the meeting toward creating a drug test policy.
Turf football field discussed
Robert Miller and Aaron Schuster updated of their fellow Highland School Board members on July 25 on what they said were pros and cons of installing a synthetic turf field at Highland High School.
On May 22, former HHS athletic director and football coach Steve Lanxon, who is now retired, gave a presentation to the board proposing an artificial turf field at the high school. Lanxon said that the city of Highland would work with the district to help find funding for the field, which would be paid for in part through selling advertisements. Lanxon said that the current stadium was built in the 1970s. The turf project would cost about $1 million, if ultimately approved by the board. That price would also include renovating the existing locker rooms.
In May, Miller and Schuster volunteered to make up the board’s “Turf Committee” and research the idea further. Since then, Miller and Schuster said that met with many of the high school coaches.
Schuster said that the plan would help to meet the needs of many of the sports departments and would help bring athletics back from Glik Park to the high school campus.
“It seems like it would be a move for the better of the district,” Schuster said.
Schuster said that the field would have an eight-year warranty with an expected lifespan of 10-12 years, at which time the field would need to be resurfaced for about $450,000. This means that the district would need to set aside about $40,000 per year for field maintenance costs, Miller said.
Aside from maintenance costs, Miller said other concerns were equal/fair usage of the field and safety. He said that through his research he has learned that the rubber chunks have caused some health issues with athletes, like soccer goalies, who spend a lot of time on the ground. In addition to rubber problems, the synthetic turf can also reach higher temperatures than real grass fields.
However, teams already play almost half of their games at other schools that already have synthetic turf fields, so keeping the existing field would not prevent those problems, according to the board members.
The board members said that if the district wants the field finished for the 2018-2019 school year, they will need to make a decision before Christmas. Schuster and Miller said that they would be able to provide an in-depth presentation at the board meeting in two months to help the members make a decision. If the board gives the green-light, steps can be taken to start developing the field.
The Agriculture Education Department advisers Rene Barr, Larry Jones and Don Schmitz presented their annual report for he 2016-2017 school year. The department offers a variety of agricultural classes to Highland High School students.
The majority of their presentation consisted of explaining a new electronic record-keeping system the department has been helping to develop called Agricultural Experience Tracker.
The program allows the student to keep in-depth records of activities, finances and dates and creates an instantaneous resume for the student that includes all of the information from the log. The advisers said that record keeping is an important part of agriculture work, but other platforms do not encourage students to keep up on updates.
“It does a good job at teaching how to keep these records,” Schmitz said.
The platform also keeps an accumulative record of each student’s agricultural career, building their resumes from year to year.
According to Barr, the program currently comes at no cost to the school district, because they are helping to develop the platform. But if the district hopes to keep using the tool, she said the district will need to start looking at ways to pay for it in the future. The fee will be based on the number of students in the agricultural program. Barr said that the district should be prepared to look for costs “somewhere in the thousands.” To offset these costs, Barr said the department could look at getting more kids involved.
The advisers also listed some of the accomplishments made by the students in the following year. The accomplishments are listed below:
▪ Ali DeLuca, Alisha Kloss, Taiylor Mayes, and Hailey Landmann received their State FFA Degrees.
▪ Casandra Rode received her American Degree.
▪ Eight members competed at the District 3 Proficiency Night.
▪ One members competed at the State Proficiency Awards Day.
▪ Organization of the Section Job Interview.
▪ Organization of Section Horticulture.
▪ Organization of Agriculture Safety Day Camp.
▪ Organization and implementation of an incentive programs that promote involvement in supervised agricultural experiences, career development events, leadership, and chapter activities.
▪ Highland FFA Alumni awarded scholarships to Sarah Frank, Alisha Kloss, and Hailey Landmann.
▪ Hailey Landmann received the Kara Gruenenfelder Memorial Scholarship.
▪ Nick Mannhard received the Keith Jakel Memorial Scholarship.
▪ Chapter a school bus purchased by alumni.
▪ Creating the inaugural Greenhand Rush Week and Greenhand Induction Ceremony.
▪ Students are preparing for tours in New York City in Oct. 2017 and Ireland next summer.
▪ Highland FFA was one of two chapters in Illinois to have Gov. Rauner and Secretary of Education Dr. Pervis, invited to their annual banquet.
The advisers also said that many of the activities will remain the same this year, including the upcoming Alumni Scramble on Sept. 9.
The board approved a resolution to issue general obligation school bonds, Series 2017A, not to exceed $2,608,671, and Series 2017B bonds not to exceed $3 million. The bonds will be used for altering and reconstructing school buildings and purchasing and installing equipment for fire prevention and safety, energy conservation and school security purposes.
Parameters generally are set at “maximums” so as to allow for unforeseen circumstances, said Tim Bair, the district’s business manager. The main parameters include amount of issue, years to maturity, payment terms, interest rate, tax levy and type of sale.
Bair said he expected the district to get a good rate, despite financial uncertainties due to the dysfunction in state government.
“Interest rates and demand for Illinois bonds has improved since the legislature passed the budget,” Bair said in a memo to board members. “We were fortunate that our ‘bond rating’ with Standard and Poor’s remained level — some district’s were downgraded due to Illinois’ legislative and budget fiasco.”
Stifel, Nicolaus & Company Inc. will be in charge of the bond sale.
This latest issuance completes actions needed to issue the additional bonds for the health, life and safety work and the working cash bonds.
The board approved the retirements of:
▪ Margaret Duncan, math teacher at Highland High School, effective the end of the 2019-2020 school year
▪ Michael Farel, school social worker at Highland Middle School, effective the end of the 2019-2020 school year
The board approved the resignations of:
▪ Jason Basso, seventh-grade softball coach at Highland Middle School
▪ Barry Wittler, physical education at Highland Elementary and Grantfork Elementary
The board approved the following new personnel:
▪ Marissa Weiss, reading aide at Highland Primary and Alhambra Primary
▪ Austin Dalton, custodian at Highland Primary, effective July 31
▪ Glenn Nicholls, seventh-grade softball coach at Highland Middle School
▪ Kassandra Elliott, assistant dance team coach at Highland High School
The board also approved the following change of assignments for the 2017-2018 school year
▪ Christianne Zeller from fourth grade to fifth grade at Grantfork Elementary
▪ Herschal Austin from district utility to day custodian at Grantfork Elementary
▪ Robert Jokisch from custodian at Highland Primary to district utility
List of banks approved
After being tabled last month due to questions by board member Robert Miller, the board OK’d a list of approved banks.
The language in question was found to be word-for-word what was in the Illinois School Code.
The list included Bradford National Bank, FCB Bank, First Internet Bank of Indiana, Community Bank of Trenton, California First National Bank, Capital One, State Bank of Texas, Ever Bank, The VanGuard Group, and Transportation Alliance Bank.
The district does the majority of its banking with Bradford National Bank, but other banks made the list due to higher rates paid on certificates of deposit and to ensure the district does not have more money in any single institution than is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The limit for a single account holder to be insured with FDIC is is $250,000.
The board authorized Bair to put budget on public display Aug. 25, until Sept. 25. The budget must be on display for 30 days. There is not 30 days between the August and September meetings, so action needed to be taken in July.