USD 410 board discusses impact of church fire

by Lindsay Adrian

The Free Press

The haze still lingered and was felt by those who attended the regular meeting of the Unified School District 410 school board meeting Monday evening.

Students and faculty went to school just as they would any other Monday. But this Monday, it was different. Mixed emotions and uncertainty were common among students and faculty.

The effect of Sunday’s church fire on the school district was a concern among board members Monday evening.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn told the board the crisis team met Sunday evening to discuss the implications. A faculty meeting was held Monday morning before classes, and teachers were encouraged to have discussions regarding the fire during class.

Rod Jost, Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church youth pastor, was on hand at the high school Monday morning to talk to members of the youth group.

“He did a really good job,” Hillsboro High School principal Dale Honeck said.

The faculty was also a concern.

Mohn informed the board that he told staff members it would be OK to take time away if they would need it in the next few days.

“It’s something we could do to help,” Mohn said.

Smoke from the fire drifted through the second floor of Hillsboro Middle School early Monday afternoon

“The building was a little smoky,” HMS principal Corey Burton said.

Some classes had to move to different rooms, Burton said.

However, after the wind changed and they were able to open the windows, the smoke went away quickly.

Overall, officials felt students and faculty handled the situation well.

“We had a pretty good day considering what happened,” Honeck said.

Mohn told the board that HMBC congregation will be using the high school’s gymnasium and cafeteria for their worship the next two Sundays.

According to school policy, the high school could accommodate the church for the next two years if needed.

The only item for business on the agenda was to look at the classified employee evaluation process.

Up until now, there was no written policy regarding bus drivers’ fitness to perform.

The unofficial process used to be that drivers would be offered an alternative job in the district when they turned 70 years old.

The board approved the recommended policy that requires drivers an annual physical evaluation. Drivers will now be evaluated on ability instead of age.

Board member Brent Barkman asked whether this physical evaluation would test driving ability. Currently, this is not addressed in the policy, but it can be added.

A follow-up on this issue is planned for the April meeting.

The board also discussed business related to next month’s meeting. Because April’s meeting will be aimed at teacher performance and contract renewal, policies concerning those two issues were reviewed.

The board passed a set of of guiding principles and beliefs regarding teacher performance last March.

Those guiding principles and beliefs are expectations of what administrators and teachers are supposed to have and maintain to create a quality school system.

This month, the board considered whether changes were needed to that document. The board decided to not make any changes.

“I think we did a pretty good job last year,” Mohn said.

An initial calendar for the 2004-05 school year was introduced to the board with options regarding the starting and ending dates.

The first option is similar to this year’s school calendar. The second option has a later starting and ending dates.

Both options end first semester before Christmas and second semester before Memorial Day.

Eight staff development and work days are worked into the calendar to fall on minor holidays such as Columbus Day and Veterans Day.

Staff development and work days are scheduled for staff members to take part in learning activities. Each year, one of these days is designated for CPR training.

The final school calendar is scheduled to be recommended and approved at April’s meeting.

The board also discussed:

— how to address the large high school enrollment numbers next year with a limited number of faculty.

— elementary school and middle school assessments are currently being administered.

— the high school boys’ basketball team qualifying for the state tournament. A pep rally will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Main and Grand streets to send them off.

— Rod Koons and Mark Rooker will attend a focus group exploring education in a small, rural community at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 9.

— the impact on businesses, residences and agricultural land from a mill-levy increase by the district.

— personnel issues in executive session.

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