MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City school board approved a resolution at its Monday meeting to place renewals of two existing levies on the November ballot. Both levies are for operating expenses, such as electricity, busing and salaries.
If passed, the two levies would continue to generate approximately $6.75 million for the district per year.
The two levies were originally four levies—the district merged two existing levies in 2015 and two more in 2017. At its special meeting on July 8, the board voted to unite the previously combined two levies into one so that any future renewals can be voted on together.
School district residents have consistently supported renewals, with two of the original levies dating back to the early 1980s and a third in 1996.
Other meeting business included a facilities update from district superintendent Bill Seder.
Seder shared that the exterior walls of the new stadium entrance are complete, as well as the installation of the main electrical panel. The stadium lights, press box and score board are all operational, while plumbing and electrical work are nearly complete. Three-fourths of the parking lot behind the entrance will be paved by the middle of August, and the stadium entrance should be ready by the first football scrimmage on August 23.
Construction at the new field house is also moving along. The footers and foundation are complete and the utilities have been run. Workers have begun laying the foundation block and steel construction should begin this week. Excavation for the maintenance and bus garage will begin next week.
The district has also been taking advantage of summer break by making improvements at existing buildings.
Seder had asked each building principal to specify his or her top four priority facility improvements, and that most of these improvements will be completed by the fall.
In response to feedback from the community facilities survey conducted last year, the high school auditorium will be getting some new equipment.
“We’re really close to making some decisions on new sound, and lighting and curtains for the auditorium,” said Seder.
He added that while there are no plans to expand the auditorium at this time, the equipment systems could be moved and built upon to accommodate a larger auditorium in the future.
The district has also installed several new building cameras and replaced the ‘popcorn’ ceilings at the East Elementary gymnasium and Pleasant Street Elementary cafeteria.
Seder noted that improvements like these were possible because of the permanent improvement levy that passed in May.
“That money is so beneficial to really start to be able to plan…to meet the needs of what the community thinks is important in our facilities,” he said.
The one item that won’t be completed in time for the new school year is a seamless extension of Yellow Jacket Drive. The extension linking Yellow Jacket and Cougar drives should be completed this year, but there isn’t time to tear up the curve in Yellow Jacket Drive and make it straight before school starts.
“We’re going to try to do the entire road from Cougar Drive, all the way up to almost where you would connect to the middle school/high school parking lot,” Seder explained. “We won’t be able to straighten it up this summer, we’ll connect it, but we gotta keep that whole curved lane open.”
According to Seder, the main reasons for the delay were obstacles with stormwater infrastructure, road easements and coordinating labor.
Yellow Jacket Drive might not be the only road adjusted to improve before and after school traffic flow. Seder told the board that he had recently met with Columbia Elementary principal Andrew Thompson, district Director of Maintenance and Safety Rick Shaffer and the mayor of Mount Vernon to discuss possible ways to alleviate the traffic congestion at Columbia Elementary. There are no definite plans yet, but Seder was optimistic that the school district and the city could come up with a solution.
“The city is certainly willing to engage in that conversation, as are we, to make that space even better,” he said.
Before ending the meeting, Seder took a moment to thank outgoing treasurer Judy Forney for her years of service to the district. It was Forney’s last meeting before her retirement Aug. 1.
“It has been my honor to work here,” said a misty-eyed Forney.
The board also approved the retirement of Gregory Carpenter, a mechanic for the district.
“Greg has been a mechanic for the district for a long long time. We’ve talked him out of retirement probably three or four times,” said Seder.
The board met in executive session to discuss the appointment and employment of a public official. No action was taken.
The board also:
•Accepted resignations from speech and language pathologist Michelle Basford, intervention specialist Mandy Medley, digital academy teacher Joseph Rucker, high school math teacher Summer Swetlic and swim coach Hannah Saiz.
•Approved new administrative contracts for Margaret Arck, Eric Brown, Donald Cory Caughlan, Matthew Dill, Robert Gross, Pamera Rose, Karly Watterson, Teresa Weaver and Scott Will.
•Approved the minutes from its June 17 regular meeting and July 8 special meeting.
•Added three professional development days to the 2019-2020 school year calendar.
•Accepted services agreements with the Tri-County Educational Service Center and GCL Education Services, LLC.
•Approved a foreign exchange student from Spain for the 2019-2020 school year.