When visiting a school building, Highland School Board members will have to continue to sign in as visitors, just like the rest of the public.
Board member Robert Miller had proposed last month that board members be given pass keys to district buildings, just like employees. The idea was placed on the board’s agenda this month for action.
Because he does not have a key, Miller said he has had to resort to walking around the Administration Center before and bang on windows to find someone to let him for after-hours meetings.
“I just find it kind of ironic that everybody in the district has a key to get into the buildings but not the people on the board,” Miller said.
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However, the other board members did not feel the same way.
“I don’t feel that we need need to be — in my opinion — poking around through the buildings at any given time,” President Renè Friedel said at the board’s meeting on Monday.
Board member Duane Clarke said he has never had an issue, because he makes appointments.
“Everyone has always been overly gracious to find time to meet with me,” he said.
Board member David Raymond said, even if the board were to be given keys, he would turn it down.
“Personally, if it were available to me, I wouldn’t want it,” he said.
Miller’s proposal died for lack of a motion.
The board approved the following resignations on Monday:
▪ Suzanne Smithey, special education, Highland Primary, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Amanda Fields, ESL instructor, Highland School District, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Nadine Meacham, part-time parent educator, Highland School District, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Kara Kelso, program assistant, Highland Primary, effective April 12, 2016;
▪ Susie Schaefer-Kronk, seventh-grade softball coach, Highland Middle School; and
▪ Ashley Baldwin, custodian, Highland Primary, effective April 22, 2016.
The board also approved the following new employees:
▪ Austin Welz, special education, Highland High School, effective 2016- 2017 school year;
▪ Monica McCall, part-time payroll clerk, Administrative Center, effective April 11, 2016;
▪ Erin Smith, language arts teacher, Highland Middle School, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Sarah Bland, English, Highland High School, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Amber Spaeth, school counselor, Highland High School, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Jennifer Koenig, special education, Highland Primary, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Carrie Buss, science teacher, Highland High School, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Clayton Gusewelle, seasonal grounds keeper, Highland School District, effective April 21, 2016; and
▪ Brian Perkes, boys’ varsity basketball coach, Highland High School.
All but one of the hires resulted from vacancies created by resignations or retirements. McCall’s was a newly created position. Miller voted no on McCall.
A change of assignment for the 2016-2017 school year was also approved for Emily Wellen from assistant dance team coach to varsity dance team coach at Highland High School.
The board approved a joint agreement resolution with the Collinsville Area Vocational Center. The district has not used the vocational center in several years, but the board has annually approved the contract to maintain the relationship. There is no cost to the district, unless the district actually sends students there.
Asbestos Removal Bids
The board approved asbestos abatement work at Alhambra Primary and Highland High School.
Freeman Environmental was the low bidder for the total package at $36,363.
The base bid was for removal of asbestos pipe insulation below the rooftop unit that is being replaced at Alhambra.
There were also three alternate bids sought. Alternate 1 was for floor tile and mastic removal (classrooms and hallway) at Alhambra. Alternate 2 was for floor tile and mastic removal (room 102) at Alhambra. Alternate 3 was for removal of exterior door and window caulk at HHS.
Freeman’s bids were as follows: $13,680 (base), $14,133 (alternate 1), $2,250 (alternate 2), and $6,300 (alternate 3).
Five companies submitted bids. Some had lower bids on portions of the project. However, on the total project, Freeman was $10,637 under the next closest bidder.
New Math Series
The board approved math series for grades 6-8. The total estimate is $85,000 — $7,000 of which will be covered by grants. The district has also negotiated free shipping from the company.
The new text books also come with interactive software and consumable journals for the students. The online tutorials students can tell students instantly if they have made any mistakes.
“It will kick back immediate feedback — are they right or are they wrong,” said middle school math teacher Stephanie Schwappach, who was on the committee investigating the new math series purchase.
The publishing company, Big Ideas, also provides a chat feature for students, where a live person can help them with their homework assignments.
“We loved the technology,” Schwappach said.
Schwappach said the committee unanimously agreed on the new texts after doing a lot of homework themselves, including visiting other school districts that were already using the series.
Though the series is for middle school students, teachers in lower grades were consulted to make sure students entering sixth grade had the required knowledge to begin the lessons. High school teachers were also brought in to make sure students would be at the correct point when they finished the series. Schwappach said teachers also liked the way the series tracked for the learning speeds of various students.
The new math series will be in classrooms next fall.
The board approved purchase of truck, up to $25,000, as per the district’s five-year maintenance plan. A 1/2 -ton pickup with a dump bed the district current uses has several maintenance issues and is in need of replacement, said Jeff Williams, director of buildings and grounds. Williams said he had found a used truck locally, but was not sure if it was still available. If not, the board gave Williams the okay to search for a replacement vehicle up to the dollar limit.
The board approved Chromebook purchases at Highland Primary and Highland Elementary.
Two carts for each grade level, second through sixth, was approved. Each cart will consist of 30 Chromebooks. Such technology is currently used at the high school and middle school, but this would be a pilot program at the Lindenthal Campus.
Currently, the campus uses labs with desktop computers to give students access to technology. However, there is more demand than supply.
“Those labs are used constantly, all day,” said Lori Miscik, Highland Elementary principal. “It’s a scheduling hullabaloo.”
The cost will be approximately $80,000, said Matt Fredericksen, chief educational technology officer.
The board tabled two agenda items.
The first was renewal of a contract with Brecht’s Database Service, a Highland-based company that issues software used to keep track of necessary documentation of students with individual education plans (IEPs), as well as Medicaid billing.
Board member Miller said he checked with another school district that pays $8 per student for the service, where Highland was paying $11.
Superintendent Mike Sutton said he would check into it and see if the district could get a better price. The current contract does not expire until July 1.
Also tabled was a request by Miller to have an extra $13,500 divided among the discretionary funds allotted to building principals. Miller said he thought the current funding was woefully low, considering other things the district has paid for recently. He pointed to funding of new tennis courts and $3,100 in lodging fees incurred when the HHS girls basketball team and some high school wrestlers participated in their respective state tournaments.
“This ($13,500) is nothing compared to everything else we spend,” Miller said.
Miller also wanted to give principals the option to roll funds over into the next year, if they did not spend them in the current one.
“We say, ‘You have to use it or lose it,’ ” Miller said.
Business manager Tim Bair said that allowing funds to be forwarded was once the district’s policy, but it was changed because it was rarely used.
Rather than increasing funding arbitrarily, other board members said they would like to hear from building principals’ thoughts first.
“Something that is going to hit the budget year after year after year is a dangerous thing. That’s how we get into trouble,” board member Duane Clark said.
Two principals, Erick Baer of the middle school and HHS principal Karen Gauen, said they both thought their teachers would prefer the board focus on rehiring staff that had to be cut in recent years over funding small purchases for the buildings.
“We would really like to focus on decreasing class sizes,” Gauen said.
The board tabled any action until input from all the principals could be gathered.