Vermilion school board jumps into New Year; prepares to sell old building

By Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion Board of Education met for their regular monthly meeting on Monday, January 8. Just prior to this meeting, the board held their organizational meeting being the start of a new calendar year. This started with the swearing in of Chris Habermehl and Sara Stepp. They both ran unopposed in the November 2017 election extending their time on the school board another four years.

Following the swearing in, the board voted on new officers. Habermehl, who had been the vice president of the board was voted in as the new president, and Mike Stark was voted in as the new vice president.

The rest of the organizational meeting was spent re-approving general policies, which is done each year. Those include setting the monthly board meeting as the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the high school unless otherwise noted.

It also included such items as designating the Vermilion Photojournal as the official newspaper for the district, providing authorizations for the treasurer and superintendent, as well as building prinicpals and administrators. The board also designated their the law firms they work with when legal council is needed.

During the regular meeting, Stepp updated the board on legislative changes, which included the passing of House Bill 170, which allows Computer Science to be used as a minimum requirement for graduation as an alternative to Algebra II. Stepp stated she wa surprised by the passing of the bill since Algebra II is still an entrance requirement for most colleges.

Superintendent Phil Pempin took the time to thank the school board for their hard work and dedication to the district in honor of January being School Board Recognition Month. Pempin read a letter of gratitude he had prepared for the meeting.

Several months ago, the United Church of Christ, Congregational approached the district asking if they could buy a piece of property that is bordering their property that belongs to the district as part of the old elementary school property. While there were details to work out, the board agreed when it was first brought up that they were open to the idea. After much discussion between the district and the church, they agreed on a price just shy of $10,000 for a piece of property that extends from the back of the church to property behind the old elementary school. Pempin reiterated that the property in question is completely land locked, so it would be of no interest in any other buyer and it will not negatively impact the sale of the old elementary school.  He also reiterated that they ensured the property being sold did not extend all the way to the back of the bus garage, so that they have room for expansion down the road, if they need it. The board voted to approve the lot split, so the deal can be finalized.

While on the topic of the old elementary school, Pempin shared with the board that after months of back and forth with Columbia Gas, he was able to obtain a written commitment from Columbia Gas that they will separate the gas lines between the old elementary school and the old South Street School. This will enable the district to move forward with selling the property, which was being held up by the gas line issue. Even if the work is not completed right away, a written commitment from the gas company can be provided for potential buyers.

Pempin also stated that with them moving forward to sell the old elementary school, they will need to look at building storage for the district since they have been using the old elementary school for storage. He mentioned building a storage building at the end of the parking lot next to the football stadium.

Following the superintendent’s report, treasurer Suzanne Wilson presented her monthly report, which included a request to approve two more donations made to the Coach Matt Kobal Scholarship fund and a request to approve the December financial report as presented. Based on the information provided by Wilson, the district is on budget.

The board then moved on to the consent agenda, which allows them to approve multiple changes and requests with one vote. This month’s consent agenda included the acceptance of resignation from treasurer Suzanne Wilson for retirement effective April 1. Knowing Wilson was planning to retire at some point this year, the board heard a presentation in December regarding the recruitment process for a new treasurer.

The board also approved the hiring of a new varsity football coach as part of the consent agenda. Coach Brett Colahan was approved for the position with an additional duties contract. Colahan has been with the district for 13 years. According to Pempin, Colahan is extremely qualified for the position. Pempin stated, “He is a teacher, he already has a great relationship with the players, and he is well respected.”

The board will meet again on Monday, February 12, at 7 p.m. for a regular meeting.

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