By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Open enrollment figures at Seneca Schools are favorable
Seneca School District

SENECA - The Seneca School Board received some good news at their meeting Monday night, when district administrator Dave Boland informed them that 17 students had filed paperwork to open enroll into the district and none were open enrolling out of the district.

Boland tempered this potentially good news with some advice about the reality of the situation. First of all, nine of those 17 were currently attending school in the district. Of the remaining eight, just because they filed the necessary paperwork to open enroll into the Seneca School District in the fall did not mean they would necessarily follow through with it.

“You really don’t know what will happen until the third Friday count,” board member Larry Kelley said of the open enrollment situation. Kelley was referring to the official count of students that establishes state aid levels-it is taken on the third Friday in September.

In another matter, Boland discussed the Early College Credit Program and the Start College Now initiative. Both programs allow students to take college level courses at the district’s expense. The programs replaced a program that was formerly called Youth Options.

This year, eight Seneca students indicated they wanted to take college courses at either UW-Richland in Richland Center or South West Technical College in Fennimore. Boland told the board that the students had signed up for more courses than they intended to take and would select among the courses in which they were accepted.

Seneca School Board member Rachael George made a motion to approve the applications and Charles Clark seconded the motion. It was approved unanimously.

During his report, Boland told the board that the district is right on track with its budget and will finish the fiscal year on June 30 pretty much as budgeted.

One area of slightly higher spending was the HHR accounts that are essentially “back-filling” the employee health insurance policy.  A slightly worse than usual flu season may have contributed to the increase in costs, according to Boland.

In discussing the 2018-19 budget, Boland said the state reported that wages could be raised 2.13 percent based on the consumer price index.

The Seneca School Board has exceeded the state recommendation in the past. Boland noted that wage levels are important when hiring new teachers so that the district can remain competitive with other districts.

“For my own edification, I’d like to see what a 2.5 percent increase would look like (for the budget),” Kelley said. “I feel the staff we have in Seneca is exemplary.”

Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson reminded his fellow board members that the staff trusts the board and it was important that the board treat the teachers in a fair way.

Kelley asked that the cost of a 2.5 percent increase versus a 2.13 percent increase in pay for the next school year be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

Boland also discussed hail damage to the school building and school-owned vehicles that occurred in the storm of Friday, April 13. The district administrator told the board that two adjusters for the insurance company were at the school recently.

They agreed that a large section of metal roofing on the school was damaged in a minor way and could be replaced if the school wanted it to be. Boland asked what the effect of taking money for the roof replacement would do to the insurance rates. The rates are based on experience.

The district decided to not file a claim on that roof at this time and wait to see if the small dents will pop out because of heat. The district does have two years in which to make the claim, if they decide it’s necessary.

However, other claims are being filed now. They include the roof on the bus garage, vinyl on the bus garage, the plastic on the greenhouse and one of the five large air conditioning units.

Damage to four vehicles owned by the district was estimated to be $9,000 and there was an estimated $10,000 more damage to the buildings. Boland said that the board could look at putting that $19,000 toward purchasing a new vehicle instead of repairing the older ones.

It was decided to get some bids on a replacement vehicle for the June meeting. It a deal is worked out, the district would purchase the vehicle using the insurance money in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Boland reported to the board on the status of security enhancement grants for the state. Seneca Maintenance Director David Foley is involved in getting some bids on security upgrades for the buildings.

Boland told the board that the state is prepared to give schools up to $20,000 per building for security upgrades. Seneca might be considered to have three buildings— an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. This means the school district may get up to $60,000 for a security upgrade.

Some of the security being considered is installing a camera at the front door that would require a school secretary to buzz-in people with business in the school. Five other doors in the building would open to the outside only through electronic key fobs that staff members would have.

The deadline for applying for the grant is June 8 and the district already has some bids on the locks and cameras. Boland told the board the district should have no trouble applying for the grant.

Toward the end of the public portion of the meeting, the board decided the Seneca School District Monthly Recognition Award should go the school’s forensic team and band for their recent successes; and to a recently performed play that was student written and student directed.

In other business, the Seneca Area School District Board:

• approved their 2018-19 WIAA membership and learned annual dues had been waived for the second year in a row

• approved the proposed summer use of the school facilities and equipment

• agreed to a 2018-19 district property insurance policy with a higher deductible and a lower rate

• approved a CESA #3 contract for specialized educational services at a slightly lower cost than the previous year

• approved a 2018-19 shared athletic trainer services contact with Vernon Memorial Healthcare

• agreed to purchase 40 new Chromebooks so every middle school student can have access to one when they are at school

• agreed to rehire Crossing Rivers in 2018-2019 as the provider of Occupational Therapy for students who need the service.

The board adjourned to a closed session. When they reconvened in open session, the board accepted the resignation of retiring veteran teachers Pat and Sandy Connors. Sandy Connors held a half-time high school English teacher position this past year, while Pat Connors was a fulltime Social Studies teacher.

In a related move, the board approved hiring Jordan Weber as a high school social studies teacher for next year. The board also hired Nicole Osterkamp as an elementary special education teacher. Additionally, the board granted a teacher’s request for family leave.