Principals honored at meeting

Gray Hughes

The principals in the Hill City School District were honored at Monday night’s meeting of the Hill City Board of Education.

The two principals — Samantha Weaver of the elementary school and Todd Satter of the middle and high school — were honored by Blake Gardner, district superintendent, as part of National School Principals Month.

“We have two very good ones in the Hill City School District,” Gardner said.

Weaver is in her second year as the principal of the elementary school and has been in education for 24 years while Satter is in his 18th year serving as middle school and high school principal and has 34 years of education experience.

Gardner cited a 2013 study that shows the values of an effective principal, which includes shaping a vision of academic success for all students, creating a climate hospitable to education, cultivating leadership and others, improving instruction and managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.

Both principals do this every day, Gardner said.

“Thank you, principals, for your leadership and dedication to our school,” he added. “Effective principal leadership is one of the key indicators in a high achieving school.”

Also discussed was how the district is handling COVID-19 cases among students and staff. To date, there have been three students diagnosed with the virus with all three recovered, Gardner said, while there have been two “adults” who have been diagnosed with one active case.

At its September meeting, the Hill City Board of Education declared faculty and staff as essential workers, meaning that they do not need to quarantine if exposed to the virus; however, when asked if students could be declared essential, Gardner said at this point that is not possible.

The district’s policy for COVID-19 exposure for students all hinges upon whether or not the student was a close contact, meaning the student was closer than six feet to an infected person for a period of 15 minutes or longer. If this is the case, the student must self-isolate for 14 days.

This practice did not sit well with members of the board, all of whom wanted to see the practice changed.

The board was in total agreement that students who are healthy and not showing signs of COVID-19 even after exposure should be in school after a period at home in isolation to ensure the virus cannot spread to others.

Satter, who felt similarly to the board, pointed out what he felt were shortcomings of the close contact rule.

“How do we see our policy change?” said Angie Ross, a member of the board of education.

She had several concerns with the close contact rule, as well. She did not want to see students deemed to be ineligible for 14 days because they were close contacts with someone with COVID-19 even if the students have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have not tested positive.

This, she said, would have negative repercussions for both academics and athletics (she added that academics, obviously, come first).

Gardner said during the summer, the board gave him the ability to amend the COVID-19 protocols until the next meeting of the board of education and that he would look into what he could change before the next meeting of the board in November.

There was a consensus among the board to change the close contact policy to 14 days. Gardner said he will work on that. Other districts, including Douglas, Winner and Harrisburg, have already made changes to the close contact protocol.

The board also discussed how to use money allocated to the district by the state for COVID-19 related expenses.

The state has it so that $500 is allocated for each student using fall 2019 enrollment numbers to help with COVID-19 expenses.

Gardner detailed the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), which would be spent on matters such as employee salaries, benefits and equipment purchases.

In the proposal Gardner brought to the board, a total of $40,000 was proposed for salaries, which includes $15,000 for additional staff hours, a $350 bonus for all employees totaling $24,500 and $500 for professional development.

Because of the extra hours, more money is being proposed for benefits, with a total of $4,492 being proposed for benefits.

The proposal also calls for $155,950 in equipment purchases, which includes $107,000 for HVAC system and improvements in the elementary and middle schools. The proposal also calls for $22,000 for 44 touchless faucets, $7,500 for touchless toilet flush kits, $12,700 for round tables in the lunch room and $3,250 for water fountain improvements in the elementary school so students can fill up their water bottles and do not need to drink out of the fountain.

Anjar Voorhees, district business manager, said the district would need to reach out to and secure agreements with vendors by Dec. 31 because that is when the money would expire.

User login