School board approves new software, administrator, and attendance policy

By: Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion Local Schools Board of Education met for a regular meeting on Monday, June 26.

Sale update: Superintendent Phil Pempin updated the board on the proposal for the property behind the old Vermilion Elementary School. At the June board meeting, the board members discussed a proposal received from the UCC Congregational Church to purchase the land between the church property and the back of the old Vermilion Elementary School.

Pempin reported to the board that the church was willing to redraw the proposed property line to provide room behind the bus garage if they ever had a need to expand. The church also agreed to pay the fees associated with the lot split and transfer. He stated that they need to draw up the agreement, but he felt it was a good move. It would not negatively impact the sale of the old school building and it was a goodwill gesture with the church, who has been good a neighbor.

Board member Chris Habermehl asked how far the new property line would be from the back of the school. Superintendent Pempin responded that he would get the exact measurements and a map of the proposed plot to everyone before moving forward. After a brief discussion, the board agreed to vote on the matter at the next meeting.

New software: On the consent agenda was an item to approve the purchase of a program called Edgenuity. Pempin explained that this program will replace both Bradpoint and Brainhoney, which are content and learning management systems. He went on to say it was piloted by some teachers, who are confident this is a better and more efficient system. Board member Nancy Oates asked how many years the district has been using the other systems. Pempin responded that it has been several years, to which Oates responded that she is glad they are trying new options and excited the teachers are encouraged to check out new programs. Pempin agreed stating that the programs they utilize is an evolving process and the teachers know best what will work for them.

Habermehl asked if there was a plan for training teachers on the new program. Pempin responded that they have already started training and will continue to do so. Pempin also added that replacing the two older programs with the one new one will save the district $23,000.

Sailorway administration: With Principal Brian Zeller taking a position with another district, superintendent Pempin announced that they had already conducted interviews and hired Beth Bartlome as the new principal at Sailorway Middle School, which left the position of Assistant Principal open. He explained that they posted the position and received 15 applications. They are currently in the process of interviewing candidates for either the Assistant Principal position or for an alternate position of Dean of Students. Pempin explained that while this isn’t traditionally a role within the schools, they wanted to keep all their options open. The role of a dean of students would be different than an assistant principal in that the position would not include administrative or evaluative tasks. Pempin reiterated that they are not sure if they will settle on an assistant principal or a dean of students until they are done with the interviews and can determine who the best candidate would be.

Updated policies: The consent agenda also included new attendance and fundraising policies. However, the proposed fundraising policy was removed from the agenda on the request of board member Chris Habermehl, who stated the changes made were not exactly what they had talked about, and he wanted to discuss it further before approving it. The new attendance policy was accepted which essential moved attendance requirements from days to hours. For example, the old policy stated that a student will be considered habitually truant if they are absent without a legitimate excuse for five or more days. The new policy states they will be considered habitually truant if they are absent without a legitimate excuse for 30 or more hours. Under this new policy, students who come to school late or leave early without a legitimate excuse will only be docked the hours they are absent from school instead of the entire day.

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