Board Votes To Follow Employee Testing Order

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Whether or not the Hillsboro School District will follow the state executive order to daily test employees for COVID who are not vaccinated was the primary topic of discussion for the audience and the school board at their meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the unit office.

In the end, board voted to follow the mandate 4-3.  Board members Barbara Adams, Matt Lentz, Nathan Kirby and Kassie Greenwood voted in favor; board members Dan Tester, Bryce Rupert and John Lentz voted against.

"It is my recommendation that we move forward and get into compliance," Superintendent David Powell said to begin the discussion on a state mandate to daily test school district staff who are not vaccinated.

Before the board discussion, under the portion of the agenda set aside for “recognition of the audience,” the board heard from five people–including three district employees–all opposed to the state requirement for school staff to be tested daily for coronavirus if not vaccinated.

“First, I am not a vaccine hater,” DJ Morgan said before showing his vaccination card.  “I guess my feelings are, there have not been enough studies.  It should not be forced on you; it’s a choice.”

He also asked if the district got any extra money for following vaccination or mask mandates.  Superintendent Powell described federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funding, but it is not tied to any mandates.

“If you vote to allow the governor’s mandate,” district maintenance staff member Trina Moore said, “you are saying it’s OK to bully and discriminate against employees.”

Larry Slightom, a member of the district maintenance staff, spoke for himself and his wife, Julie, who works in the after school program.

“I do not feel that I need this shot, and there is no reason to test us unless we feel symptoms,” he said.

“The word ‘mandate’ got sticking in my craw,” Don Walker said after handing out a definition of the word from a law dictionary. “I hate to see mandates being passed on.”

“Who needs these shots?” John Osborn of the district maintenance staff asked, before recommending the districts search for other district who find the mandate unconstitutional.

"The answer to this is in the courts," board member Barbara Adams, who works as an attorney, said, "and it takes time to get through the court system and the possible appeals.  These cases, whether it's about the mask, or the quarantine, or the vaccine, have to get to the Illinois Supreme Court.  The biggest problem is the time it takes for these cases to get through the system.  Hopefully these will move a little quicker, because the court should know the importance.  The place where these concerns to be decided are in the courts."

"We don't make laws; we don't pass laws; we're just policy makers," board President Matt Lentz said.  "Get hold of your legislators."

"I don't believe it's the job of this board to tell a third of the employees they have to test and the other two-thirds they don't," board member John Lentz said about the roughly one-third of district employees who are unvaccinated.  "I will never vote to test unless we're going to test every employee."

In one of a few other action items, board members unanimously approved a maintenance grant application that would fund an HVAC project at Beckemeyer.

Near the beginning of the meeting, Hillsboro Junior High assistant principal Blake Lipe said it was a "bitter-sweet" day at the school because it was the last day for office secretary Angela Holcomb, who resigned to take a job at city hall.

Junior high counselor Jen Anderson described the activities and duties of the 15 members of the student council, chose from among 46 applicants.

High school principal Patti Heyen said the high school boys soccer team would be playing for the regional championship Friday for the third year in a row.  She also described early-year successes for the two new counselors at the high school.

Powell told board members that the county 708 board had increased the district's funds from $39,000 to $54,000 to fund a grade school counselor.

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