The January 15, 2014 Highland Board of Education meeting started off the year with a new board member, new goals and possible projects.
Board members welcomed newly elected Wayne Hinkle to the board and wished him well. Hinkle thanked the voters for the opportunity to be on the board. He noted that he attended a meeting earlier in the day about the possibility of the site of the former school building in Chesterville being used for a fire department building. Discussion is in the primary stages with interested parties, and Hinkle said they have some good ideas about how to get it started.
Loren Altizer made mention of the good job the maintenance and janitorial staff, as well as building administrators, has done for keeping the building running seven days a week, especially with the severe weather in the past month. He also mentioned the talk about the Chesterville land and what the best use would be for the community.
“This is a great opportunity for the school to share in providing space in Chesterville for services such as EMS and fire,” said Altizer. “One thing we have noted in the past several months is that we want to maintain the green space behind where the building sat. We have a couple of ballfields there and the basketball court and some playground equipment. What we are talking about is the front portion of the property that is not the green space. We have not made any promises yet either way.”
Board President Bill Short thanked his fellow board members for the appointment of board president. He went on to note several news items of late, namely the significant improvements in Washington DC and the state of Tennessee in educational reform improvement. The improvements involved school performance ratings that were previously very poor. Reasons for improvements were cited as (implementation of) common core standards and adoption of the Massachusetts Educational Standards.
“So, our goals are attainable,” Short said.
Also, he noted Highland has a $21.1 million annual budget ($14.8 mil general fund), 1, 888 students enrolled and the value of Highland’s operation is $52 million in buildings, $3.1 million in buses, and $1.1 million in land on 90 acres. The school has 227 employees and ‘we’re the 2nd or 3rd largest employer in Morrow County.’
“This is a large business operation,” Short stated. “As such, for this board to try to be in charge of all of it can be a little overwhelming.”
His suggestion was for there to be four standing committees among the school board members. He asked the board to consider: Eric Thacker to be in charge of Administrator Evaluation, Budget and Finance; Kathy Belcher to be in charge of Buildings, Grounds and Classified Staff; Loren Altizer to be in charge of Inside and Outside Supplemental Contracts, the operational aspects of the bus garage and cafeteria; and Wayne Hinkle to be in charge of Teacher Evaluation, Curriculum and Common Core Standards.
Short felt there was a better chance to specialize, then report back to fellow board members - rather than the board members try to handle all things.
“I want Highland, and this board especially, to be transparent, (and) to serve our community members,” said Short. “I want us to think “Kids First,” continue to have an excellent school, extra-curricular standard of excellence and continuing operating in the black.”
Supt. Dr. Bill Dodds noted January is School Board Appreciation Month, and said a board member’s job is not fun or glamorous: it takes a lot of time, and their reward is in what the students and staff achieve.
“It’s a very different group and they all have different backgrounds,” Dodds said. “They all have different areas of expertise - and that’s valuable to us and they are an asset.”
Dodds discussed calamity days and said two days remain, and three days of blizzard bags can be used. No additional days will be added to the school year unless very severe weather occurs.
Dodds recognized Ralph Igo for his exemplary work in keeping the buses up and running during the severe cold snap the county experienced in early January.
“Mr. Igo does a great job every single day and never complains,” the superintendent noted. “He goes above and beyond, and is an outstanding employee.
Efforts have been made to repair the sound system in the high school cafetorium, and the school hopes to make improvements there as well as the gym and sound rooms for the band and choir. Treasurer Jon Mason is pursuing the company responsible for the work.
Principal Nate Huffman recognized the students of the month: Sarah Monk, Iris Edmondson, Karsten Bumpus and Kyle Minyo.
Asst. Principal Chad Carpenter recognized James Cochran for his award using the statware ‘Digital Scout.’ Cochran was selected to the All-Ohio Third Team Running Back.
“Having a player selected to the inaugural list is a great testament, and the criteria to grade these players is very extensive,” explained Carpenter. Over a thousand schools use the grading software.
The Ohio High School Football Coach’s Association recognized Kyle Minyo as a member of the 2013 Academic all-Ohio Football Team. Carpenter noted only 106 student athletes from more than 35,000 players throughout Ohio are recognized with this award. Qualifications for the award include being 1st team all-conference, or 1st team all-county or 1st team all district with an exemplary academic performance.
Special Education Director Pamela Mosier-Arnold recognized the Related Service Team consisting of a physical therapist Renee Dublin, and assistant Michelle Wolford, occupational therapist Michelle Webb (not present) and assistant Erin Jones (not present), and speech language pathologist Christina Rodgers. They service preschool, elementary, middle and high schools.
Elementary Principal Shawn Winkelfoos noted many activities and events have been updated on the website and there is a Twitter account now. Learning targets were issued to parents, and Winkelfoos recognized Asst. Principal Matthew Bradley for his efforts in communicating with parents and with the attendance policy.
