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Seneca School Board approves early graduation
Seneca School District

SENECA - After more review and action by the school  administration, a student’s request for early graduation was discussed by the Seneca School Board and ultimately approved at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.

Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland explained to the board that the student had a meeting with school administrators and discussed options about staying in school for her final semester as a senior. Boland told the board that the student was informed that she could take college courses at Southwest Tech during her senior year and the district would pay the cost of the courses.

However, the student ultimately decided she wanted to graduate early so she could work as a herdswoman on a farm. She sent a letter to the district declaring her decision.

Boland told the board that the district had allowed early graduation to students who were going into the military or pursuing other educational options, but not to take full-time jobs.

The board expressed concern about the student’s decision and what allowing her to go forward with that decision might mean for the district in the future.

Board member Larry Kelley asked if the student would have enough credits to graduate, if she left school prior to the second semester.

Boland told Kelley that the girl’s schedule was setup to have enough credits to graduate by January.

Board member Chad Sime said that if the student had a plan, he would not have a problem approving the early graduation for her.

Boland warned the board this could lead to a number of students in the future following this path of early graduation to take a job.

“As long as you guys are okay with it, that’s fine,” Boland said.

“I’m alright with it, if the parents are on board,” board member Rachael George said.

Boland said that during the first week of school the student was made aware that the district would pay for tech school courses. He said her backup plan is that if the job did not work out, she would enroll in tech school.

“Just so she understands if it doesn’t work out, she can’t come back. We will not be paying for the tuition,” board member Britney Joy said. “I took college courses, while I was in high school.”

Boland indicated in answer to questions that it was a firm job opportunity on a farm owned by the student’s stepfather.

Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson asked again about the student’s likelihood to graduate.

“She’s a decent student,” Boland assured Johnson and the board.

“I don’t agree with the decision but if that’s what she wants, it’s okay with me,” Kelley said.

Charles Clark agreed with Kelley’s assessment of the situation. Sime made a motion to approve the student’s early graduation request. It was seconded by Kelly and approved by the board.

Another important part of the meeting focused on the 2020-21 Preliminary Budget of the Seneca Area School District.

Dave Boland stressed that the budget is in a preliminary stage and lots of factors are not finalized–like the amount of state aid. However, the preliminary budget does work with known information and best estimates. 

Seneca’s 2020-21 preliminary balanced budget shows $4,001, 895 in revenue and $4,001,895 in expenditures. 

The anticipated total tax levy in $1,367,953, which is $738,477 less than what the maximum levy allowed. 

The anticipated tax levy creates a mil rate of 8.05 down from 9.77 in last year’s budget. The mil rate is the amount of taxes owed for every $1,000 of equalized property value. General state aid to the district decreased $70,483 from the previous year.

The district’s health insurance premiums increased five percent over the previous year. Employees continued to pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums, and are also paying a $500/$1000 deductible.

Enrollment is down to 232 students this year, which Boland attributed to more home schooling tied to the COVID pandemic. 

The district’s enrollment for aid purposes is based on a three-year rolling average. This year, that number is 280, but it will decline to 258 next year. That might not happen if the state legislature decided to freeze the enrollment numbers to protect districts from the impact of COVID on enrollment this year, Boland noted. 

Board member Charles Clark moved to approve the preliminary budget as presented. Clark’s motion was seconded by Tyler Aspenson and passed by the board.

In other business, the Seneca Area School District Board:

• approved transfer of $329,244 from the Fund 10 (general fund) to Fund 27 (special education fund) to balance it

• approved the transfer of $52,190 from Fund 10 to Fund 38 to close out an unpaid retirement debt created many years ago when pension plans were changed

• briefly discussed the Seneca Area School District Annual Meeting scheduled for Monday, October 12 at 7 p.m. in the school’s band room

• learned the school would begin to use internet streaming for more school activities–including concerts, events and away sporting events.

• tabled action on staff salaries

• learned the LaFarge Methodist Church has paid unpaid school lunch balances totaling $300 for some families in the district

• learned flu shot clinics would be held in the school this week and next week on Wednesdays

• decided the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award should be given to Jean Ellefson for her 37 years of service as the elementary school librarian and reading teacher and Luci Nichols for her eight years of service as the assistant bookkeeper–both women retired this year

Following a closed session, the Seneca School Board reconvened in open session and hired Stace Anderson to serve as the school psychologist and director of special education. The board also approved hiring Gloria Wall as the school nurse. 

The board approved providing supplemental contract pay to two teachers due to labor market factors.