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School Board Goes Digital

The June 21, 2021 Mt. Pulaski School Board Meeting was the first paperless board meeting in the district’s history.  The entire meeting was conducted on school devices and allowed Board members immediate access and feedback on the Board minutes.  This new practice allows for more efficient, effective and safe communication for meetings and confidential district information.  While the meeting did not go off without a few quirks, it was a positive step in the right direction of technology, board development and eco-friendly practices.  

The Mt. Pulaski CUSD 23 Board of Education called their regular meeting and amended budget hearing on June 21, 2021 to order at 6:00 PM in the grade school learning center.  All Board members were present with the exception of Mrs. Combs.

The first item of business was the FY2021 Amended Budget Hearing.  Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that all funds finished within the budget constraints except for the Operations and Maintenance Fund.  Due to construction costs, this fund fell into negative numbers requiring a transfer of $100,000 from the Education Fund to the Operations and Maintenance Fund.  Other items of change were done in individual accounts within funds which allows the district to provide a more accurate portrayal of district spending.  Being that there were no additional questions, the budget hearing adjourned at 6:06 PM.

The Board then completed Roll Call for the regular meeting at 6:07 PM.  There were two observers in attendance for the meeting, neither requesting to address the Board.

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 May 17, 2021 and executive session minutes from May 17, 2021.  Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that sales tax revenues reported for June were $29,298.80 which was the highest one month total to date.  This is another good sign the economy is recovering from the effects of the pandemic.  The motion passed 6-0.

Under Reports, Mr. Lamkey recognized three outstanding accomplishments by students at the end of the year.  The Mt. Pulaski Trap and Skeet teams finished 1st in Skeet and 3rd in Trap at the State Meet at the end of May.  Freshman Alec Martin highlighted the tournament with a perfect 100/100 round in trap!  Secondly, junior Cassidy Clark finished 4th in the discus and 11th in the shot put at the Girls 1A State Track Meet in Charleston.  The final accomplishment was rounded out by the boys baseball team finishing 4th Place in the State Baseball Tournament in Normal this past week.  Mr. Lamkey noted that while this was a difficult year for all of our students, it was great to see them achieve at such high levels to finish the school year!

In Unfinished Business, Mr. Lamkey updated the Board on changes in pandemic restrictions being implemented by ISBE and IDPH.  ISBE is still requiring all students and teachers to wear masks while in the classroom during the summer regardless of their vaccination status.  IDPH announced that students in outdoor sports are not required to wear masks when participating in activities, but indoor sport contestants must wear masks unless they are vaccinated.  Superintendent Lamkey said it was too early for the district to react to these requirements, as he believes much will change over the next two months.  Mr. Martin and Smith expressed concern with the continued mask mandate in the classroom and on the court.  This topic will be addressed once again in July.

The board then addressed the postponed action item on the sidewalk renovation on Spring Street.  The Building and Grounds Committee met with Mt. Pulaski Mayor Matt Bobell to discuss the expense of the $54,000 project.  The committee’s stance is that it is a city sidewalk and costs should be absorbed by the city.  Mayor Bobell said he understands the committee’s perspective, but the Mt. Pulaski City Council currently believes the school district should cover costs of the sidewalk, while the city pays for the crumbling retaining wall.  Mayor Bobell will be addressing this topic at the June 22nd Mt. Pulaski City Council meeting.  President Cowan said he would attend the meeting to address the Mt. Pulaski School Board’s concern that the cost should be covered by the city.  The Board postponed the vote once again and did not authorize Superintendent Lamkey to use any further district resources on the project.

The first action item of New Business was the approval of the transfer of $100,000 from the Education Fund to the Operations and Maintenance Fund.  Motion passed 6-0.

The Board then approved the Capital Projects list that was previously presented by the Building and Grounds Committee in March.  It includes installation of a marquee sign at the high school, installation of lighting along Spring Street, interior design work at the high school, replacement of the 1963 high school roof, district Health Life Safety upgrades and sidewalk renovations at the high school.  This motion passed 6-0.

The Board approved RD Lawrence as the contractor to conduct work in renovating doors at the grade school that were previously identified in the 10 Year Health Life Safety Review.  This motion passed 6-0.

Next, the district approved a three-year contract with Quality Network Systems to provide technology services for the district.  This motion passed 6-0.

The Board then entered discussion concerning the expenditure of ESSER money which has been provided to the district during the pandemic by the federal government.  Mrs. Lora was requesting new Smartboards for all but two classrooms in the elementary school in order to upgrade technology and better serve students.  It was determined that 11 of the requested Smartboards were in need of replacement, while the remaining were still functional, but in their last years of use.  The Board decided to replace the failing Smartboards and wait on the others while the district has time to prioritize ESSER spending.  This motion passed 6-0.

The next two action items involved insurance, including health, property casualty and workman’s compensation.  Mr. Lamkey previously met with Mt. Pulaski Education Association’s Insurance Committee to discuss health insurance options.  Being that premiums on the current plan dropped by 3.5% with no reduction in coverage, it was recommended to approve the renewal.  The Board approved the Blue Cross Blue Shield as the district health provider with a  6-0 vote.

Three companies submitted bids on Property Casualty and Workman’s Compensation Insurance, American Central, Prairie State Insurance Cooperative and Arthur Gallagher.  PSIC and Authur Gallagher presented the most competitive pricing on both insurances with PSIC offering a better benefit package.  The Board voted 6-0 to select PSIC as the vendor for both categories.

It was announced that the Joint Annual Board Conference will be held this November in Chicago after a one year hiatus.  All seven Board members indicated they planned to attend the conference.  The estimated costs for this professional development event was approved by the Board 6-0.

The Board then approved a 3% raise for all district Educational Support Personnel for the 2022 school year.  The exception to this raise were the employees who would not reach minimum wage of $12. Those employees' compensation were raised between 6-9% to meet the state mandated minimum wage. This motion passed 5-0 with one abstention.

Last month, the Board approved professional development, Capturing Kids Hearts, for the district staff that will address social and emotional well being of students and staff alike.  This training will require the use of both teacher in-service days to start the year, leaving no opportunity for traditional beginning of the year work.  The Board approved the payment of a $120 stipend for all teachers who voluntarily attend the district's non-contractual opening day on August 18th.  The motion passed 6-0.

The Board also approved a two year co-op agreement with Zion Lutheran School in grade school girls softball and co-ed track. This motion passed 6-0.

The last item of business for the evening was the approval of the Personnel Report. The following actions were approved:

Accepted Resignations

  • Ryan Deibert, High School Track Coach

  • Jan Braden, High School Girls Basketball Assistant Coach

Contract Renewal and New Hires

  • Donna Koehler, High School Yearbook Sponsor

  • Brian Erlenbush, High School Science Olympiad Sponsor

  • Whitney Nichols, District Paraprofessional, High School Varsity Volleyball Coach and Grade School Volleyball Coach

  • Nicole Reinhart, District Paraprofessional

  • Ryan Deibert, High School Golf Coach

  • Nathan Sowers, High School Soccer Coach and Bus Driver

  • Joel Washko, High School Varsity Baseball Coach

  • Troy Burgard, High School Assistant Baseball Coach

  • Jamie Anderson, Grade School Boys Track Coach

  • Mindy Switzer, Grade School Girls Track Coach

The Board then entered Executive Session to discuss employment issues and returned at 8:30PM to adjourn.  The next regular meeting will be Monday, July 19th in the MPGS Learning Center at 6:00 PM.