City and school district officials are pushing for the construction of a new underpass between Highland Middle School and Highland High School to create a safer route for students who must cross Troxler Avenue.
“I met with Mark Latham, the city manager, last week, and I spoke to him again today, and he is interested in pursuing a public safety grant for the purpose of constructing an underpass from the middle school to the high school,” said Mike Sutton, superintendent of the Highland School District. “This project is right at a million dollars, but they suspect the grant they are pursuing will pay for about 90 percent of that cost.”
The majority of the grant funding would come from the state, with of the total cost $200,000 being split between Madison County and the city. Sutton says the city’s $100,000 would be incurred through engineering fees to design the underpass.
“All I’m asking for is support from the School Board, knowing that if they (the city) go forward with design and engineering for this underpass, that we are in support of doing it,” Sutton said to board members at their regular meeting Monday night.
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The reason the city is pushing for the underpass’ construction is the potential increased traffic around the schools. City officials said that within eight to 10 years, that there will be a need for five lanes of traffic between the middle school and high school.
“Once you had those additional lanes of traffic, it’s going to be very difficult to have a crosswalk,” Sutton said.
Some board members were in favor of the idea, while others weren’t completely convinced this was the best course of action.
“We have a lot of trucks rolling through there during peak season,” board member David Raymond said. “Do they foresee any issues with that, because that’s just about the only truck route through (that area)?”
Sutton said that engineers would consider every possible option.
Other board members said they were concerned about the underpass being abused by students.
“It seems to me we are creating a place for students to hang out that is out of sight,” said Robert Miller, board member. “A place where not good things happen.”
However, Joe Mott said he likes the idea of installing a security camera to monitor the area to prevent incidents among students.
“I don’t think it would hurt to throw a video camera in there and feed it into our system,” he said. “That would be very easy to do.”
If the city receives the grant this year, the project isn’t expected to be completed until 2020.
Other Board Action
$200K in working cash needed to fill budget hole
The board approved using $200,000 worth of working cash fund to the education fund fill the hole in this year’s budget.
The School Board was authorized to issue $5 million in November 2012 by referendum, but to date, has only issued $2 million.
Highland school have had deficits of $1.66 million collectively in the last three years. With $200,000 added this year, the district will have about $136,000 remaining from the 2012 bond sale in 2012.
The district will have about $1.5 million in its working cash fund at the end of this year, after the $200k transfer. Those funds are from the tax levy.
The School Board has until November 2017 to issue the remaining $3 million in working cash bond, if it wishes.
Mother addresses board on special education services
During the visitor’s speaking session, Linda Kinney, the mother of a seventh-grade girl with severe autism at Highland Middle School, brought up concerns how her daughter was being treated at the school. More in the next issue of the News Leader.
Personnel moves approved
The board approved the retirement of Connie Sparlin, early childhood teacher at Highland Primary, effective at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
The board also approved the following resignations:
▪ Elizabeth Holloway, program assistant at Highland Middle School, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Emily Burwell, program assistant at Highland High School, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Staci Brown, school counselor at Highland High School, effective May 31, 2016;
▪ Tammy Shryock, program assistant at Highland Middle School, effective May 13, 2016;
▪ Matthew Sautman, program assistant at Highland Middle School, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year;
▪ Jason Basso, varsity assistant football coach at Highland High School;
▪ Amy Kloss, English teacher at Highland High School, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year; and
▪ Wendy Beaubien, special education teacher Highland Elementary, effective the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
New personnel hired included:
▪ Clinton Hamilton, physical education at Highland Primary, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Kelsey Lohman, assistant band/general music teacher at Alhambra Primary, Grantfork Elementary, Highland Elementary and Highland High School, effective 2016-2017 school year;
▪ Whitney Zobrist, assistant dance team coach at Highland High School;
▪ Jason Basso, seventh-grade softball coach at Highland Middle School; and
▪ Ron Holt, freshman football coach at Highland High School.
