June 23, 2023 at 2:20 p.m.
Updated June 23, 2023 at 2:20 p.m.

Waiting for the budget, Highland board hears report

School districts across the state are waiting to see how the state budget treats them and Highland is no different.

The Highland district was set to develop a pay program for substitute pay but they tabled the measure until the state budget is finalized.

Superintendent Randy Refsland, who is leaving the district for a similar position at Argyle, said there are still many moving parts to the budget.  He said a possibility is to add $325 per student to the aid package but he added with decreasing enrollment the district will really not get more money.  He said he expects it will be a few more weeks until the budget is complete and feels the information being available for the July meeting is realistic.

Also in the budget is the possibility of an additional 4% for special education needs but that will be eaten up with inflation.

He also discussed the desire to put more money into the voucher program but some legislators are not.

“The legislature is saying it is doing a lot to help schools but they are not, Refsland said.  “We will be lucky if we receive any kind of an increase.

In closed session the board discussed liquidation damages for teachers leaving the  district after  a certain date. Liquidated damages were increased to $500 if someone resigns between July 1 and July 31 and $1000 August 1 and after.  The old numbers were $350 and $500.

The board took care of a vacancy when they approved the hiring of Jay Moelling as the Agriculture and Tech. Ed teacher.  Moelling is currently employed by the Dodgeville school district in tech ed.

The board handled some matters in the maintenance department when they approved a salary increase for the head of maintenance and the addition of a part time custodian.

Also approved were contracts for the 2023 summer school and the extra curricular positions for 2023-2024.

The board discussed background checks and sent a recommendation for a review of background checks to the policy committee.

The board brought closure to the senior exit project study when they decided to let the adminstration handle the project and keep the board informed. The board had been questioned about the value of the program as some students were thought to be not taking advantage of college and tech school offerings because of the time the exit project takes.  Advocates of the program felt the value of doing research, talking in front of adults and learning about the community were too important to lose.

The board spent considerable time listening to a presentation on school perceptions which outlines the path to a district questionnaire to help determine the possibility of a successful referendum. The presentation covered timelines, cost and expected results.  A special meeting is possible for further discussion.

New Superintendent Josh Tarrell expressed the need for transparency and finding out what should be asked on the referendum ballot.

Next, Kristin Rusch gave the board a presentation on the gifted and talented program that is offered in the district.  She expressed the need to keep students challenged.

The board also heard a lengthy report on behavior and attendance.  Measures to handle  behavior issues and methods to keep students from getting into trouble were discussed.

Tarrell discussed the methods used to keep kids from being truant and how the district contacts parents and works with them on the issues.

Tarrell pointed out that students who have 3.0 GPAs see it go down to 2.5 or less when school is missed.

Tarrell also said there are some students who just do not want to be in school and they are the hardest to reach.

During discussion about the college and tech school programs available to students in the district it was noted that all students can take up to 18 credits.  

The need for information to be available for parents and students on the offerings and programs  were discussed and it was decided to upgrade what is on social media and the district web page.

The board discussed open enrollment and of all who have been  surveyed so far five have been returned with four saying they plan to attend school in Highland.

The board learned the new boiler is being installed and that sealcoating is underway for the parking lot.

The school nurse report included many positives such as dental heath, vision screenings and the distribution of prescribed medicine.

In addition staff have had the option to obtain CPR/AED training and have received blood pressure screenings.

As a tribute to the nurse serving the Highland district Refsland said, “In my 41 years in education Sharon Friederick is the best I have ever worked with.  Highland is very fortunate to have her.”

The board tabled the activities handbook and approved changes to the coaches handbook.  

Approved was retaining membership in the WIAA.  Also approved was the use of school equipment in the offseason with permission.

The board also accepted a $2500 gift from the Kosharek family to the special ed program in memory of Jody Kosharek.

The board discussed the time for high school graduation and will visit it again at a future meeting.

Before adjournment the board:

-Set a special meeting for June 28 at 6:00 to approve the end of fiscal year invoices.

-Set a Policy Committee meeting for July 10 at 6:00 p.m.