SENECA - It was definitely summertime at the Seneca School Board meeting on Monday, July 16.
Board president Mark Johnson, as well as board members Shawn Lenzendorf and Chad Sime were absent. However, the four attending board members, Larry Kelley, Rachael George, Tyler Aspenson and Charles Clark, constituted a quorum, allowing the meeting to be held. Kelley, the board’s treasurer, chaired the meeting.
At one point Kelley ruled a lack of a quorum occurred, when board member Charles Clark abstained on a vote that would’ve affected his wife’s compensation in her position as athletic director. The matter will be taken up at a future board meeting.
However, it was mostly business as usual as the board moved forward through a host of routine business affected by the end of the school’s fiscal year on June 30 and the start of new fiscal year on July 1.
The board approved a bread bid from the only bidder, Bimbo Bakeries from LaCrosse. The new bread contract will increase by about four percent.
The milk bid was awarded to the only bidder, Swiss Valley. While prices of some of the products were up, other prices were down. Board member Larry Kelley estimated the overall milk price for the district might increase two to three percent.
The board approved all of the changes to the various school handbooks as recommended by the school administration.
Some of those changes came from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, like an employee handbook change implementing a law that will allow returning uniformed service personnel to use more sick leave.
The board also approved a change to the long-term disability coverage for employees.
Another change to the employee handbook was incorporating a 2.5 percent raise previously approved for the support staff.
An approved change to the student handbook involves requiring high school students to leave cellphones in their lockers. Previously, they were allowed to carry the phones with them, as long as they were turned off. Apparently, they weren’t always off and were proving to be a distraction for some students, according to the administration.
Many things the board dealt with are required annual reports. For instance the board learned there were three seclusion or restraint incidents involving students. In this case, the three incidents all involved the same special education student, according to district administrator Dave Boland.
The board also learned the 2018-19 employee health insurance will increase. Health insurance through the WEA increased by 2.5 percent. Dental insurance increased 3.49 percent, but represents a much smaller dollar amount. The really alarming increase for the district was that disability insurance through Epic increased 14.5 percent. Boland told the board the district is looking for other bids on the disability insurance.
Boland told the board that middle school students now have Chromebook laptop computers for every student and next year the district is planning on providing every fifth grade student with a Chromebook. Unlike the high school students, who are allowed to take the Chromebooks home with them at night, the middle school and fifth grade students must leave the Chromebooks at the school.
Some good news is that the state has notified schools they are willing to pay for Chromebooks for incoming freshman. So, the Seneca district will purchase 15 new Chromebooks for the incoming freshman class and be reimbursed for the cost by the state.
Board member Rachael George asked what happens in the middle school if students don’t complete assignments of the Chromebooks during school hours. Boland said in those cases arrangement to get the work done can be made with the teacher.
Although the districts accounting has not yet been audited, it appears the district will end the 2017-2018 year with a surplus.
Boland told the board that although the district’s expenses were $60,000 more than budgeted the district’s revenues exceed the budgeted amount by $190,000. The increased revenue occurred because rural transportation aid from the state was increased and insurance money for hail damage to the school property was collected.
In other business, the Board of the Seneca Area School District:
• approved the 2018-19 registration, event passes and fees at the same rate as the previous year
• scheduled the Seneca Area School District Annual Meeting for Wednesday, October 17 at 7 p.m.
• approved an academic standards statement as required by state law
• approved ordering 45 Chromebook computers at an approximate cost of $9,000 for use by fifth graders, high school freshmen, elementary school classrooms and five as “floaters” to be used as needed
• learned the state has approved a $57,829 school safety grant, which will be used to bolster security
• learned the school will be responsible for the softball field maintenance including tree and brush trimming—the field is owned by the township
• selected retired special ed administrator and 2018 Ridge and Valley Conference Champion Seneca Softball Team as recipients of the Monthly Recognition Award