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Seneca School District budget is looking good
Seneca School District

SENECA - The preliminary news on the recently concluded 2018-19 Seneca School District Budget was good.

While cautioning that the budget was not in its finalized or audited form, which it will be at next month’s meeting, Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland told the school board that things had gone well. The district appeared to have ended the fiscal year on June 30 with $93,000 surplus, according to the administrator.

Boland explained that while the district had purchased a new van, updated the school website and installed added security, expenditures had come in as proposed in the budget. However, revenues for a variety of reasons had exceeded expectations.

In particular a security grant from the state and other grants coupled with some unexpected donations had driven revenue up. Any surplus that would occur will be added to the district’s general fund.

On a less happy note, Boland said that predictions for state aid were that the Seneca School District would see a decline in state aid of 3.3 percent in the next school year.

A major focus of the Seneca School Board at their meeting on Monday, July 15 was revising school handbooks to reflect changes for the upcoming school year.

Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson acknowledged at the outset of the discussion that some of the proposed changes to the employee handbook were complicated.

One of the first issues addressed was updating the employee handbook to reflect the changes that had been previously approved to the school calendar. The board had approved creating a longer school day to allow the district to have more cancelled days that did not have to be made up.

Previously, the Seneca School District could cancel just two days before they would have to start ‘making up’ or rescheduling days for canceled days. However, with lengthening the hours of instruction, it allowed the district to cancel up to five days of school before they would have to make up any days. Language reflecting this change was added to the handbook.

Another proposal separated harassment and bullying polices in the new handbooks and the employee responsibilities in each area were defined.

An exception to existing policy was proposed to allow employees who serve as first responders and firefighters to take leave time when they are called out to an emergency without having to give the district notice of their intentions as is normally required. Board member Larry Kelley supported the proposal.

In another matter the district administrator explained that teachers and staff are currently mandatory reporters of suspected domestic violence and child abuse to the administration and law enforcement. A proposed change to the handbook added new language making staff mandatory reporters of threats of school violence as now required by state law. 

The new fad of ‘vaping” or vaporizing tobacco and other substances was added to the current tobacco policy to clear up doubts that the policy prohibits it, Boland explained. 

Another proposed change to the handbook was adding a statement about what work employees do while under contract to the district belonged to the district and not the individuals who did it.

There was a proposed change to the policy of teacher licensing that recognized a change in state law allowing reissue of teaching licenses without a recertification requirement.

Another change in policy was not allowing staff to use comp time or flex time to miss in-service instruction. Comp time is time accumulated by a teacher using prep time to take over class for a missing teacher and flex time is allowing teachers to reschedule non-instructional time to another day. Staff would still be able to take personal time or sick time to miss in-service. Boland explained the change was made because the administration views in-service as an important activity for the staff and wants them to attend it.

Another proposed change to the employee handbook was allowing that teacher evaluation could be done by a qualified individual not employed by the district.

There was also new proposed language to how teacher position reduction procedures would address the situation. Finally, there was a proposal for a salary schedule for some positions like middle school forensics and the trap shooting team advisor.

When Boland finished his summary of the proposed changes to the employee handbook, board president Mark Johnson noted that it was a lot of stuff.

Board member Charles Clark moved to approve the changes as outlined and Tyler Aspenson seconded the motion.

The board approved the motion with Chad Sime abstaining because his wife is employed by the district in the office.

There were also proposed changes to the student handbook. One change incorporated an updated listing of courses being offered in the coming year.

Another proposed change to the student handbook sought to define the difference between headbands, which students are allowed to wear in the building, and hats, which they are not allowed to wear. Boland told the board that the policy was aimed at clarifying what constituted a headband.

Another proposed policy allowed for instructors to prohibit students with fashionably torn or cut clothing from wearing the apparel in welding and construction classes, if the instructors thought it constituted a danger to the student.

Like the employee handbook another proposed change to the student handbook clearly defined that vaping is a prohibited activity under the tobacco policy.

Another proposed change was to add a clarification that the district no longer carried a special student accident insurance policy.

Finally there was a proposed clarification of student sick days (10) and parent-excused days (10) and the fact that parent excused days do not constitute personal days that students can use as they see fit.

Tyler Aspenson moved to approve the changes to the student handbook and Larry Kelley seconded the motion. It was approved unanimously. It should be noted that board member Shawn Lenzendorf was not in attendance for the Monday meeting.

The only changes to the extracurricular activity handbook involved a change adopted by the WIAA, which states a felon cannot participate in sports until they have served their sentence. The other change was a clarification of Seneca policy that a student could be suspended from activities if they were charged because conduct unbecoming an athlete.

Chad Sime moved to approve the changes to the extracurricular handbook as proposed and Tyler Aspenson seconded the motion. It was approved unanimously.

After meeting in closed session for a student expulsion hearing and personnel matters the board reconvened in open session and:

• accepted the resignation of four employees–bus driver Bob Boehmke, bus driver Leonard Olson, elementary teacher Jessica Pedretti and assistant football coach Bob Buffington

• hired bus driver Richard Kirchhoff and Lewis Prew

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• approved giving the Seneca School District Monthly Recognition Award to Mike and Pat Dearth for all they had done for the district over the years

• kept registration and pass fees the same, except capped the pass fee at $45 per family–the cost of three passes with other passes to be given at no charge

• learned there were no instances of restraint or seclusion in the past year in a report that is required by law

• set the date of the annual meeting for October 16 at 7 p.m. 

• approved a statement of academic standards as required by state law

• tabled action on the 2019-2020 employee insurance plan while more information is gathered

• approved a bid of $4,500 to reseal the asphalt on the elementary school playground

• learned the electric project bringing in electricity to the school through underground cables was now underway.