Change of assignments for the 2016-2017 school year were approved for:
▪ Erin Smith, from seventh-grade softball coach to eighth-grade softball coach at Highland Middle School;
▪ Christiane Zeller, from grade 3 at Alhambra Primary to grade 4 at Grantfork Elementary;
▪ Brooke Lewis, from kindergarten at Highland Primary to grade 2 at Alhambra Primary;
▪ Kim Clasquin, from grade 1 to kindergarten at Highland Primary; and
▪ Riley Litzenberg, from volunteer football coach to varsity assistant football coach at Highland High School.
The board also voted to reinstate employment for the 2016-2017 school year for:
▪ Kathy Border, part-time program assistant at Highland Primary;
▪ Christa Huelskamp, program assistant at Highland Primary; and
▪ Carrie Fischer, part-time technology teacher at Highland Middle School.
The recalls were due to the number of resignations the district has received for next year.
Trip for cross country team approved
The board approved an overnight trip for the HHS cross country team. The team will attend Camp Wartburg in Waterloo, Ill., August 12-13. The team has attended this camp previously. The cost is $1,200 for the entire team to attend.
Contract approved for special ed software
The board approved renewal of a contract with Brecht’s Database Service, a Highland-based company that issues software used to keep track of necessary documentation of students with individual education plans (IEPs), as well as Medicaid billing.
Board member Robert Miller said last month that he checked with another school district that pays $8 per student for the service, where Highland was paying $11.
Superintendent Mike Sutton said he would check into it and see if the district could get a better price, since the current contract did not expire until July 1.
Sutton spoke with Brecht, and the company explained that the price point is based on the number of students. Larger district pay less per student, but more total and smaller districts pay more per student, but less total. They do not consider price breaks in order to keep everyone on a level playing field.
The renewed contract was for $10,256.50.
Jill Frey Scholarship directors approved
The board approved Jeff Frey and Robert Sudhoff to each serve a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Jill Frey Memorial Scholarship (May 2016-May 2019). Directors are approved when their terms expire.
Teacher evaluation software contract renewed
The board approved of a contract with Netchemia LLC for TalentEd Perform Teacher & Principal EditionEvaluation Software. This is the software the district uses to share documents during the teacher evaluation process. Administrators had discussed trying to create their own Goggle Docs program to eliminate this need. However, to ensure the continuation of smooth teacher evaluations, it was recommended the board renew the software package. Cost of the software is $7,762.50.
Casualty insurance renewed
The board approved property casualty insurance bids. The district is looking at a nearly 15 percent increase for next year. Most of the increase is in the liability area, partially due to the district’s current litigation and partially due to recent trends in the industry.
Cost of the district’s property casualty package went from $158,344 this year to $181,435.
The district solicited bids for property, liability, auto and workers compensation coverage and received one bid for the overall “package” from the current agent Affiliated Insurance, quoting Wright Specialty current carrier. Two other companies requested specifications; one indicated they could not provide a competitive quote, do to the district’s recent loss history, and the other did not submit a bid.
Cost for the district’s student accident/catastrophic coverage went from $1,397 to $1,571; treasurer’s bond from $2,684 to $2,811; and workers compensation from $133,761 to $133,043 (estimated).
Budget hearing date set
The board set a hearing on amended budget at the June 27 meeting. The district is required to amend the budget this year, due to the bond sale and 10-year health/life safety projects.
Tech infrastructure bids
The board approved $101,225.24 for technology infrastructure upgrades.
The district has applied for Erate funding, which will cover approximately 60 percent ($47,973.65) of the eligible costs, if allocated.
These upgrades would be in addition to the district’s existing technology budget.
The purchase is for separate firewalls for all buildings will allow the district to modify its fiber delivery from Highland Communication Services (HCS), ultimately saving approximately $14,000 to $15,0000 annually, making the payback on the upgrades less than three years.
These prices include software and licensing for five years.
Individual bid approved were:
▪ $40,160 to for wireless controllers;
▪ $32,347.24 to Provision Data Solutions for wired infrastructure;
▪ $28,718 to Secure Designs Inc. for firewalls.