Highland News Leader

Optimist Club to buy bleachers for Highland High School for more seating for Shootout

A picture of a full gym at Highland High School. This picture was taken during the Highland Optimist Shootout, while an additional set of bleachers are being used.
A picture of a full gym at Highland High School. This picture was taken during the Highland Optimist Shootout, while an additional set of bleachers are being used.

The Highland Optimist Club has pledged to buy new bleachers for Highland High School for about $41,000.

The Optimist's secretary Kevin Hemann proposed the project to the Highland School Board on April 23.

"For our sake and the continued growth of our Shootout, we think it is vital that we get it," Hemann said.

For the last 27 years, the club has hosted a large basketball competition called the the Highland Optimist Shoot Out. Hemann said the event's popularity grows every year. It has become one of the premiere high school shootouts and draws top teams and talent from all over the nation.

"For the last three years, we have been almost sold out in the gymnasium," Hemann said.

Last year, Hemann said about 2,700 tickets were sold. However, to seat this amount of people, the club has to rent bleachers for the open southern wall in the school's gym.

"Those total expenses incurred over the last three years is about $18,000," Hemann said.

On top of the expense, Hemann said the club has to assemble the seating, which is not only strenuous, but a safety hazard. The bleachers also have to be brought down from Chicago, which could cause catastrophic seating problems if the transport is prevented, according to Hemann.

The new extendable risers, which will be provided by Carroll Seating Company in Kansas City, will be attached to the southern wall of the gym and will provide 342 additional seats.

Hemann said the club plans to buy the bleachers within the next month and hopes to get them installed over summer vacation. The Optimists plan to pay the project off over the next five years.

"We don't get an opportunity very often for you to come to the board. So thank you for all of the projects that you have done," Board member Rene Friedel said.

The Optimists' history of donations to the school includes:

  • purchase of the north bleachers in the HHS gym;
  • purchase of the stat board addition to the scoreboard;
  • $30,000 commitment to the pavilion at HHS;
  • purchased the sound system in the HHS gym and commons room;
  • purchased original lockers in the HHS football stadium;

  • made contributions to the playground at Highland Elementary School;
  • bought a scoreboard at Optimist Field at Glik Park; and
  • donations of more than $30,000 annually to HHS athletics and other departments.

"We very much appreciate the cooperation and support we get from the Highland Optimists Club," said Superintendent Mike Sutton.

Other business

Young Authors

Before the meeting began, 18 students were presented with Madison County Young awards. The awards celebrate exemplary written works of children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Three of these students were also recognized as Illinois Young Authors. Those students were:

  • Jack Grotefendt, a sixth-grader in Mrs. Carlson's class at HMS;
  • Joanna Fog, a seventh-grader in Mrs. Smith's class at HMS;

  • Julia McPhillips, a seventh-grader in Mrs. Smith's class at HMS.

These students will represent the Highland School District at the 44th annual Illinois Statewide Young Authors’ Conference at Normal West High School in Norma on May 19.

'Pieces of Highland' visitors

Jamie Schwarz, owner of the Schwarz Barn, and Kiersten Schoen from Red Barn Farm Meats visited the board to relay the outcome of the first "Pieces of Highland" event.

Schwarz and Schoen organized the event with hopes to raise money for special education and to highlight Highland businesses.

The inaugural event, which was March 24, had 23 vendors and 375 attendees, according to Schoen. Overall, she said the fundraiser grossed almost $20,000, of which $17,500 will go back to the district.

Schoen and Schwarz said they hope some of the money will be used to develop a sensory room at Highland Middle School. The additional funds will be distributed to special education amongst the schools.

"It's an event that we would like to continue," Schoen said.

Fastenal lease

The district approved a three-year lease with Fastenal, a local fastener supplier currently located at 136 Poplar St. in Highland.

Fastenal will move into the old Jakel Manufacturing facility, currently the district administrative office, located at 400 Broadway. Core Elite Tumble and Cheer used to occupy the space. However, the company recently moved into the old Wicks Organ Co. factory, located at 1100 Fifth St. in Highland.

The lease will generate the district about $80,000 in revenue per year.

