Belleville District 201 employees could see reduced insurance costs

Belleville District 201 may have found a way to reduce health insurance costs for its employees without losing any coverage.

Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer compared the changes to a watch, that on the face of it the coverage would remain the same. The inner workings would change, resulting in a reduction of deductibles and monthly premiums, he told the school board at the meeting Monday evening.

The possible changes are because the trust may be able to pull the district from its large pool and look at the “health of the group” specifically.

“We are not looking to reduce coverage in any way,” Mentzer said.

He also asked the board to pass a resolution that would make information about the district’s interest and concerns about the tax levy and the potential changes by the state’s legislature.

“There are a couple of things on the horizon that make us very concerned,” Mentzer said, referring to a potential property tax cap and freeze, and a freeze on some types of bonds.

“The concern is acquiring new money to pay bills,” he said.

Mentzer suggests that reclassificaing payments — “it just renames a column in the budget” — would provide the district the flexibility to acquire money over time.

The board agreed to make the information public.

Dress code and IDs

In a rare circumstance, two individuals spoke to the school board.

▪ Student Hannah Heins, 17, of Belleville East told the school board that the way the dress code was written and is implemented is unfair to both genders.

“What a student wears or looks like is one of East’s main priorities,” she told the board. “Some might say that it is an issue when a school is more focused on the attire than the eduction.”

She said girls are held to a higher standard than boys.

“When you pull female students out of their class and dress code them for an above the knee dress while boys wear above the knee shorts, you teach her that the boy’s education is more important,” she said. Hannah pointed out that her gray knit dress, which she wore with opaque tights and tall boots, was above the knee and would not pass dress code.

She also said the dress code creates the message that young men and boys are “animals with no control.”

Hannah provided the school board with a petition to change the code, and said she would like to think that East would want to do something about the “male-biased dress code.”

▪ Teacher Richard Hodson, of Belleville East, told the board that a small change to the student identification “would save time in the bookstore, improve efficiency.”

He advocates using a round hole punch to attach the ID to a lanyard rather than the current oblong hole, which he said tends to crack and break. That breakage means students have to go back and look for it, he said.

Hodson said it was the second year he had brought the issue to the board.

“Maybe get that fixed for next year so I don’t have to come back, because I will.”

Student recognition

Four Belleville West students earned commended status for their performances on the preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. That means they scored in the top 50,000 scores of out of 1.5 million students who took it, Principal Rich Mertens said.

The four are Nicholas Ernst, Bailey Guinn and Emily Stock, who are among those sharing the number one rank of their class of 535 students, and Henry Holm, who is ranked 16th in the class with a 4.9 GPA.

Samuel Geiger, also among those with a perfect 5.0 GPA, was named as a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist for his score among the top 16,000 of the 1.5 million who took the test.

Teacher Recognition

▪ Mertens also recognized science teacher Mike Rogier for his 25 years with the Belleville West Science Department, lauding him as a “renaissance man” who can take complex concepts accessible but who also enjoys poetry and is an accomplished pianist.

The principal read several statements from former students, all studying engineering, who said he was engaging.

“We ... learned the topics but we also learned how to communicate our work in his class,” said Taylor Vollmer, now studying engineering at Missouri Science and Technology.

▪ Belleville East Principal Jason Karstens recognized social studies teacher Brian Loehring, who was the department chair for 13 years.

“During his tenure... Brian oversaw the formation of new classes, established dual credit courses with Saint Louis University, and hired numerous teachers,” Karstens said.

“The high standards, experienced teachers and growth of the department are a direct result of the commitment and leadership of Brian Loehring.”