Prior to the start of the Tuesday, June 15, regular meeting, the Nokomis School Board held a public hearing on the amended FY21 budget.
In the absence of President Chad Ruppert, the hearing was presided over by Vice-President Steve Janssen. In addition to Janssen, Superintendent Scott Doerr, board members Joe Gasparich, Janssen, Denny Bauman, Carl Ray Fesser, Ben Tarter, and Carl Kettelkamp were all present. Also in attendance were principals Reedy, McDowell, and McDonald, as well as other interested guests.
Doerr summarized that the FY21 amended budget had not changed and that all funds were positive. With no public comment provided, the hearing was closed.
To begin the regular meeting, Bauman asked that all in attendance observe a moment of silence on behalf of Randy Meyer and his family. The board also heard three “thank you” notes from the David Graden, Don Brownback, and Paul Doerr families read aloud by Bauman.
Heather Hampton+Knodle spoke to the board about the possibility of establishing a track and field program for the junior and senior high schools as an additional spring sport offering. She provided the board with research she had done regarding the cost of needed supplies, logistics, additional expenses, and the minimum requirements to qualify for post-season competition. Dr. Doerr, a former track coach, and the board thanked her for her presentation.
In his report to the board, Superintendent Doerr started by informing them the state only owed the district about $16,254. He said the General Assembly had finished most of their work by the May 31 deadline, including the budget, which included the promised Evidence Based Funding (EBF) increase for next year.
He said the district will not know its amount of money until August.
Doerr then summarized for the board bills passed by both houses and awaiting the Governor’s signature. He pointed out that most of the bills did not pass in their original form and many were amended to allow for more local control in some instances.
Doerr also told the board about the Sources of Strength program. He explained that a few months ago McDowell, Harrison, and he, along with the district’s new social worker, Shelby Babbs, attended a meeting with Jodi Reynolds on the QPR (Question, Persuade, Respond) program dealing with mental health and suicide prevention. The QPR program provides for professional development for administrators, faculty, and staff; however it needs a program to implement. Subsequently, Hillsboro Area Hospital has begun the Sources of Strength program at Hillsboro where they fully fund the program along with four social workers to help with implementation. The hospital would share all resources with the Nokomis distrct to start the program, which helps to change the culture in schools to create a strong bond between students and teachers.
Doerr felt Sources of Strength would dovetail nicely with the district’s Capturing Kids’ Hearts program. He said a steering committee to run the program would be created made up of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students and everyone would be trained in the program. A variety of activities would be created for kids and staff to cope and deal with anxiety and other mental health issues. He said the program would begin at the junior and senior high level and potentially move to the elementary school.
In addition to his written report to the board, Principal Reedy commented that he wanted to acknowledge that the summer school staff was doing an excellent job, creating a complete curriculum for the session after the materials for the planned program had not been delivered by the vendor. He said the response by the staff was “pretty awesome” and that the students participating in the session seemed to be really engaged in what they were doing. Principal McDowell echoed Reedy’s assessment.
Dr. Doerr reported that only one bid for the fuel and oil bids had been received, and recommended the board accept that bid. Kettelkamp made a motion to approve the Farmer’s Oil fuel and oil bids beginning July 1. Fesser seconded the motion and the board approved it unanimously on a roll call vote of the members present.
Gasparich moved to approve the Amended FY21 Budget. Tarter seconded the motion. With the budget having not been questioned in the public hearing earlier in the evening, the board passed the motion unanimously on a roll call vote of the members present.
Fesser made a motion to approve Prairie State Insurance Cooperative property, casualty, and worker’s compensation carrier renewal for FY22. Kettelkamp seconded the motion and it passed by a unanimous roll call vote of the members present.
Tarter made a motion to approve the lunch agreement with Special Education Services (MENTA) for the 2021-2022 school year. Fesser seconded the motion and it passed on a voice vote. Similarly, Gasparich made a motion to approve the lunch agreement with St. Louis Catholic School for the 2021-2022 school year. Kettelkamp seconded the motion and it also passed on a voice vote.
Doerr presented the bid amounts of KEC Design LLC and Belter for the kitchen equipment bid package and recommended the board accept the KEC bid of $91,689. Kettelkamp made a motion to approve KEC Design LLC for the kitchen equipment bid package. Fesser seconded the motion. The members present passed the motion unanimously on a roll call vote.
Having accepted Principal McDowell’s intent to resign in 2025 at the previous meeting, Kettelkamp made a motion to approve the contract for Rachelle McDowell as the Nokomis Jr./Sr. High School principal effective Aug. 1, 2021 to July 30, 2025. Fesser seconded the motion. In discussion, Gasparich commented that while it had nothing to do with the individuals involved in this motion or the next action, he was hesitant to commit to long-term contracts that overlapped seated school board terms. The motion passed on a roll call vote of the members present with Gasparich abstaining.
Kettelkamp made a motion to approve the contract for Kevin Reedy as the Nokomis Jr./Sr. High School assistant principal /athletic director effective Aug. 1, 2021 to July 30, 2025. Fesser seconded the motion. The motion passed on a roll call vote with Gasparich again abstaining.
After an hour-long closed session, Fesser made a motion to accept the resignation of Sarah McCooley, effective May 26. The motion was seconded by Kettelkamp and passed by the board on a voice vote.
Gasparich made a motion to approve the employment of the following: Evan Rench (high school English and scholastic bowl), Erica King (high school science and senior class sponsor), Roni Blazich (pre-K aide), and Morgan Lovelace (high school football cheerleading sponsor) for the 2021-2022 school year. The motion was seconded by Tarter and passed unanimously on a roll call vote of the members present.