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February 1, 2023

12/23/2022 3:34:00 PM
Diversity report causes Highland board to visit mental health needs, inclusion plan for students

More often than many people realize, it is the little thing, the tiniest gesture, that not only means something but can make a real difference in someone's life.
Case in point...
Highland schools has a rewards system that if a student does something nice on their own they get recognized. One little boy received an accolade and was puzzled why. He finally asked his teacher why he got the award.
"The little girl you passed the basketball to had never played before. She was hanging back and you got her involved," was the answer.
The neatest thing about the story is that nothing was scripted or suggested. The act of kindness just happened.
The story was revealed during a discussion of a diversity survey recently conducted by the district. The board asked questions about the results which revealed several areas receiving attention by adminstration and staff.
-Mental Health both for students and staff. Forty-seven percent of the respondents cited mental health as a real need to be addressed. Principal Josh Tarrell said needs are being addressed with more time and availability of counselor services. There are also other services being considered.
"We need to go out and find new services," Tarrell said.
-Inclusion...if a new student arrives in the district, often times they do not feel welcomed. Suggestions are to be more inviting when it comes to activities, eating lunch, etc. It was noted that Highland is a tight knit community and "you are not from here until you are from here."
During discussion District Administrator Randy Refsland told the board he has been in the district for six months and staff and others have made him feel welcomed.
-Making sense of student lives. Tarrell pointed out that around half the students come from homes where the parents are not together. He said students sometimes have problems figuring out how to fit in.
"They are trying to figure things out and we have to be there to help," he said.
It was also pointed out that there are cliques with athletes, music and other groups with school activities. Membership in the cliques change with the seasons and students need to be aware they should include everyone.
-Themes...Tarrell said students are asked to be aware of certain mottoes such as "Being Kind," " Being Positive," "How To Be a Good Person.." Then they are asked to put them into action.
Near the end of the discussion several suggestions were made. One was to explore the need for more mental health services. Another was to create a welcome package for new people moving into the district. And another was to help new people feel welcomed by holding a joint project.
"Fitting in is a need that must be considered," Tarrell said. "It takes a certain person to approach a new person and get to know them."
The board heard from several seniors about their senior projects. Presenting were:
-Colton Frost who is making a video game which will be free to the Highland community. He hopes to have it up and running by Christmas
-Grace Dreischmeier who is working on learning self defense and plans to hold classes in the community.
-Ella Cody who is working on podcasts and is getting use to her comfort zone.
-Harper Drury who is working on knowing the body and how it works.
-Bryce Bollant who is working on upgrades at the baseball and softball fields on campus. He is painting the dugouts, putting on a fence cap and installing new home plates.
-Blake Dax is working on taxidermy, focusing on deer mounts.
Also appearing were students with a STEM discussion and a Spanish project.
Director of Business Services Linda Hebgen gave the board an update on several financial matters.
First was results of a recent audit by Johnson and Block. The board received a copy of the audit and Hebgen pointed out that:
-Fund balance is $900,000 while a short time ago it was $200,000. The auditor said the district is in good shape with that size of fund balance.
-Under debt service Hebgen said there will be two periods the next two years where there will be payments made that will pay off building projects.
-Fund 50 (food service) is in good shape with $52,000 which is the result of COVID payments.
-Fund 46 is a fund where money is put for projects after it sits for a required amount of time. Hebgen said the fund has $595,000 in it and some can be spent in the 2024/25 school year.
She said the only negative that was found is there are not a variety of "eyes" reviewing funds. She said that is a common problem in small districts.
Under banking changes Hebgen said funds in Fund 46 which have to sit have been moved to an 18 month CD to take care of the best interest rate the district and obtain.
Hebgen said year to date budget considerations are on point and the district is right where it should be.
Refsland discussed the district report card with the board. Highland's overall grade was 69.6% which is in the "meets expectations" category. It just missed 70% which is where "exceeds expectations" starts.
Refsland also said when broken out the middle school exceeded expectations while elementary and high school met expectations.
Math exceeded the state average according to Refsland. He said there is room for improvement in English is the elementary and middle schools which is being addressed.
"Scores were good," Refsland said. "Solid but not great...we have room to grow and I think we can."
Refsland also noted that anyone wishing to run for the open positions on the school board has until January 3 at 5 pm to file. He aid non-candidacy ust be noted by an incumbent by December 27,
Tarrell updated the board on WARCO, the bus provider for the district. The company is providing a bus that runs on propane or the district which brings up a need for a propane station in the community. The company has asked if there is a place on camps to put a propane station.
Tarrell also said that Michek has allowed busses to be kept on their property but since the business is sold there may be some expansion which would cause the busses to be moved elsewhere. He suggested looking on district property to see if there is a place to put a propane station and eventually house busses.
The board discussed its required safety plan and training/drill report which must be filed with the state. Tarrell said all drills have been held and staff has been trained. The board accepted the plan as presented.
The board discussed the alternate said three new students are attending since last week.
Refsland updated the board on the 2023-24 calendar. He said the community and the staff have all been surveyed and have had a chance to comment. He said all changes possible have been made.
"The survey process was a good tool," Refsland said.
The board approved the calendar.

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