The Hillsboro School Board tabled enforcement of state-required COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for school employees during their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the unit office.
The motion to table the vaccination or testing until the next meeting passed 3-2-1. Board members Bryce Rupert, John Lentz, and Dan Tester voted in favor; Nathan Kirby and Barbara Adams voted against, and Kassie Greenwood abstained. Board President Matt Lentz was not present and Adams chaired the meeting in his absence.
During the part of the agenda set aside for public comments, DJ Morgan asked the board to not require employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Please consider people's rights and freedoms and health concerns," he said. "There is still too much unknown."
Trina Moore also spoke against COVID-19 mandates.
"Fight against the governor now and give us all our freedom of choice back," she said.
At the request of board member John Lentz, state-required school district employee COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing was an item on the agenda.
Powell reminded board members that on Aug. 26, the governor required all school employees to either be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by Sept. 5 or be tested weekly. The superintendent said 70 district employees (out of about 240) have chosen not to be vaccinated.
Most of the employees agreed to the testing, Powell said, although some did not, claiming exemptions or objections to the nasal swab. The governor has since extended the deadline to the week of Sept. 19. Powell said he has been working on implementing a saliva test also.
Lentz asked why employees were informed of the mandate without school board input.
"Because it came from above the school board," the superintendent answered.
"Are we going to be a locally run district or a state run district," Lentz asked. "I'm dead-set against the mask mandate. I'm dead-set against forcing the vaccination."
"The state has always told us what to do," Powell said near the end of the discussion. "I can give you three pages of state mandates, and two-and-a-half pages I don't agree with. There's nothing new about IDPH or ISBE letting school districts know what they have to do. The state of Illinois runs public education in the state of Illinois."
Board member Dan Tester asked about how the state knows about enforcement. Powell said he did not know.
Just before the vote, the superintendent said it would put him in the position of either defying the state or defying the school board.
After a brief budget hearing near the beginning of the meeting, the board approved a $22.8 million fiscal year 2022 budget that anticipates a surplus of $847,000 at the end of the budget year, including a $658,000 surplus in the five operating funds.
"This is the best budget we have put in front of a board here in a very long time," Powell said. "We've finally got our heads above water."
More than $642,000 of that surplus is in the Education Fund, from which most day-to-day school operation is paid. At the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2022, the budget anticipates a total fund balance of $11.3 million.
Citing vacancies in aides and substitute aides, the board raised the scale from a starting salary of $13.20 to $14 per hour. Substitute pay was increase from $12 to $13.50 an hour.
Board members approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Hillsboro, formalizing use of the Hillsboro Sports Complex for several scholastic sports, such as soccer, baseball, softball and tennis for $10,000 a year.
At the recommendation of Jeremy Connor of Hurst-Rosche, the board voted to support the city of Hillsboro's application for a Illinois Safe Routes to School grant that would improve the intersection of Rountree and Route 127 with sidewalks and a pedestrian bridge.
At the request of two Hillsboro High School FFA officers, the board approved an overnight trip for 12 chapter members to attend the national convention in Indianapolis.
Board members reappointed Pam Dawson, Sue White, and Jackie Everett as directors to the Hillsboro Education Foundation.
After a closed session, the board accepted the resignation of Beckemeyer special ed teacher Lindsey Munson and hired Brooke Boehme as fourth grade teacher. They employed food service workers Georgia Rau, Michelle Wilson and Kim Woodruff, as well as bus drivers David Wrachford, Liz Maass and Tim Thompson. Peggy Lippard and Rachel Ondesko were hired as bus aides, and Rebeccah Holmes was hired as a teachers’ aide.
Coaching-wise, the board hired Nick McLaughlin and Andrew Jones as junior high boys basketball coaches and approved Rachel Beckett as a volunteer junior high basketball coach. Chris Matoush and Brent Stewart were approved as volunteer boys high school basketball coaches.