Members of the Hillsboro School Board filled a vacancy on the board, elected officers, and approved a $21.5 million fiscal year 2021 budget during their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Hillsboro Junior High School cafeteria.
Board members selected Nathan Kirby of Hillsboro to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former board president Greg Bellaver. After Kirby took the oath of office, the board elected Barbara Adams as president on a 5-2 vote. Adams, Matt Lentz, Earl Meier, Dan Wilson, and Kirby voted for Adams for board president; Bryce Rupert and Dan Tester voted for Rupert for board president.
The board elected Lentz vice president, Meier as secretary, Wilson as treasurer, and district staffer Heather Greenwood as recording secretary, all without opposition.
Dr. Kirby is an optometrist and part owner at Family Eye Care in Hillsboro. A 2008 Hillsboro High School graduate, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Blackburn College in Carlinville in 2012 and his doctorate of optometry from the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry in 2016 before joining Family Eye Care.
After a brief budget hearing near the beginning of the meeting, the board adopted a $21.5 million budget that anticipates a single-year deficit of $100,000–albeit the anticipated deficit is $438,000 in the education fund alone.
The budget predicts a total fund balance of $8.2 million at the end of the fiscal year, however $3.7 million of that is in the working cash fund–borrowed money that will be used to cover anticipated education fund shortfalls.
In response to a question by board member Earl Meier about whether the census will affect the budget, "it will in the long run," Superintendent David Powell said. In response to a question from board member Bryce Rupert, the superintendent pointed out that the district gets nearly $1.1 million annually from the school facility sales tax; that money goes into the capital projects fund.
Junior high Principal Don VanGiesen shared a note from a parent congratulating the staff for taking care of her son who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The principal also had kind words for students and staff who are dealing with a very different school year.
"I still don't think I'm over the fact of how well our students and staff are dealing with this," VanGiesen said of pandemic regulations. "They come in excited and up-beat every day."
As pleased as administrators were about how well in-class education is going amid the pandemic, for many who have selected remote learning–not so much.
"Not all of this is good news," Powell said to begin a discussion on the first few weeks of remote learning for students' families who have chosen that instead of returning to class. "Some of it is bad, but none of it is surprising. Some of our students are not going to succeed at remote learning."
The superintendent noted that teachers are professionals who are trained to keep students motivated; few parents have that training. Also some students likely chose remote learning just to avoid the classroom.
"Those students are not going to do the work, and as much as we are trying, there's not much we can do about that," Powell said. Using, as an example, a second grade remote student who is not completing his or her at-home lessons, "that student can expect to be in second grade next year."
Building administrators in the district also gave synopsis on students who are succeeding in remote learning and those who are not.
"I'm going to go knocking on doors if I have to," Coffeen Early Childhood Director Marci Gutierrez said to reach remote families who have been difficult to contact.
Beckemeyer Assistant Principal Michelle Reeves said 90 students at the elementary school are on remote learning; nine of those are failing. Junior high Assistant Principal Blake Lipe said 14 of the 67 remote learners are failing.
"If we have students who are not checking in daily with remote learning, they are getting about 16 different calls a day," Lipe said. "We are doing everything we can."
Principal Patti Heyen said 36 of the 84 students high school in remote learning are failing. All of the administrators said many remote students are taking advantage of the option to return the classroom.
As part of the consent agenda, the board approved its annual joint agreement for Hillsboro High School students to attend Okaw Area Vocation Center.
At the end of the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of bus aide Tiffany Altevogt, the retirement of bus driver James Burris, and the resignation of teacher Elizabeth McMahon.