Athletic facilities

The board approved locker room and restroom renovations at the high school football stadium, not to exceed $250,000. Sutton said while the funds have not been allocated, the improvements will likely be paid through operating and maintenance funds.

The board also approved the district to explore a design, and go out for bids for a new conditioning facility at the high school.

Show choir

Sutton asked for direction concerning Highland High School's new show choir. The board approved the program last month. Moving forward, Sutton wanted to know how the activities fees would look like in the future and if the board would direct him to develop a stipend for the two teachers facilitating the group.

The board directed Sutton develop a stipend took Sutton's recommendation make the program cost equal to the school' athletic fee, which is currently $225.

Evidence-Based Funding

Sutton gave a brief presentation over Evidence-Based Funding, which is the new funding formula for Illinois schools. School districts recently found out how much money they will be allocated. For Highland this meant an additional $146,478.

Sutton relayed that the school is currently funded at 73 percent of the formula's Adequacy Target, which is the point of which a school is now considered to be adequately funded. This puts the district in the Tier 2 of the four-tiered system, which means Highland is in the group of the second lowest funded schools in the state.

"We're pretty far below the top end of Tier 2, so I suspect we are going to find ourselves in Tier 2 for a number of years," Sutton said.

However, being in either Tier 1 or Tier 2 means that those schools should feel more secure with receiving their funding, Sutton said. The Evidence-Based Funding clarifies that tier three and tier four will lose money before any schools in tier one and tier two, according to Sutton.

"So we feel pretty secure that our base funding minimum is going to be protected from year to year," Sutton said.

Sutton also presented some of the indicators that determine how much funding each school gets. Over the next few months, Sutton said he hopes to give more presentations on the funding formula and how it relates to the district specifically.

"So we can tell a story as to why we do what we do locally," Sutton said.

Policies approved

The board had the second reading phase for and adopted three policies. The policies had their first reading phase last month.

The policies are:

  • 2:260 School Board Uniform, Grievance Procedure
  • 4:40 Operational Services, Incurring Debt
  • 5:20 General Personnel, Workplace Harassment Prohibited

Personnel changes

The board approved the retirement of Marilyn Wolters, a program assistant at Highland High School at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

The board approved the resignation of Holly Mueth, a former nurse at Highland High School.

The board approved new staff hires for the 2018-2019 school year:

  • Kaitlyn Seelhoefer will work in special education at Highland High School.
  • Natalie Propst will be a HHS school nurse.
  • Clint Hamilton will coach HHS girls' varsity basketball.

In an effort to minimize class sizes the board also advised Sutton to add several teaching positions. Those positions to be posted include:

  • A special education teacher at Highland Middle School;
  • A kindergarten teacher at Alhambra Primary School;
  • A fourth grade teacher at Highland Elementary School;
  • A full-time secretary position, that will work half in the counseling office and half in the library at the high school.

A high school foreign language teacher was also authorized to teach an overload Spanish class. Sutton said this will allow the Spanish class sizes, which currently have over 30 students, to be reduced. The teacher will teach an extra session, meaning they will teach during every period of the seven period day.

2018-2019 meeting dates approved

The board approved its meeting dates for the 2018-2019 school year. The dates from July 2018 to June 2019 are:

  • July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Jan. 28, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • Feb. 25, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • March 25, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • April 15, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • May 20, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center;
  • June 24, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Administration Center.

Reimbursement rate approved

The board approved the reimbursement rate for BAHA supervision.

The BAHA program is the district's option for students who have disciplinary consequences related to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco violations for athletics. Students can participate in the program to reduce their athletic suspension by 50 percent.

The changes are:

  • Facilitators now receive $75 instead of $66 for the first student in a program;
  • For each additional student, facilitators will now receive $35 instead of $33;
  • Students who go through the program for the first time will have to pay $100 instead of $75;
  • Second offense students will have to pay $150 instead of $100.

The program is self sustainable at the new rates, according to Sutton.

Database contract renewed

The board authorized renewing the district's service contract with Brecht's Database Solutions.

The service provides the district with is Power IEP and Power RTI programs, which Sutton said is an "essential" program for special education staff. The combined cost of the two programs is about $10,560.

Sutton said this also includes an agreement for the district's Medicaid reimbursements, of which Sutton said Brecht gets about 5 percent.