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School board reimbursed for roof repairs

May 13, 2009
ALTON — An unanticipated windfall landed in district coffers Monday night, as the school board voted following a brief public hearing to accept a re-imbursement check for last summer's repairs to the Alton Central middle school roof.

Superintendent Kathy Holt reported that a check in the amount of $97,576.56 had recently arrived from the district's insurance company for the removal of ceilings and insulation throughout the middle school wing and the repair of damaged rafters found during an inspection conducted after a deflection was noticed in the ceiling of a classroom in February of 2008.

Asked by board member Lynda Goossens how the insurance company had come up with that figure when the total cost of the repairs came to more than $200,000, Holt explained that the company was not obligated to reimburse the district for the board's decision to shore up additional rafters by "sistering" support beams to them (a preventative measure that she said was not strictly necessary, but made sense as a precaution against future damage).

Offering the board an overview of where the money would go, Holt said a portion of it would be used to off-set unanticipated increases in special education, reducing the amount of money district officials would need to withdraw from the Special Education Capital Reserve Fund.

Additional repairs are also needed throughout the building, she said, including a drainage problem in two of the middle school Science area and some leaks on the roof.

The board voted unanimously to accept the re-imbursement, which will be placed in the general fund until it has been disbursed by Holt.

New summer hours approved

Noting that the superintendent's office at Prospect Mountain High School is currently open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays during the summer, Holt asked for the board's authorization Monday night to re-align the summer office hours for SAU 72 (currently 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with those at the high school.

Having received approval from the board this past fall to explore ways to cut back on energy costs, Holt also presented a plan for new summer hours at Alton Central.

Under the new plan, the school will be closed on Fridays in order to save on electricity, with the main office open for extended hours (7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Monday through Thursday.

Board member Maureen Smith voiced doubts about the new schedule, arguing that the school should be open five days a week for the convenience of parents and prospective students who might want to tour both the elementary and high schools, and questioning how much money could be saved on electricity when the lights, computers, and air conditioning units in the office would still be running constantly 40 hours a week.

"I just think that we provide a service, and we should be open," she said, adding later that she hoped townspeople wouldn't take issue with the new schedule.

The board unanimously approved the new SAU summer office hours.

Verville submits resignation

An emotional Smith moved later to accept the resignation of longtime Reading Director Jacqueline Verville, effective at the end of the current school year, with deep regret.

"The person who has to fill her shoes has a very big job ahead of them," she said.

In the hope of starting the search process for someone to replace Verville, and at the same time meet the needs of the district in other areas, Holt asked for the board's blessing on a new job description for a Director of Instruction, who she said would oversee the administration of the school's Title I program, head the Reading program, provide leadership services to faculty committees, and help build strategies for curriculum development and assessment.

Smith expressed doubts about the ability of one individual to meet the requirements of the position and at the same time maintain the one-on-one contact with students that Verville has established by meeting with every student at the end of the year to assess their reading skills.

"Is this person going to walk on water?" she remarked, adding that she felt the school would have to give up a Reading Director if the new position were approved.

"I'd hate to lose what we already have," she said.

Explaining that she had based the job description on a position she herself held roughly 15 years ago in a school district that encompassed 10 schools and 4,800 students, Holt said she felt it would work given Alton Central's comparatively small size.

Pointing out that the school's area of weakness at the present time is Math, and that there is a Reading specialist on staff, Holt said she had developed the new position in response to the question "How do we make this work for the best part of the school district?"

"I think it can be done and not lose the one-on-one contact with the kids," she said.

"Unfortunately, timing is everything," board Chairwoman Terri Noyes said, noting that the board would have to start advertising for a replacement soon in order to have its pick of the best possible candidates.

"I think we have to do something now, and maybe tweak it later on," board member Sandy Wyatt said in agreement.

"I don't possibly see how one human being could do all this," Smith said, adding that she did not feel the board had been given enough time to read over and digest the job description, and that she did not feel comfortable approving it.

Suggesting that there might be better qualified candidates out there than Verville herself, Goossens said that as she understood it, Holt was trying to tell the board that Verville "has been doing this all along without the title."

The Director of Instruction would also not be teaching from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, she added, leaving them with more time to tend to the other requirements.

Asked by Vice Chair Jeff St. Cyr whether she would be willing to bring promising candidates before the board for interviews, Holt said she would.

On a motion made by St. Cyr, the board voted 4-1, with Smith dissenting, to approve the job description.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 8, at 6 p.m. in the middle school library.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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