Regarding safety and security, the staff meets each month with Deputy Lance Plough and the school held a lock-down drill in December, which Winkelfoos felt went well. Waterprint cards have been issued to parents who pick their children up, and they are expected to display those cards when doing so.
The Spirit Committee, consisting of staff members, is planning activities for each month in terms of building a positive environment.
Standards-based grading began with kindergarten and first grade; and grades two through five are now also standards based.
“We are now a standards based building, and parents can get on Powerschool and see their child’s performance,” Winkelfoos said. A representative from each grade level was scheduled to attend training January 16 at the high school.
Middle School Principal Rob Terrill said a big goal at the school this years was communication, including the website, which is a work in progress. As for safety, a second lock-down drill will be held in the Spring. A fire drill was held the week prior to Jan. 15 during class change.
“This is the last year, we think, of OAAs,” said Terrill. “There is legislation to move back the New Park testing that was supposed to start next year. We’ve been moving ahead on Common Core and preparing our students for things the tests aren’t ready for. Sometimes we’ve moved on to what the state wants us to. “
Terrill said the winter sports season is going well. Four wrestlers hold a 17/2 or better so far.
High School Principal Nate Huffman reported they hosted the ACT Prep Workshop in December with Michael Short. ACT scores have been coming in, with an average increase in points. Sixty four students attended the workshop. Forty-four juniors and seniors are signed up to take the ACT on March 18, to be held at Highland.
Highland High School was named to the fourth annual AP District Honor Roll, with 477 schools selected nationwide.
The Digital Academy has concluded its first semester, and eleven students participated.
A blood drive is coming up January 30 in the gym. Four drives are held each year and, if the school meets its goal, a scholarship is awarded to a deserving student.
Amber Clay-Mowery said the U.S. Department of Education may be visiting Highland to review progress with Race To The Top. The third grade has piloted the Instruction Improvement System, and this quarter, the third graders took their assessments online. Clay Mowery also noted that every teacher in her building is engaged in some type of professional learning. A recent meeting about the ISS was led by one of the teachers.
Deb Hart reported for the food service department, saying during the month of February, a cow may be seen in the school buildings in support of having Smith Dairy products back. Giveaways will also be taking place to encourage students to eat breakfast. Chocolate milk is back at all buildings as well.
Also in February an Appreciation Breakfast for local law enforcement will be held, along with parents. The date is yet to be determined because of snow days. A Grandparents Day is planned for students and their grandparents to have lunch together. If the staff and board members have any ideas about ways the food service department can help support their efforts for special classroom projects or promotions, please contact Deb Hart.
Bill Short asked Hart if restrictions on using low fat and low sugar foods have been lifted so the students will have foods that taste better, and Hart said grains and proteins have no restrictions now as they did previously. Sodium, however, is a big concern. She said the more sodium is removed from the foods, the less the students are eating. It’s hard to meet the fat and sodium guidelines in place by the government and get the students to eat the food, she said.
In transportation, Loretta Copleland handed out a sheet to board members listing the buses, drivers, and condition of the buses. Two buses are out of service and others being serviced. One driver is retiring and will not be replaced: two routes have been combined. This change affects only Tomorrow Center and Tri-Rivers students. Highland has 20 routes, 12 buses rated excellent or good and 12 buses that are in fair condition. Copeland feels the fleet is average or a bit above other school systems with drivers and buses.
Treasurer Jon Mason said the service truck for the bus garage is in need of replacement. The school is also getting a grant for direct communication MARCS radios, which will enable them to be in direct contact with the sheriff’s office and highway patrol.
A mid-year ‘financial checkup’ was given to the board, and Mason said the district was in good shape. Payroll is on target and state revenue is going to be strong this year.
“We’re fortunate we are in that sweet spot where we’re getting funding from the state,” Mason said, “and our local and real estate tax is flat - it’s been the same for almost three years now.”
Mason sees no major capital expenses in the near future, and some LFI (local funded initiative) money will be coming back; there is about $150,00o in that fund now. There are repairs for the sound system that must be made, however.
A My Voice 2.5 Survey Grant was approved and appropriated for purchased services in the amount of $25,460.00.
Also approved was the FY14 State Connectivity Funding Grant for purchased services in the amount of $5,400.00 for three buildings.
Real Estate amounts and rates as approved by the County Budget Commission are: general fund $3,869,547.00 at a rate of 19.0; permanent improvement $118,275.00 at a rate of ,60; classroom facilities maintenance &78,200.00 at a rate of .50; and facilities bond $903,774.00 at a rate of 4.40.
Art Instructor Joseph Bell has tendered his resignation (retirement).
The next regular Highland School Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on February 12, 2014 in the high school cafetorium.