November 17, 2023 at 1:50 p.m.

Highland school board receives referendum update

The Highland School Board continued its study of a possible referendum Wednesday with a presentation by Darin Sievers from School Perceptions.

School Perceptions is a 21 year old company located in Slinger which provides surveys and does a data assessment for school districts looking at holding a referendum.   The results of  recent survey of district residents and school staff were presented by Sievers via zoom.

Out of 697 surveys mailed out there were 302 returned which showed a 45% return.  Sievers said this is an all time high for survey returns. Senior citizens represented the largest number of returns with those 35-44 and 45-54 next.  The rest came from staff and people outside the district who own property in Highland.

The survey contained three levels of funding, $500,000, $700,000 and $900,000. Sievers said the results show a $500,000 referendum would have a good chance of passing.  $700,000 would be a possibility.  $900,000 received little support.

The breakdown of the survey showed 57% favoring the $500,000 level, 41% the $700,000 level and 14.75% the $900,000.

Concerns about the various levels included the need to come back again relatively soon to ask for more.  It was noted the $700,000 would give the district more time, at least five years,  before another ask would be needed.

Sievers said it would take a 1/3 swing to get to the $700,000 referendum level.  He said that 25% of the surveys returned said they would like more information. Later in the meeting the board discussed how to do a better job of getting information to the public on the possible referendum.  The board plans to use the district newsletter, the Facebook page, the web page and The Dodgeville Chronicle for referendum updates.  Service clubs and  other groups can schedule a visit by a board member the administration to talk about the need for a referendum.

The survey also showed that making cuts in programs or extra curriculars is not favored.  It also showed that the respondents like the way the district is operating and are satisfied with the education offered.

During discussion the board said they will have to explore where cuts would be made if a referendum fails.  It was also noted that the district can ask a referendum question twice a year.  If they finish their work by January the question would be on the April ballot.


Director of Maintenance Mike Aide updated the board on the boiler situation.  A new boiler has been installed to replace one that was non-functioning and it now needs to be synced with the other existing boiler.  Aide said a technician is coming to get the boilers working together.  

The board received an update on what has been going on in the music department and the Cardinal Cafe.  It was noted that seven students attended the National FFA Convention and will come to a future board meeting to talk about what they experienced.  Also the new FBLA club has already had two experiences with attendance at a fall leadership conference in Madison and a minie business world competition where they placed second.

Girls basketball has started with low numbers but the plan is for both varsity and JV.  There is one student taking part in the gymnastics quad-op with Dodgeville, Mineral Point and Iowa-Grant.  Middle school athletics has good numbers and are going well.

Both Principal Ashley Halverson and District Administrator Josh Tarrell talked about the end of the first quarter and plans to help students who have fallen behind.  They said improvement forms will be handed out this week.

Other points of information were about the one act play that is being presented and the plans for the Veterans Day Program held November 10.

Tarrell also told the board a motivational speaker is being shared with Riverdale and will speak to the high school students.  The cost will be handled with post covid funds.

Halverson also reported that a book fair was held with students getting $5.00 coupons good for the purchase of a book.

In his report to the board Tarrell said the DPI has a new program that evaluates food service and the elementary school lunch program is being reviewed.  He also said a re-shifting of district funds through Highland State Bank should result in an additional $35,000 in interest payments to the district.

Coffee with the administrator started last Friday.  District residents are invited in to visit with the administration  with a chance to talk abut the possible referendum or anything school related.

Tarrell also said the district report card is in and he will go over it with the board at the December meeting.

A pilot project which features a restorative justice plan will be available for students needing help.

The board approved a second reading of the wellness policy and went over the Neola updates.   A lengthy discussion was held on the suicide component.

The board approved a course description booklet.  Included in the courses for 2024-25.  The availability of help for Hispanic students is included along with additions to the math program, advanced placement courses, and several changes to the tech ed program.  Information technology updates were also included.

The board approved an alternate education request for a student who has never attended school in Highland but lives in the district.

The board discussed applying for a FEMA grant but decided to wait and see if a referendum takes place and the results are known.

The board approved Isaac Hill as the middle school boys basketball head coach, Colton Frost as middle school assistant boys basketball  coach and Chris Aultman as middle school wrestling coach.