Board discusses adding teacher

Leslie Silverman

The need for a second special education teacher in the district was discussed at the most recent Hill City School Board meeting.

Although the board could not conduct any action on this matter, the increasing number of students receiving special services has prompted the board to effectively green light the hiring of an additional teacher, tapping a December college graduate from the area.

“We have been discussing about the unique situation,” said Blake Gardner, district superintendent. “There’s a  pretty high demand (for) special education students. There’s a very high caseload now. I think it’s going to follow up through the ranks. Three of four years ago we had two special education teachers in the elementary. So when one of the special education teachers left we just absorbed the position through attrition.”

Toni Brun, the district’s new special education director, made the need very clear.

“Our numbers are still rising for special education,” Brun said. “In elementary we have about 10 referrals that we’re anticipating this year. We have two in the high school. So our numbers are continuing to grow.”

The rising numbers are due to students who are new to the district and students already enrolled in the district that are newly identified. Brun added the current special education teacher, Anna Dressler, is doing “more than we should realistically expect.” According to Gardner, the position had already been budgeted.

“It’s the recommendation of administration that at semester we try and hire another teacher for the rest of the year,” said Dennis Krull, school board president. “If the administration comes with a recommendation that something needs to be done as far as a special ed position we should put a lot of weight on that recommendation.”

Because the matter was on the agenda as a discussion item the board could not officially act on it.

The official Hill City School District count is 475 students, which is up from last year.

“Our official count day was Sept. 27 and kindergarten through 12th grade we are at 475 students which is up from last year,” Gardner said. “So that is a positive.”

Gardner also explained that the district still does not qualify for state aid.

“The state has a formula based on students, teachers, all of those things and they give you a bucket based on that formula,” he said. “And they then say the first thing I want you to do is fill it up with local sources. And then we’ll fill the rest. Well with the size of our bucket and the amount of revenue we generate locally our bucket is full before they have to give us any extras.” 

Principals reported school performance Index (SPI) numbers for the district. The SPI is effectively the schools’ report card.

The high school earned a score of 86, scoring 92 percent on school performance, up from 87 percent last year. The high school score is the highest in the area, tied with Belle Fourche and surpassing the high schools in Rapid City, Sturgis and Custer.

The middle school scored an overall score of 65. This ties scores in both Custer and Hot Springs. The only area middle school to score higher was Southwest Middle School in Rapid City.

The elementary school earned a score of 67. The elementary school exceeds the state average in math, science and English language arts. 

Elementary school students are participating in the “race to read” program during the month of October.

“What we do is any of the books that our students read they can read at their level and they fill out a paper strip and then they put the strip together and make a chain,” said Samantha Weaver, elementary school principal. “We already have one wall of our commons full of chain, so that’s exciting.”

The program culminates in an ice cream party for the children.

The board approved the purchase of a new 12-passenger van. The base price for the vehicle is $28,198.

After discussing the van specs the board agreed to add a few features for the comfort and safety of the driver and students as well to protect the vehicle from wear and tear. These include power seats with back lumbar support and floor coverings and mats, in addition to the manufacturer’s maintenance plan. 

Board members voted to approve Marcus Isakson as the school’s truancy officer. Deputy Isakson currently holds the position as the school resource officer. Without a truancy officer in place state law mandates the president of the school board serve in this capacity.

“If a student refuses to come to school that day they’re truant,” Isakson said. “The law was very clear on it. If it’s not appointed it goes to the president of the school board. But now it’s up to me.”

Hill City Dental was approved for sponsorship of the gymnasium. The cost of sponsorship is $500 per year for a three-year term.

The fitness center is getting two brand new elliptical machines for the facility. This money is coming from the fitness center enterprise fund and does not impact the general fund of the district.

Board members discussed creating a cycle for replacing and updating gym equipment.

“I do think it’s prudent of us to consider a cycle where we are upgrading our equipment every once in awhile,” said Gardner.

The board approved the final payment for the second phase of the Ranger Field renovations. This covers the project manager’s portion of the project but does not include the fence.

The board conducted the final reading of the national motto policy. The policy is directly from the Associated School Boards of South Dakota website. The policy is available for the public to view on the Hill City School District website.

The board approved the coaching contract of Brady Chase for assistant boys basketball.

The next meeting of the Hill City School Board is on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

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