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Officials hope to address students’ social-emotional learning needs

The Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education is looking to better meet the social-emotional learning needs of students.

At a March 14 regular meeting, officials took a series of actions to satisfy this aim.

Issues of bullying and cyberbullying have long been an issue for students in school, including those enrolled in Summit Hill District 161.

“We continually work to strengthen the elements of our bullying/cyberbullying prevent program and supports for student social-emotional needs,” Superintendent Barb Rains said.

Rains said the board is not taking action in direct response to any bullying/cyberbullying issues of note, saying that these initiatives are board goals derived out of planning to support staff.

Officials aim to address any concerns should they arise at Summit Hill Junior High and Hilda Walker Intermediate schools.

Earlier this year, the board started discussing the idea of opening up new positions. Out of the meeting, ideas were introduced to consider creating two districtwide coordinator of instructional support positions, one districtwide coordinator of student support services position, and two social worker positions. These jobs would follow the teacher-salary schedule.

Board Member James Martin questioned why the board was seeking to create an additional Summit Hill Junior High School assistant principal position, though this hadn’t been introduced to officials when they met earlier this year.

“Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we are understaffed, I’m not arguing against the position in any way, shape, or form,” Martin said. “I’m just curious as to where this came up.”

Around that time, the board discussed the possibility of creating a position for a new Summit Hill Junior High School administrator, though the role was not clearly defined.

“At that time, we did not have data, and we did not want to presume that the other positions were moving forward,” Rains said. “Once we felt that there was a possibility, then we went back and started to dig in and make sure we had support all the way around for both the two coordinators for instruction and the one coordinator for student support services.”

As the District started to delve into what positions they were going to need and how the workload is currently divvied, staff learned that time is maxed out.

Rains said with another set of hands, staff will be able to focus more on instruction, provide support as needed, and create room for greater communication.

The board in recent months has put increased emphasis on a desire to increase student involvement in extracurricular activities to help promote their benefit to social-emotional learning.

The District wants to ensure they have all the support mechanisms in place to support students next year.

“We’re increasing our bullying program,” Rains said. “With our current makeup, we won’t have the staff to do that.”

Rains said the administrative level is half of the District’s challenge.

A contract will be extended to a person who goes on to fill the new assistant principal position.

Placement of the two additional social workers will be determined at the end of April.

“I think people are going to wonder where we’re expanding administration and expanding these things,” Martin said. “How do we say we’re going to make sure that we monitor the performance of this, and we’ll make sure that it is appropriate?”

To achieve this aim, the District intends to maintain a balance between the Summit Hill Junior High and Hilda Walker Intermediate schools.

Board Member Joy Murphy called into question the board’s ability to open up new positions, knowing the financial uncertainty the District could face in one or two years.

“We have to a make a hard decision,” Board Secretary David Faber said.

Murphy said she is torn, in part, because it’s easy to add a position and it would be difficult to take it away.

In a series of 7-0 votes, officials decided to approve the creation of various positions to help address students’ social-emotional learning needs.

Because of personnel changes, shifting, and retirements made by the Board of Education, the District is anticipating that its payroll and benefit expenses are down by about $153,000 with these positions added to next year’s budget.

Boiler project bid approved

During the meeting, the board also authorized a payment of $186,600 to Monaco Mechanical for work to be performed on a Hilda Walker Intermediate School boiler project.

The District has enlisted the assistance of the Tria Architecture to address building facilities needs.

A full bid scope review of the contractor, Monaco Mechanical, showed that they are in good standing, according to references, searches, and a check of state licensing.

Tria Architecture did not find any reason to raise concern over the project bid.

“Out of the vetting process, we did talk to three references,” said Nick Graal, senior staff architect for Tria Architecture. “Two were good, and one had a negative comment about change orders. We didn’t feel that it was enough to throw out that bid and go to the next bid. It’s just something that we, as the design team/the district architect, will have to watch out for. We fully vet any and all change order requests to see the validity. Being that that comment did come back, it’s on our radar, for sure.”

In a 7-0 vote, board action contractually obligates the contractor to fulfill its end of the deal.

The contract stipulates that Monaco Mechanical is responsible for related damage, should it arise.

The project is slated to be substantially complete in September to meet the school’s heating needs.

Round it up

A brief recap of action and discussion at a March 14 regular meeting of the Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education:

  • A motion was passed to authorize the solicitation of a request for proposals for annual financial auditing services.

  • A motion was passed to authorize the development of the tentative budget for the 2018-2019 school year.

  • Officials awarded 12 teachers second-year probationary contracts, 11 teachers third-year probationary contracts, eight teachers four-year probationary contracts, and 14 teachers tenure contracts for the 2018-2019 school year.

  • The board awarded administrative employment contracts to Barb Rains, Frances Boss, Colin Bradley, Tracy Bulfer, Maura Carroll, Leslie DeBoer, Laura Goebel, Jason Isdonas, Daniel Pierson, Michael Ruffalo, John Snipes, Doug Wiley, and Dana Wright. The contracts include a 3 percent salary increase.

  • Officials issued a one-year lawn maintenance contract in the amount of $25,466 to Bill’s Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping.

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