Highland Park School Board Addresses Budget and Principal Search

The recent Highland Park School Board meeting addressed issues including the preliminary budget for the next fiscal year and the selection of a new high school principal. The budget focused on maintaining staff levels and class sizes, expanding programs, and facility improvements, while the search for a new principal culminated in the introduction of Dr. Christina Donovan as the recommended candidate.

The preliminary budget presentation took center stage as it outlined the financial plan for the upcoming year, addressing the District’s goals and objectives, legal requirements, and board policies. A central concern of the budget was the pending contract negotiations with the Highland Park Association (HPA), which could affect the final numbers. The budget aimed to maintain fully staffed schools and current class sizes without impacting instruction while aligning with updated curricular and legal mandates.

Increased costs for students with disabilities, maintenance needs, and state and federal mandates were notable budget considerations. Cost-saving strategies included transitioning to a new healthcare plan and exploring joint transportation arrangements. The budget also anticipated a tax levy increase of 2.78%, with an estimated annual tax on an average home rising by $191.25.

Challenges in finding qualified Mandarin teachers led to a significant curriculum change: the inability to offer Mandarin to incoming sixth graders, prompting the district to provide Spanish instead. This curriculum shift was just one part of broader discussions that touched on maintaining and expanding instructional resources across language arts, math, science, and programs for multilanguage learners.

The expansion of the preschool by two additional classrooms and the Middle School GLOW program due to enrollment demands also found a place in the budget. The district’s intention to maintain interventionists to support students in math and English language arts was noted, with Title One funding expected to cover most of the costs.

Facility improvements were a significant expenditure in the budget, including bathroom repairs, flooring replacements, and security measures expansion. The board also expressed interest in applying for a technical support grant for the special education program and deliberated on the importance of reliable assessment data to address challenges such as benchmarking and chronic absenteeism.

A substantial part of the meeting was dedicated to the selection process for the new high school principal. A survey was disseminated to the high school community to ascertain desired qualities in a new leader, with 61 responses received. Out of 29 applicants, Dr. Christina Donovan was introduced as the recommended candidate for the position. Her experience in education and professional development was highlighted as part of her introduction.

Further, the board reviewed various agenda items, including policy updates related to affirmative action, equal employment opportunities, and curricular content equity. Some policies were tabled for further review.

Community engagement emerged as a theme, with a call for volunteer involvement and fundraising efforts from the Highland Park Education Foundation. During the public comment period, a community member voiced frustration over the delay in addressing the school start times issue, stressing its significance to the community and urging the board to act on their promise of conducting a survey.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Kristina Susca
School Board Officials:
Allison Casal-Dunn, Marilyn Pruce, Dr. Dan Battey, Dr. Monique Coleman, Nicole Longoria Stanio, Dr. Sara Pixley, Dr. Ethan Schoolman, Ann Vardeman, Jennifer Voorhees

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