After nine years with the Shelbyville School District, the school board bid retiring superintendent Denise Bence adieu at her final school board meeting on Thursday night.
"It has been an honor and a pleasure to share in the great work you all have done," Bence said. "You guys are awesome. I feel we are at a good spot, financially, and we have a great staff. With state grants on the horizon, I'm looking forward to that. Maybe, in some way I can help, as part of the community."
Bence, the former Main Street principal, began as co-superintendent with high school principal Kevin Ross in April 2010. Her last day before retirement is June 30 and her replacement, Shane Schuricht, who was high school principal, begins his tenure as superintendent on July 1.
In addition to the words of appreciation to Bence for nine years as superintendent, the highlight of the meeting came at the front end and even before the board meeting.
Three members of Habitat for Humanity in Shelby County came to the meeting to present donations. Habitat for Humanity is dissolving in Shelby County, due to lack of applications for homes. They are dispensing their funds to other deserving organizations.
Jack Tynan presented a check for $27,000 to the Entrepreneurial Program in the Vocational Department at the high school for a machine they need. Karl Kunzman presented a check for $15,000 to the Music/Band Department. Funds will be used towards auditorium seats and the rest will be split between choir director Joe Amato and band director Charity Astrouski for projects they have.
Susie Kensil, also of Habitat for Humanity, presented a check to Superintendent Bence for $5,000 to care for the Robert Root painting hanging up at the Shelby County Courthouse, which belongs to the school district.
There was a presentation of the Samuel and Lynette Mize Award to an outstanding junior social studies student. Outgoing high school principal Schuricht presented the award to Corban Aultman. The award is for a junior student, so it is traditional given at a school board meeting instead of at Senior Awards Night.
Prior to the regular board meeting, the board held a Board Planning/Goal Setting Session. According to Bence and Schuricht the highlight of the evening was that planning session.
"The take-away for the night, I think was the goal planning and talking about the need for a new elementary school. There is a new Construction Grant Program from the State and we need to be ready to take advantage of that."
Main Street School is 100 years old and the temporary buildings have been there 25-30 years. Bence says Main Street has served its purpose, but the district has outgrown it. There are repairs that need to be made to the roof of a building that may be replaced in the near future, if state construction grant money comes through.
"We don't want the roof to cave in," said Board president Rob Bosgraaf, "but we don't want to spend $200,000 if we're going to end up replacing the whole building."
Mr. Schuricht said that the news about the construction grant just came out a couple weeks ago and they will have to get more information.
The State's Capital Bill (HB 62) is waiting for the governor to sign it and he said he will. It offers $1.5 billion in school construction with a $1.5 billion in local match.
"An elementary school is long-term plan," Bence said. "A state committee will be deciding which districts get part of the $1.5 billion. We assume it would be a 50/50 match. They could pay for half of our new building."
According to Bence, the board might get with the school architect and get his ideas about square footage, basic floor plans, and basic drawings, where they would build it, and what grades would be there.
Thursday's planning meeting is an annual meeting wish-list for administrators for projects that need to be addressed in the school budget.
"We set out goals that help us to determine what we want to do as we work on the budget," Bence said. "We look at facilities and the education program. We set a budget number and then we look at this list and set priorities."
Schuricht said that the desire to replace seats in the high school auditorium, something on the wish-list, got a big boost by the $10,000 donated by Habitat for Humanity at the start of the regular meeting.
The district budget runs from July 1 to June 30. The budget starts out retroactive.
"It is presented in August and is adopted in September," Bence said. "The State says we must have it in to them by October 1."
Although it is retroactive at the start, the district's goal is to have enough money set aside to operate the school for 180 days without any money from the State. Shelbyville School District actually has enough money to operate for over 200 days, cash on hand.
"Hopefully, we predict correctly, just in case the money from the State is delayed," Bence said. "Projections have been better since we started using the evidence-based funding. In the past, we were super careful with spending and we left some projects undone. Now we can begin to do them, like windows at Moulton. We've been able to keep from cutting staff, unless someone retired."
In the regular meeting on Thursday, the board voted to contract with a different insurance provider and saved money in the process. They received bids and it was recommended that they go with Prairie State Insurance Cooperative. The coverage was the same, but the district saved, $18,841 in premium costs. The premiums for all their insurance will be $73,879.
Bence said because it is a co-op of 200 school districts they are able to offer the insurance they need at a lower cost. The board also voted to be part of that co-op.
In executive session: the board hired a new kindergarten aid, Joy Palmer; accepted the resignation of retiring Kevin Kramer as the High School Boys Track Coach; accepted the resignation of Colby Rothrock as the High School JV Baseball Coach.
The board also approved coaching recommendations, renewing Sam Mehl as the High School Varsity Baseball Coach, Tony Moll as the High School Varsity Softball Coach, Nate Fredrick as the High School JV Softball Coach, Bill Duckett as the High School Boys tennis Coach, Jason Palmer as the High School Girls Track Coach, Paul Conlon as the Moulton Girls Track Coach, and Hayden Miller as a High School Football Assistant Coach.