Highland News Leader

Only one Highland teacher receives layoff notice

The Highland Board of Education issued only a single reduction in force notice at its meeting March 27.

RIFs, otherwise known as lay-offs, must be given to teachers by the end of March, according to state law. Receiving a RIF does not mean a teacher won’t be hired back for the next school year. However, districts are obliged to hire people back who do not receive a RIF the prior spring.

The non-renewal notice approved by the board March 27 was given to a special education teacher at the Highland Primary School, Erin Bloemer.

According to Superintendent Mike Sutton, the RIF was made because the district is not sure that the early childhood classroom will need Bloemer next year.

“We are ‘RIFing’ that position unless we know it is going to be necessary,” Sutton said.

While Bloemer was not present at the meeting, Sutton said the removal of the position should not come as a surprise. He said the district generally does not start the school year with Bloemer’s position as a guarantee. It is usually added during the year as a result of additional children coming into the district. According to Sutton, this position has been RIFed at the end of every school year.

Sutton said that the difficult cuts from the past have helped to put the district into a more stable financial position. Because of this, he said the administration is not planning to eliminate any positions for the next year. The budget is balanced in the 2016-2017 school year, Sutton said, but circumstances change in future years, depending on funding from the state.

“We are concerned that finances could be negatively impacted further if the state of Illinois does not get their House in order,” Sutton said.

If revenue declines in the 2017-2018 school year, the district could move back into deficit spending, according to Sutton. This would mean more RIFs in the future, but for now, the district is taking victories where they can be found.

Other Business

FEMA announcement

During the meeting, the district Business Manager Tim Bair discussed his findings from the public meeting held by Highland city officials to discuss the new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain map drafts.

According to Bair, the district filed an appeal to FEMA to remove the high school from the flood plain maps. However, after attending the meeting, Bair learned the new drafts are not “favorable” to the district and the school is still within the 100-year-flood-plain. Because of this, in the future, the district may be forced to buy flood insurance for the HHS property.

As a precautionary measure, Bair advised the board that the district should start looking for ways to fund the flood insurance, in case the school is still in the final drafts of the flood maps. According to Bair, the flood insurance could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $15,000.

End of year calendar

The board approved high school graduation to take place May 21 at 2 p.m., with the last day of school May 22, with a half-day dismissal. There would also be a teacher in-service on that day. The end of school dates are is based on the assumption that there are no further snow/emergency days used.

College days

The board approved changes to the HHS exam attendance policy to include college/career days. The recommendation to the board was that each student received two vocation/business/college days total during their junior/senior years.

College visits will be considered as excused absences and will not count against final exams. Parents will have to sign a permission slip for students to take a college day, and the students must return with verification of their visit.

More than two college visits will be considered on a case-by-case basis for special circumstances.

Personnel changes

The board approved the following resignations:

▪ Chris Hartlieb, assistant varsity girls basketball coach at Highland High School

▪ Angie Powers, seventh-grade girls basketball coach at Highland Middle School

▪ Jenna Loveless, English teacher at Highland High School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year

▪ Jeff Brauns, eighth-grade boys basketball coach at Highland Middle School

▪ Dawn Hubbard, assistant girls volleyball coach at Highland High School

▪ Georgia Gaydos, special education at Highland Primary, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year

▪ Catherine Reinacher, program assistant at Highland High School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year

▪ Sara Wasser, program assistant at Highland Middle School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year

▪ ShiAnne Shively, fifth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary, effective April 12, 2017

▪ Terri Menke, freshman girls basketball coach at Highland High School

The board also approved the following retirements:

▪ Susan Martz, English teacher at Highland High School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year

▪ Robin Carlson, sixth-grade language arts teacher at Highland Middle School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year

▪ Tim Brooks, custodian at Grantfork Elementary, effective Aug. 1, 2017

The board approved the following new employees:

▪ Glenn Nicholls, volunteer softball coach at Highland High School

▪ Natalie Goodin, volunteer softball coach at Highland High School

▪ Katelyn Hagarty, physical education at Highland Middle School and varsity volleyball

coach at Highland High School

▪ Jessica Schrage, sixth-grade science teacher at Highland Middle School

▪ Clint Hamilton, JV girls basketball coach at Highland High School

▪ Anastacia Harrell, color guard coach at Highland High School

The board also approved a change of assignment for Kelsey Lohman for the 2017-2018 school year, from assistant band director/general music instructor Highland High School, Alhambra Primary and Highland Elementary to general music exclusively at Highland Elementary.

School fees

The board approved keeping the same fees for the 2017-2018 school year. The district’s fees have not changed since the 2013-2014 year.

One change, however, will be that the district will no longer collect for physical education shorts and shirts. The clothes will become supplies that parents will purchase on their own along with pencils, pens, notebooks, etc. The change will eliminate a fair amount of record keeping at the building level, as well as at the Administrative Center, school officials said.

Food service contract

The board approved the renewal of the district’s contract with Ceres Food Group Inc., a food service management company.

The contract summarizes the rates and fees for food service management for nonprofit food service programs. The new contract calls for increases and decreases equal to the average Consumer Price Index for the St. Louis metro areas for the prior calendar year. This year it is .35 percent increase which is reflected in the meal rates.

The contract term will begin on July 1, 2017 and will end on June 30, 2018.

This is the third year the contract has been renewed. The law states that the contract can be renewed four times before it is rebid. The original date of the contract was from June 16, 2016.

Transportation contract bid

The board also approved the acceptance of a transportation bid from First Student, a school bus transportation provider.

The new contract price will be $1.82 million, which is a 4.72 percent increase from the previous contract. School officials said that the district did explore multiple options when it came to this bid. However, one of the two other potential providers could not meet the needs of the district, while the other option increased the original contract price by 9 percent. The new deal with First Student will be a three-year contract, effective through 2020, with two options to renew for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.

Hard Road agreement

The board also approved a license agreement with Hard Road Theatre Productions.

The theater group offered to repair and resurface the stage floor in the auditorium of the Highland Elementary School. Members of Hard Road said the floor was in “horrible” condition and members of the district maintenance team said they agreed with their assessment, stating that the repairs were about 15 years past due.

Hard Road estimated that the cost of the repairs will be $4,350.

In exchange for the repairs, the board agreed to credit the theater group $1,125 for use of the auditorium during one free show in the coming year.

According to the board members, in the past, Hard Road has made other improvements to the auditorium, including lighting and rehanging the stage curtain.

Health / life / safety amendment

The board approved an amendment to the district’s 10-year safety survey.

Unit ventilators in Highland High School were included in the 2005 10-year survey at an estimated cost of $120,000. However, the actual cost of the ventilators was $594,023.

In order for the district to access the proper amount of funds from bonds, the board needed to approve an amendment to the 2015 survey for $474,023. Fire prevention and safety bonds will be used to pay for the ventilators.