The Palestine Unit 3 Board of Education Tuesday night hired a new grade-school principal, sold the old modular building behind the high school and answered a few consolidation questions.
Elementary teacher Jessica Sisil will be the new grade-school principal for the 2018-19 school year. Current Principal Robbie Kline will become the Title I teacher/director.
The board agreed to post an elementary teaching position and junior-high year book sponsor. The board also discussed the shortage of bus drivers and custodians for summer maintenance.
The board agree to sell the old brown modular building - behind the high school to Flat Rock Masonic Lodge 348, for $250. A refundable $250 damage deposit will also need to be posted until after the building is removed. The building has not been used for classrooms for several years.
Plans call for work to remove the building to begin as weather permits with full removal and cleanup by June 15.
The issue of consolidation continues to be on many Palestine and Hutsonville residents' minds. Palestine Board President Corie Biggs and Interim Superintendent Chris Long fielded several questions from an audience of more than 50 people, with other board members adding additional information.
As he was answering questions Biggs did point out that the law prohibits board members from giving opinions, and they are doing their best to follow that and still provide information when requested.
Many of the questions asked have been asked and answered at other meetings, but Biggs and Long did try to answer or provide clarification. The district expects to end the year with a $100,000 surplus, and has around $300,000 in the building and maintenance fund for repairs. Money can also come from the Life Safety account and Tort account if needed.
It was pointed out repairs to the high school may not be as extensive as first thought, and plans are being discussed to prioritize the work and do it in phases.
Biggs did admit they cannot accurately estimate school finances beyond five years. They can make guesses based on enrollment and current state reimbursements, but those could change. Something that Long did point out that could effect all school districts is the Governor's newest plan to have school districts contribute more to teacher pensions.
Biggs did clarify that there are four other options to consolidation: cooperative, deactivation, hybrid and conversion. The Palestine board has had two presentations on these options and discussed them, but no detailed review has been done by the Palestine board, said Biggs. Information about these is available on the Unit 3 website.
Biggs did say there was no "secret" deal with the Robinson school district, as some have speculated. Both Biggs and Long wanted to remind the audience and community they are friends and neighbors, and should keep that in mind in the coming days when discussing the issue of consolidation in person or on social media.
The issue will be voted on Tuesday, March 20. Community meetings will be held on Feb. 26, at Hutsonville, and Feb. 27, at Palestine. Both meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. and questions will be taken from community members.
In other business the board approved a list of policies that have been recommended by the Illinois Association of School Boards, and approved a request for an intramural hockey program for grades 3 to 5 at the high school.
The board authorized the seeking of fuel bids for the 2018-19 school year.
Susan Hawkins gave a brief presentation on installing message boards in both the grade school and high school, and a faculty team building program planned for March 28. Robbie Kline reported on a seventh grade program about how to say "no", and Tangi Waldrop said they are now able to fully lock down the high school during the day.
Long did report on the Dollar General Corporation's challenge of current tax assessments. The challenge is being handled through the county. He also included a "who's in charge" list to the policy changes for times when the primary individuals are not available.
The next regular board meeting will be Monday, March 19.