Highland News Leader

Highland FFA will get its own activity bus

The Highland FFA will have a bus solely dedicated to club use.

FFA alumni approached the Highland School Board, offering to pay for a bus themselves, if the district would agree to having its use devoted exclusively to the FFA.

“Our purpose in making this purchase is to eliminate scheduling conflicts with the activity bus, inconvenience when renting vans, reduce cost and provide more opportunities for students to travel during class periods to local businesses and community entities to research career options, volunteer and job shadow,” Michael Schwarz, Highland FFA alumni, member wrote in a proposal to the board.

The club is looking at an 18-25 passenger yellow school bus. As a cost-saving measure, HHS agriculture teachers would serve as drivers, but will need a Commercial Driver’s License to operate the bus.

“With the yellow buses, you pay a driver, and you pay by the mile, and boy, they gouge us,” said Larry Jones, FFA adviser.

The alumni said they would pay for the teachers to earn the CDLs.

Estimated purchase cost of the bus is $15,000 to $20,000.

“You are going to get a really nice bus for that,” said Schwarz, who was also at the Highland School Board meeting Monday, Jan. 23 to answer questions the board might have. “It’s hauling kids. We are going to make sure we have a good bus.”

Alumni members also said they would pay for required inspections, as well as oil changes.

However, the alumni asked the board to pay for fuel and and storage, to which the board agreed. The alumni also proposed splitting any repair costs that might emerge, but the board approved accepting 100 percent of any repairs.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.

Board member Duane Clarke said the board has a history of helping out groups that are willing to partner with the district.

“And these people are buying a bus,” Clarke said. “I think it’s a no-brainer,”

“I would agree. I think it’s something that’s been needed,” board member David Raymond said.

Other business

Decision needed on bond issuance

District Business Manager Tim Bair told board members they need to decide in upcoming months whether or not to sell up to $3 million in working cash fund bonds still unused by the district.

Voters approved $5 million in working cash fund bonds in 2011, but the district has only issued $2 million worth of the bonds, which have a deadline attached to them. If the district does not issue the bonds by this fall, the borrowing power will be lost.

“If we are going to take advantage of (the bonds), we have to do that by November of this year,” Bair said.

If the board should decide to issue more working cash fund bonds, Bair said board members should also consider issuing life/safety bonds at the same time in order to save costs.

The board previously approved issuing approximately $6.45 million in health/life safety bonds. However, the district has identified about $8 million of life safety, fire prevention, energy conservation and school security work that needs to be done.

“The other thing is interest rates are going to rise, so if we are going to do this, it’s something we might want to consider sooner rather than later,” Bair said. “Probably in the next month or two is when we should get going on this.”

Board OK’s two personnel moves

The board approved the resignation of Tina Beyer as varsity volleyball coach at Highland High School and the hiring of April Cook as program assistant at Highland Primary, effective Jan. 3, 2017.

Students to take European trip

The board approved a trip for Foreign Language Department students to Spain and Italy in the summer of 2018. The trip will cost about $4,000 per person and will be paid for by the individuals, not the district.

2017-2018 calendar approved

The board approved the district’s calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. The first day of school for students will be Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Winter break will be Dec. 22, 2017 through Jan. 3, 2018. Spring break will be March 29-April 2, 2018. HHS graduation is tentatively scheduled for May 20, 2018.

No action on Miller’s proposals

Board member Robert Miller had asked that three items be added to the Jan. 23 agenda — an update on the HHS choir vacancy, reimbursing the Center Schools PTO, and amending the district’s policy for college days for HHS students.

Superintendent Mike Sutton said the music position currently held by longtime instructor Lori Ruebhausen, who is retiring at the end of the year, has yet to be posted. Sutton said administrators are still figuring out job descriptions for certain posts, including Ruebhausen’s, as they make staffing considerations for next year. Miller said he wanted an update, because he was worried if the district waited too long, a quality candidate might not be found.

Miller also asked that the board reimburse the Center Schools PTO $300 that the parents group paid to have an Internet connection at Grantfork Elementary so Grantfork police could set up a substation at the school.

“I think that’s a bargain (that) you can get the local police department to set up shop in your building,” Miller said.

However, Miller’s motion died for lack of a second. Fellow board members expressed concern about setting bad precedent.

“They haven’t even come to us for reimbursement,” Clarke said.

Other board members also said that PTOs and other booster organizations contributed many things to various schools and activities, and that the board could not afford to pay them all back.

Miller also wanted to allow HHS students to be granted college visit days, which they are not currently.

“I would think if we want our kids to go to college, we would give them time to go visit colleges,” Miller said.

HHS Principal Dr. Karen Gauen said she didn’t necessarily have an objection to allowing college visits, as long as there were parameters, such as getting a note signed from the school being toured.

Sutton said a policy would be drafted for board review at a later date.

Expense reimbursements limits set

The board approved a resolution that identifies limits of $300 per night for lodging, $60 per day for meals, and actual costs of travel per district policy, which identifies the cheapest means of travel. By law, taxing bodies in Illinois are required to set limits on reimbursement for travel, meals, and lodging for board members and staff. The limits passed on a 5-2 vote, with Miller and Raymond voting no.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Highland School Board will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27 at Highland Elementary School.