Highland News Leader

New board seems likely to pass on conflict of interest policy

A self-authored policy by former Highland Board of Education Vice President Duane Clarke regarding board members and potential conflicts of interest seems to have died after Clarke lost his re-election.

Hoping it would be adopted by the board, Clarke submitted the policy draft on titled “Board Member Appearance of Impropriety,” prior to the April 4 election, which he said was designed to buffer members from potential conflict of interest.

The policy stated that it is for the board’s best interest that its sitting members to avoid the appearance of impropriety and if any board member appeared to have a conflict of interest they could not vote or participate on any deciding matter of the subject in which the conflict presents itself.

“My opinion is that a board member should not have any kind of interest on both sides of any issue,” Clarke said in February.

According to the draft, this would be the case if the board member is affected either directly or indirectly, by their own personal interest, or that of a spouse, partner, parent, adult children, siblings and a company, organization or association to which the board member may receive benefit.

The policy draft called for the effected board member to notify the entire school board immediately. Then, the decision whether there is or is not a conflict of interest present would be decided by the remaining majority of the board.

According to Clarke, he wrote the policy because he believes there are gray areas surrounding conflict of interest in board policy. Clarke said the legislation in place by Illinois law and existing board policies are “inadequate to cover conflicts of interest.” There is also no test available to tell whether or not a person on the board is looking out for themselves or a family member, instead of advocating for the district and its students, according to Clarke.

“I have a family member who works for the district,” Clarke said when he proposed the policy. “Yet I am allowed by law and policy to both discuss and vote on anything that would affect that family member. Do you think that should be allowed? Just because something is legal does not make it right. Marijuana use is legal in Colorado, but against the law in Missouri. Which state is right and which state is wrong?”

Clarke could not speak as to what disciplinary actions would be taken if a board member was to violate the policy. He said he did not want to speak for the entire board on the matter of discipline. However, he did say that he could hypothesize one possibility.

“I would anticipate one possibility is that the board could reprimand a member for violation of the policy,” Clarke said. “It would then be up to the voters to determine if that reprimand/violation affects the member at the next election.”

A tied vote, after a lengthy discussion, tabled the policy during its initial reading phase at the March 27 meeting, causing the district to seek legal advice. It was said that the policy would make an appearance at the April 24 meeting for its second reading, but neither Clarke or the policy appeared at the meeting.

Superintendent Mike Sutton said the policy was not on the agenda April 24 because the district administration wanted to leave controversial matters out of the both board meetings that week with a new board set to be seated three days later. New board members, Aaron Schuster and Zach Lewis were being sworn in at a special meeting April 27.

However, Sutton said it seems like the policy will not make a reappearance, because other board members seemed like they did not have “any real interest” in pursuing it.

Other business

Personnel moves

The board approved the following retirements:

▪ Carol Stratton, the administrative assistant to the the district business manager, effective Dec. 31, 2017.

▪ Edward Crager, a custodian at Highland High School, effective on May 8.

The board approved the following for new personnel in the 2017-2018 school year:

▪ Lindsey Flechner, school psychologist at Highland Middle School.

▪ Andrew Gibb-Clark, general music and choir director, director of choral, madrigal director and general music and chorus director at Highland High School and Highland Middle School.

▪ Erin Bloemer, special education teacher at Highland Primary School.

▪ Lindsey Kraus, third-grade teacher at Alhambra Primary School.

▪ Hailey Simmons, kindergarten teacher at Highland Primary School.

▪ Kristen Torre, assistant volleyball coach at Highland High School.

▪ Jeff Gieseking, seasonal grounds keeper, effective April 11, 2017.

▪ Jody Durbin, seventh-grade girls basketball coach at Highland Middle School.

▪ Brett Pollard, freshman girls basketball coach at Highland High School.

The also board approved the resignation of Kelsey Newcomb, color guard coach at Highland High School.

Changes of assignment

The board approved the following for changes in assignment for the 2017-2018 school year:

▪ Lisa Langham will teach fifth grade, instead of fourth grade, at Highland Elementary School.

▪ Melissa Minford will teach third grade, instead of fourth grade, at Highland Elementary School.

▪ Liz Weder will was named assistant principal, instead of the interim assistant principal, at Highland Middle School.

▪ Rebecca Braundmeier, will be the seventh-grade geography teacher, instead of the interim seventh grade geography, teacher at Highland Middle School.

▪ Kirk Essenpries will be the day custodian, instead of the night custodian, at Highland High School.

Copier bid approved

The board approved the awarding of a copier bid lease to Da Com.

This year, eight companies submitted bid proposals, Da Com had the lowest bid with an annual cost of $55,985.89. The proposal will cost the district 11 percent less annually than previous contracts over the last four years. The new copiers will be the latest models of the machines that the district utilizes currently.

Da Com also submitted an alternate bid of $54,325.89. The alternate bid will cost will make the district replace the largest and fastest copier at the Administration Building, located at 400 Broadway, with a higher quality, marginally slower unit. The alternate bid would save the district $1,660 per year for the next four years.

The board ultimately decided to replace the copier in the administration building by approving the lower-priced alternate bid.

Software contract renewals approved

The board approved the renewal of three contracts between the district and Brecht’s Database Solutions Inc. The three contracts were for the districts Power IEP, RTI and DS contracts.

The Power IEP contract was renewed for $7,256.50, the Power RTI contract was renewed for $3,000, and the Power DS contract will cost the district 5 percent of net reimbursements from HFS for “fee-for-service” and “transportation” claims.

The contracts will last until June 30, 2017. According to Superintendent Sutton, Brecht’s is the company that the district has used for a number of years and many school districts throughout the state of Illinois and the nation use Brecht’s for its services.

Super Hero Club account approved

The council also approved the creation of an account at Highland High School for the Super Hero Club.

The account will hold the club’s revenues from their concession sales. The club uses those revenues to send care packages to troops over seas, to buy lunches for other students, and to sponsor a selected family for Christmas.