School board keeps same organization, reviews upcoming challenges

The first order of business at the first Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees meeting of the year on Monday, Jan. 8, was to organize the board, officers and nominees for 2018. It was an easy task; virtually everyone retained their positions from the previous year.

Mathew Roth will remain the president of the board, with Brian Warpup as vice president and Gary McClellan as secretary. Edette Eckert was unanimously appointed to continue as the treasurer, and board member Reed Christiansen will remain as the school corporation’s legislative liaison.
Several committee members were also all unanimously approved for the new year, including the Bid Opening Committee, comprised of Jon Bennett, Randy Harris and Edette Eckert; Common Wage Committee, with Chad Daugherty retained as a community representative and business and industry representatives added as needed throughout the year; Roanoke Building Committee, comprised of board members Gary McClellan, Matt Melcher and Kevin Yarger; and Huntington North High School Remodeling Committee, comprised of board members Tim Allen, Matt Roth, Brian Warpup and Reed Christiansen.

The compensation for board members also remains unchanged for 2018, at the statutory limit of $2,000 per year, plus $62 per meeting for attendance at special meetings and executive sessions.

The next order of business was a report from Harris on the state of the district, a review of the previous year.

He acknowledged the schools’ 2017 test scores as most being at or above state averages, with the exception of Lincoln Elementary, which was below average. Riverview Middle School received an A letter grade, Lincoln Elementary got an F and the remainder of HCCSC schools received B grades for the 2016-17 school year.

The graduation rate was the highest ever last year at 95.4 percent, Harris reported.

“That came from a lot of effort by the administration, guidance counselors, teachers and most importantly, the students,” he said.

Northwest Elementary was also recognized as a four-star school last year, which Harris said was an outstanding achievement accomplished by a handful of schools throughout the state.

Among challenges tackled by the district last year were enrollment decline, difficult student behavior, equality of services to meet the needs of all of the corporation’s students and eroding facilities.

Harris cited a district audit, demographic survey and elimination of an elementary school among efforts to address the challenges. He added that a $50,000 Lilly grant will be used to address student behavioral issues, an approved bond issue will be used this year to repair and replace aging buildings and facilities, and planning a new elementary school to be built in Roanoke in 2018.

“I’m about worn out after all we did in 2017, but it’s not going to slow down in 2018,” Harris told the board.

Among accomplishments Harris noted from the past year was a pay increase for all employees for the third year in a row; new iPads for elementary school students; a new HCCSC website; resizing of classrooms and redistricting to balance school enrollments; expansion of the learning center; the Lilly grant for student assistance; and the adoption of the Distinguished Scholars program for high school students.

Upcoming challenges for this year include implementation of elementary school changes and redistricting; building the new school in Roanoke; getting going on renovations at the high school; and the implementation of a new district marketing program.

As part of addressing this year’s challenges, administrative staff on the Bid Opening Committee will busily kick off the new year by obtaining quotes and bids for a variety of projects planned, using the 2017 General Obligation Bond (GOB) funds to pay for them. The board directed the Bid Opening Committee to obtain bids on 19 projects, roughly estimated to cost $3,284,641.

Replacement of Crestview Middle School’s roof tops the projects on the list. Other needs include renovations for Crestview and Riverview middle schools’ tracks; filling, sealing and striping parking lots at all HCCSC buildings; LED lighting upgrades for parking lots plus the HNHS arena, fieldhouse and auditorium; seating and sound system for the HNHS auditorium; portable classrooms for alternative education; replacement of bleachers for the upper and lower arena; and demolition of the pool at Salamonie School.

“The good news is we were able to knock off a number of significant facility needs in the past year,” said Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff. “We’re very excited about the prospect of doing these projects and getting our facilities in better shape.”

In other news, most of the central administrative office has moved to its temporary location at Salamonie School. The business office and remainder of staff still at Horace Mann Education Center will be out by the end of the month, Harris said.

Harris added that recommendations for staffing for the 2018-19 school year will be among items discussed at the board’s next meeting on Jan. 22.