Highland School Board puts in time for budget planning

By Stacia Donaldson
Posted 3/20/19

As the due date for next year’s school budget gets closer, the Highland Board of Education began its review of the transportation department’s proposed referendum. Approval of the …

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Highland School Board puts in time for budget planning

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As the due date for next year’s school budget gets closer, the Highland Board of Education began its review of the transportation department’s proposed referendum. Approval of the transportation referendum would authorize the purchase of one wheelchair accessible vehicle, two seven passenger suburbans, and three 30 passenger vehicles at a total cost of $375,760.

Cathy Mekulik, Director of Transportation for the Highland Central School District, explained that some of the proposed purchases, such as the wheelchair accessible vehicle and the suburban, would be replacements for similar vehicles that are at end of life. She went on to point out that if the referendum is approved by voters, the transportation department would have back-up vehicles, and the increased flexibility to provide special bus runs, transportation to sporting events and other off campus activities.

Highland Board of Education President Alan Barone voiced his concern that larger 65 passenger buses were not included in this years proposed transportation referendum. In past years, the district has found itself replacing a large number of 65 passenger buses in one budget year, at a significant cost to the taxpayers. Mekulik stated that as many as six 65 passenger buses could possibly be included in next year’s budget referendum. While the current number of large buses is sufficient for the district’s needs, Mekulik sighted general wear and tear, repairs, end of life, and increases in district enrollment, as factors that would dictate future transportation needs. The board asked Mekulik and Business Manager Lissa Jilek to review the referendum to see if adding one or two larger buses would help decrease the proposed costs to voters in 2020/21.

Superintendent Thomas Bongiovi, along with Assistant Superintendent Sarah Dudley-Lemek, presented the Administration’s “wish list” of new district positions to be included in the upcoming school budget. At the top of this list is the addition of an Elementary Technology Teacher. This past school year, the focus of increased technology education has predomitaly been focused on the Highland Middle and High Schools. The addition of this position would help prepare the district’s youngest students for advanced technology education.

Also high on the list, the addition of a school psychologist. As preschool screenings and placements are now the responsibility of the school district, the current support staff has seen an increased workload. The addition of a new social worker and a guidance counselor would provide assistance to the support staff, and more importantly, provide increased mental health and counseling services to students. Superintendent Bongiovi stressed that, while the Administration would love to create all the proposed positions, the ability to add a few would be a tremendous benefit to the district.

Upcoming Vacancies on the Highland Board of Education
On June 30, Board members Sue Gilmore and Tom Miller will complete their three year terms as members of the Highland Central School District Board of Education. Candidate Nominating Petitions are now available for the two openings.

Petitions can be picked up at the Central Office between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday. To be eligible, an individual must be 18 years or older, be a qualified voter in the Highland Central School District, be a resident of the district for one continuous year, and be able to read and write. Potential candidates must obtain the signatures of twenty-five qualified district voters.

Completed petition packets should be returned to the Clerk of District no later than April 22, 2019 at 5 p.m. For more information on the Candidate Nominating procedure, please contact the Highland Central School District or visit the district website at highland-k12.org.

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