A long-time high school practice might start hurting the Highland School District this year.
During the Highland School Board meeting on Dec. 18, the board approved a list of early graduates for this year.
“This is the biggest number that we have had,” said Mary Jackson, the school’s counseling department chair.
Superintendent Mike Sutton said that the high school has offered this program for as long as he can remember. This December, 20 high school students will graduate early, which is 12 more students than last year.
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“I am not sure we have enough information to determine that it is a growing trend, but the numbers this year do make us think about it,” said Sutton said.
But while students might be graduating for a number of positive reasons, such as getting an early jump on college or work, Sutton said the ever-growing number could bring some adverse effects to the district, due to the new state funding formula.
“I don’t want to bring a financial component into this, but the ongoing effort to have these ongoing graduations will eventually impact our funding significantly,” Sutton said.
Each year, school district receives funding based on its number of eligible K-12 students.
In years past, Sutton said the funding was driven by average daily attendance, and each student generated approximately $6,119.
But now the measure will be the number of enrolled students taken at two points in time each year — on Oct.1 and Feb. 1, according to Sutton.
“Since the 20 students will not be enrolled, the average for the year will be 10 less, so there will be a financial impact,” Sutton said.
However, the district is not sure what that impact will be, Sutton said, since the district does not know how much the new formula as a whole will bring the district, let alone the amount of revenue each student will generate.
To graduate early, Jackson said students must complete an application, as well as meet all of the graduation requirements.
“This requires them doing something in addition to just passing all courses for the 3 1/2 years they are here,” Jackson said.
In all, students must earn 25 credits to graduate high school. To do this, Jackson said students take seven courses each semester, and each semester course is worth a 1/2 credit. This means students graduating early must take an additional 1/2 credit to graduate early, which can be done through summer marching band, agricultural record book, or taking and paying for a per-approved correspondence course, according to Jackson.
Jackson said many students work with their school counselor early in their high school career to plan and prepare for this.
Sutton said two of the main reasons students gave for graduating early were to work or start their post-secondary education early.
“Not to say there is anything negative about this program, but unfortunately, you understand that dynamic,” Sutton told the board.
Tax levy adopted
The board adopted the 2017 property tax levy for the district.
The district’s Business Manager Tim Bair said the levy is exactly the same as the tentative levy that was approved by the board in November. The levy is about $18.6 million, a 2.55 percent increase over last year’s levy of about $18.11 million.
However, Bair said he prepared the levy high, and the district actually expects to get about 1/3 of the estimated amount.
The board also approved resolutions authorizing these items related to the levy:
▪ Levy for fire prevention, safety, energy conservation, disabled accessibility, school security, and specified repair purposes;
▪ Final aggregate tax levy for year 2016;
▪ Levy for special education purposes;
▪ Levy for lease of educational facilities; and
▪ Tax levy for tort immunity.
District to host annual dinner
Sutton announced that the board will host the spring dinner meeting for the Illinois Association of School Boards.
The district will be at Highland Middle School on March 28 and 70 to 90 attendees from school boards throughout the region are expected to attend, according to Sutton.
“It’s a pretty big thing for us to host this year,” Sutton said.
The district will not incur any significant costs for the event, as the association will reimburse the district for the dinner, according to Sutton. However, the district will be responsible for the logistics required to host the event — planning the meal, setting up the building setup, entertainment, and giving tours of the building.
“We are happy to host it and look forward to showcasing our schools and programs,” Sutton said.
During the January board meeting there will be three different presentations given.
The presenters will be:
▪ Matt Fredericksen, the district’s chief educational technology officer will present a demonstration with the district’s new smart board technology.
▪ Counselors from Highland High School will give a presentation about their work at the school.
▪ Highland Middle School’s communications team will present their community outreach presentation to the board.
These parties requested to present at the December meeting, but were moved to January due to a district choir concert at the middle school.
The meeting was the second reading phase for 33 board policies, which the board approved and adopted. Sutton said the policies were reviewed through the Illinois Association of School Boards prior to sending them to the district.
The board approved these resignations:
▪ Sandra Bisto as the purchasing/accounts receivable clerk for the district, effective Dec. 1; and
▪ Evan Fifer as the fall play and spring musical director at Highland High School.
The board approved these new personnel positions:
▪ Ted Cipicchio as the assistant boys track team coach at Highland High School;
▪ Tina Beyer as the assistant girls track team coach at Highland High School.
Leave of absence
The board this leave of absence for Jacob Stieb, who is program assistant at Highland Middle School. Stieb’s leave will be March 4, 2018 through April 30, 2018, but he will be preforming his student teaching within the district. A long-term substitute will fill his position until he returns on May 1.
The board approved an agreement between the district and Southwestern Illinois College to renew the high school’s participation in the Running Start program.
The program allows high school students to attend the college during their junior and/or senior years to work toward an associates degree while simultaneously earning credit for high school graduation.
This will be the district’s second year participating in the program, according to Mary Jackson, one of the school counselors. This year, she said three seniors and two juniors participating in the program, and next year there will be nine students participating.
Mileage allowance approved
The board approved a mileage allowance for Jeff Williams, the district’s director of buildings and grounds. Williams will be paid $3,600 per year or $300 per month for the use of his personal vehicle as a work vehicle.
Last month, the board approved an amended facilities plan, which included a $20,000 replacement fee for Williams old work vehicle, which is currently inoperable. Instead of buying the new vehicle, the board voted to have Williams use his own car. He will start receiving this allowance in January.
The board approved a resolution to include the taxable allowance as IMRF earnings. Sutton said this will allow the travel allowance for Williams to be creditable earnings.
“This has been discussed with him, and he prefers this method,” Sutton said.