Highland News Leader

Highland School Board approves new union contract, issues only one layoff notice for next year

For the second year in a row, the Highland School Board issued only one reduction in fore notice. Meanwhile, the district has also come to terms with the union representing its support personnel.

The board approved only one RIF at its March 26 meeting, Katherine Wiese part-time early childhood teacher. Wiese may be rehired next year, depending on the district's enrollment numbers, according to Superintendent Mike Sutton.

Sutton said the RIF had nothing to do with the district's financial status, and was made because the district plans to have a minimum level of staff next year.

"So it's very positive that we did not have to RIF any other positions in the district ," Sutton said.

RIFs, otherwise known as lay-off notices, must be given to teachers by the end of March, according to state law. Receiving a RIF does not mean a teacher or aide 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 district only issued one RIF last year after having issued seven in 2016.

The board also approved a new contract with the Highland Education Support Personnel Association (HESPA), the union for the district's secretaries and program assistants.

"Our goal going into this was to try to attract more candidates to our non-certified positions," Sutton said.

The contract provides for average annual increases of about 3.4 percent over a four-year term, according to Tim Bair, the district's business manager.

Bair said the contract also eliminates the district's "step zero" in the 2018-2019 school year. The district operates raises off of a step system. For each year worked, the employee moves up another step. By eliminating step zero, Sutton said starting hourly wages move to $12 per hour. Aside for this, Bair said there was not change to the contract language.

"I think its a good agreement for all sides," Sutton said.

The district approved a new four-year contract with the teachers’ union last March.

Other Personnel Moves



Other personnel moves approved at the March 26 meeting including the naming a Liz Weder as the new Highland Middle School principal and hiring a school resource officer.


The board also approved five resignations, a retirement, 10 new employees and one change of assignment.

The resignations were:

  • Jason Basso, an English teacher at Highland High School, effective March 14;
  • Emily Wellen, the HHS varsity dance team coach;
  • Erin Cotto, the Highland Middle School dance team coach;
  • Mike Arbuthnot, the HHS varsity girl's basketball coach;
  • Christina McGlasson, the HHS part-time guidance secretary, effective June 2018.

The retirement was:

  • Highland Elementary School third grade teacher Kari Wise. Wise will retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

The new employees for this school year are:

  • Chris Sudhoff started as a program assistant at HMS on Feb. 26;
  • Kelsey Huson started teaching English at HHS on March 12;
  • Taylor Bowlby is now volunteer assistant softball coach at HHS.

The new employees for the 2018-2019 school year are:

  • Natalie Ott, as a science teacher at HHS;
  • Brittany James as be a school psychologist intern for the district;
  • Ashley DeSeelm as be the HHS varsity girls' golf coach;
  • Erin Cotto as be the HHS varsity dance team coach;
  • Jessica Schrage as the HMS dance team coach;
  • Catelyn Lowe as the HMS cheerleading coach;

The change of assignment was:

  • Marilyn Bloemker, who will move from cheerleading coach to volunteer cheerleading coach at Highland Middle School.
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