Hilltop School Board Hears From Many Visitors At November Meeting

DSC_7868 WEBBy T.J. Hug

The November Regular meeting of the Millcreek-West Unity Board of Education began with a bit of tension in the air.

Roger Burdine was recognized by the board as a guest wishing to speak at the meeting. He claimed that his daughter, Sami Burdine,who was also present, was being misrepresented by the school district.

“This is the second time I’ve come to Hilltop for this.” The elder Burdine informed the board. “Last time it was my nephew, and I let it go.”

That won’t be the case this time, according to Burdine.

“Now it’s my daughter, and I’m not letting it go.”

So why is Burdine so upset?

The strain of balancing post-secondary classes with regular high school activities getting the better of her, Sami dropped the college credit courses she had been taking. School policy states that doing so must result in a grade of withdraw fail. However, the younger Burdine had one B letter grade, and an A grade in her other post-secondary courses at the time that she dropped them.

“She did it because she’s got way too much going on.” Roger said. “It wasn’t because she was failing.”

The Burdine family had offered to cover the five-hundred dollar cost of Sami dropping the classes, but doesn’t believe she should receive a failing grade for them.

Then there was the issue of a mandatory meeting regarding the policies of taking post-secondary courses. Burdine claims such a meeting had never taken place, though he did admit to signing a paper saying that it had.

“We thought it would be scheduled at a later date.” He proclaimed.

After Burdine had presented his case, Board President Sarah Carothers thanked him for taking the time to share his opinion. She went on to state that board members would have to deliberate on this issue, but were not prepared to do so that night. It is expected that the school will get in touch with the Burdines once a decision is reached.

Michael Polley, Hilltop’s Student Resource Officer, also spoke at the meeting as a visitor. He announced that he had applied for and received a grant that would award the district four-thousand dollars to upgrade the school’s security.

“It’s the easiest grant that I’ve ever applied for.” Polley claimed, leading to board members teasingly demanding he do so more often.

Already having a plan in mind, he told the board of a wireless distress system put forth by Centurion Security Company, which he would like to have installed in both the high school and elementary offices. Pushing the button would immediately allow Polley to trace which office is in need of assistance, something which is highly valued by the officer.

“In a crisis, seconds count.”

There would also be the option of placing an icon on desktop computers that would function as buttons as well.

“I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet.” Polley admitted.

The four-thousand dollar grant would only cover two-thirds of the cost for this system, however, leaving the district to pay the difference. Superintendent Larry Long was quick to let the board know that there are funds set aside for such improvements, though.

“It should come out of the building fund, not the general fund.”

A third visitor, Band Director Sam Maran, also stood before the board. He told them of his plans to take the school’s band and choir on a trip to Florida. The itinerary for the June excursion has already been planned by the students.

As it will occur after the end of the 2014-2015 school year, the question of whether or not incoming freshmen would be allowed to make the trek was asked by the board. Maran said that they would not, citing a lack of training and practice at the high school level, as both band and choir will be performing on the trip.

“I feel the eighth graders don’t have the experience to make the trip.”

Outgoing seniors will be coming along, though. Those students making the journey to Florida are hoping to put on a performance either at Sea World, or at a water park in which they plan to visit.

The board gave Maran their blessing on the trip, even though he didn’t need them to do so until February. This was due to an upcoming meeting he is to have with parents, and will allow him to answer their questions more efficiently.

“I hope you can find enough parents to volunteer to ride a bus for twenty-four hours.” Carothers joked. “Because I’m out (of making the trip).”

A new bus will be either purchased or leased by the district. The board approved a motion to lease/purchase one 2015 Blue Bird American school bus. Such a vehicle is designed to seat eighty-four passengers. First payment on the bus will be due in July of 2015.

Two new sports coaches were accepted by the board. Troy Grime was awarded a four year contract to coach Elementary Boys Basketball. He will be paid $890 for his services. Junior High Track will be coached by Aaron Schmitt for the next two years. That job will earn him $1,661.

Several substitute employees were hired during the November meeting as well. Karen Brown, Karen Custar, Katie Frey, Lauren Frey, Michelle Hoffman, Mark Mercer, Robert Taylor, Katherine Timmes, and Corbin Walker were approved as substitute teachers for the district. Custar was also named a substitute for the secretary position, along with Marsha Ruffer.

The retirement of Deb Shaefer was accepted by the board. Shaefer served as a teacher of Elementary General Music. Her retirement will be effective June 1 of 2015. Also accepted by the board was the resignation of part-time cook Kassie Smith. Smith’s leave will be retro to October 31 of this year.

Sara DeGroff will take a leave of absence from the school, thanks to board approval on the issue. Having been away since November 5, DeGroff is expected to return to work on December 19, 2014. Her leave is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act, and will be unpaid.

The Hilltop Cheerleading fund will see a rise in its appropriations. Its revenue has increased by $2,500, while it is set to be appropriated an additional $1,500, as the board approved the alteration.

T.J. Hug can be reached at

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