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NH trustees delay decision on elementary building

A decision about the North Harrison Elementary School has yet to be reached, despite urging from some teachers and parents. The four North Harrison board members at Thursday night’s meeting said they wanted to give board president Fred Naegele, who was unable to attend the meeting, an opportunity to give his input about whether to remodel the existing facility, add on to it, or start over from scratch before calling for a vote.
‘I won’t vote tonight without Fred,’ said Buddy Bosler, who, as vice president of the board, chaired the meeting in Naegele’s absence.
‘Next month I’m going to make a motion,’ Kathy Goldman said while urging Supt. Monty Schneider to do ‘whatever it takes’ to arrange a meeting that can be attended by all five trustees.
Schneider had informed the board that Naegele was in training for a new job and would probably not be able to attend the next regularly scheduled board meeting.
Goldman said it may take Naegele to get any motion passed, as there is no one plan favored by the majority of the board.
Jerry Firestone, director of educational planning for the architectural firm RQAW, said at the meeting that if a vote were taken that night, the project wouldn’t be finished until August 2008 at the earliest.
He said necessary steps for the project would ‘start to happen pretty quickly’ once the board decides which route to take.
‘I certainly respect the board and the process they’re going through,’ Firestone said. ‘They really are trying to make the right decision.’
Trustee Ron Coleman said they need to look at least 20 years down the road, ‘if we’re going to do our job.’
One teacher, who said she has started to have health issues since being moved from one pod at NHES to another, told the board that two years ‘is an awfully long time before this problem gets dealt with.’
Parent Brian Churchill, whose wife teaches at the elementary school, agreed.
‘I know you’re addressing the situation but two years is too long,’ he said, suggesting that pulling up the carpet and sealing the walls and floor with an epoxy could make the environment better until something more can be done.
Churchill said he’s concerned that his wife ‘is following in the path’ of Debbie Sieveking and Rhonda Harmon, former teachers at NHES who have said that the school building made them sick.
Harmon was not at the meeting, but her husband, Dave, accused the board of making a ‘quick’ decision. ‘You don’t know what’s wrong with the building because you haven’t had it properly tested,’ he said.
Copies of testing results from the Indiana State Dept. of Health, as well as the Harrison County Health Dept., are available at the superintendent’s office.
‘You’ve heard from teachers and taxpayers, what they feel,’ said Jeff Davis, also a taxpayer in the school district whose children are older. ‘I really hope you’ll look beyond that, at what’s best for the children. Some day our children will be supporting us.
‘You’re never going to please everyone,’ he said. ‘Just do what’s best for the children.’
Greg Rupp, a fourth grade teacher at NHES and president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, addressed the board about three items: medical insurance, pending grievances and unfair labor practices stemming from last spring’s lay-offs, and the future of the school corporation.
‘Why are we spending more (on health insurance) when we don’t have to?’ Rupp asked, adding that the NHCTA had alternative bids that varied in levels of benefits for less than the bid the school corporation has and another one that offered the same level of benefits at no increase.
Rupp contends that savings on health insurance could be the equivalent of two teachers’ positions.
And about the nine grievances, 13 unfair labor practices and a civil suit pending over the Reduction in Force (RIF), Rupp urged the school board to get a substitute for the mediator, who has not been able to meet recently due to an illness in his family.
‘Insurance increases and lawyer expenses has frittered away a half million dollars in funds that should never have been,’ Rupp said. ‘You have mortgaged our future by siphoning off retirement dollars and not paying off an unfunded liability … ‘
Schneider said there were no other ‘bona fide’ health insurance proposals for consideration.
‘Yes, we can find something (that cost less) but we don’t think it will be as good,’ he said, adding that Anthem, the current provider, is accepted in other places, including where some retired teachers reside. ‘We have a very good policy with a very good drug card on it.’
The proposed increase is expected to be $1.86 a paycheck for the single plan and $7.40 a paycheck for a family.
In other matters last week, the trustees:
* Accepted Ashley Winn’s resignation as an English teacher at NHHS, effective the end of the first semester this school year.
* Approved the appointments of Joe Kellum, as head boys track coach; Travis Beals, as assistant boys track coach; and Brad Sears, as an assistant baseball coach.
* Approved accepting a $500 donation from First Harrison Bank to be used for the Cougar Reader Program at Morgan Elementary and North Harrison Elementary schools. There is no match required.
* Scheduled school for Jan. 16, which had been slated as a make-up day. Classes were canceled Dec. 9 due to weather.
* Changed next month’s board meeting from Thursday, Feb. 9, to Monday, Feb. 13. The meeting, tentatively scheduled to be held at Morgan Elementary School, will begin at 7:30 p.m.