Board Approves Return to School Plan
The Mt. Pulaski CUSD 23 Board of Education called their regular meeting for August 16, 2021 to order at 7:00 PM in the MPGS Learning Center. All Board members were present with the exception of Mrs. Combs.
The first item of business was the Consent Agenda, which included the approval for the payment of bills, the sales tax report, meeting minutes from July 19, 2021 and Transportation Hazard Resolution. Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that sales tax revenues reported for May were up once again at $27,454 making the last three months the highest grossing months ever. The Transportation Hazard Resolution is passed each year to allow students south of the railroad tracks and north of the Elkhart Blacktop in Mt. Pulaski to receive school transportation due to the dangers. The Consent Agenda passed 6-0
Next on the Agenda was the Recognition of Public. There were 21 visitors in attendance at the meeting with six individuals requesting to address the Board. Two topics were discussed during this time, with three visitors asking the Board to not follow the mask mandate, two guests supporting the mask mandate and two of the six discussing concerns with electives at the grade school.
After the Recognition of Public, Mr. Lamkey began a discussion about the recent executive order issued by the governor that requires masks to be worn inside of school buildings. Understanding this is an issue that has impassioned the community, he chose to explain why the mandate needed to be followed and the Hilltop Back to School Plan 3.0 approved. He also invited school attorney, Dennis Triggs, to answer any questions Board members might have. Superintendent Lamkey discussed how our district attorney clearly stated that the mandate was within the Governor’s rights. Our attorney also added that direct dismissal of the executive order would endanger the district's Tort Immunity protection as it pertains to COVID-19-related legal allegations. In addition, the Illinois State Board of Education has also vowed to revoke the Recognition status of any district that fails to comply with the mandate thereby endangering school funding, student graduate status and the district's standing as a recognized public school. Athletes would not be able to participate as an IHSA if Mt. Pulaski is not Recognized. Mr. Lamkey also pointed out that ignoring the mask mandate would also be a huge distraction to the start of the school year. In the next 6 days, teachers would have to drastically change their preparation for the school year including instructional activities and room arrangements. Mr. Triggs then went on to answer specific questions from Board members and also explained legal precedent and procedures.
Superintendent Lamkey then highlighted changes in the Tentative Hilltop Back to School Plan 3.0 and entertained discussion. This discussion lasted for more than 2 hours and evoked great passion from Board members and administration alike. Mr. Lamkey explained that the district was working within a cohort of over 100 school districts called “Keep it Local”. The focus of the cohort is to lobby the state government to regain local control so the district can make local decisions concerning the pandemic. Lamkey went on to explain how Mt. Pulaski by itself carried very little leverage with the State, but a large cohort like “Keep it Local” had more strength. While opinions teetered back and forth through the discussion, the Board voted to approve the Hilltop Return to School Plan 3.0, which includes the mask mandate imposed by the State, with a 4-2 vote. Board President Eric Cowan cited the desire to start the school year without distraction and allow data to be collected so the Board could make an informed decision on the matter in September.
In the Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Lamkey hit on a couple of topics. His first topic was asking the Board's opinion about sharing food services with Zion Lutheran School. Mr. Lamkey had been approached by OPAA at Zion's request. The Board gave permission to explore this option. Next Lamkey updated the Board on the Spring Street sidewalk project, which the district hopes to complete later this fall.
The Board then entered Executive Session at 10:30 pm to discuss employment items and returned to open session at 11:02 pm.
The first item in New Business was the submission of the FY2022 Tentative Budget. Mr. Lamkey said the district office’s preliminary work indicates that the district could expect to finish with a surplus in the upcoming year. Specific details will follow at the Budget Hearing in September. Superintendent Lamkey will work with the Finance Committee to prepare a budget presentation.
The final item was the Personnel Report. Mr. Smith requested that Tabitha Lourash be pulled separately from the report for a separate vote. The motion to hire Mrs. Lourash as a paraprofessional died for lack of a second motion. The Board then went on to approve the remaining Personnel Report 6-0.
Accept the resignation of Meg Baer as MPGS Assistant Softball Coach and Charley Miller as MPGS Girls Basketball Coach
Employ Brian Erlenbush as MPHS Track Coach, Brian Woodworth as MPGS Assistant Softball Coach and Mackenzy Payne as MPHS Volunteer Softball Coach.
Accept the retirement of Sheila Myers as MPHS Business Teacher..
The meeting adjourned at 11:25 pm. The next regular meeting will be September 20, 2021 in the MPGS Learning Center.