School news: School bus bond, threat reporting service, personnel changes

$650,000 to go toward new school buses

The Brown County School Board of Trustees approved an additional appropriation Sept. 15 so it could spend $650,000 from a 2016 general obligation bond.

The money will be used to buy new buses, replace engines, purchase related transportation equipment and other equipment for the district, the bond resolution says.

The first issuance of money will be in July 2017 and payments ranging from $60,000 to $70,000 will be made twice a year — once in January and July — until January 2022.

Thomas Peterson with TWPeterson Law Office told the board Sept. 15 that the interest rate, at 1.846 percent, was lower than expected. Peterson had expected it to be 2 percent.

The life of a bus in a rural county is about 12 years due to gravel roads causing additional wear and tear. “At 15 years, every time you lift the hood, you spend $5,000. They’re kind of a money pit after 12 years,” Transportation Director Cal Blake told the school board in August.

The state recently cut money from the district’s bus replacement fund, school board President Judy Hardwick said.

Assistant Superintendent Dennis Goldberg had written a letter to the state explaining why the district needed more money to replace buses that were approaching the 12-year mark, but the state denied the extra money, resulting in the district using bond money instead. Bonds are paid back by property taxes.

School safety reporting service available

Students, parents and community members are now able to report bullying, harassment, drug use or other safety issues to Brown County Schools administrators — anonymously if they wish — through a new program.

SafeSchools Alert allows people to report safety concerns by phone, text, email or the Internet. Phone calls can be made and texts can be sent to 812-720-3209. Email submissions can be sent to and website submissions can be made at

“This is a really wonderful way for our students, for our parents to be able to report any concerns about bullying in a very anonymous format,” Superintendent Laura Hammack explained at the Sept. 15 school board meeting.

The principals and assistant principals who receive the concerns “are required to send a response about how it was taken care of or the fact that it was taken care of and we honored their concerns,” she said.

Students can expect SafeSchools Alert reporting information to be in their handbooks next school year. Flyers are being posted around schools and letters have been sent home to families, Hammack said.

“I had an experience with this particular organization in the district where I came from. We had an alert that a student was seriously considering ending her own life. The report was made, we were able to make an intervention and that student is healthy now. So one case can make a profound difference,” she said.

School board approves personnel changes

The Brown County School Board of Trustees approved the following Sept. 1 and 15:

  • Separating Brown County Intermediate School social studies teacher and History Day coach Nicole Wells, effective Oct. 28. This was not a termination.
  • Transferring BCIS fifth-grade art and digital citizenship and sixth-grade business teacher Karena Sarber to sixth-grade social studies teacher, effective Oct. 31, as a replacement for Wells.
  • Separating Sprunica and Helmsburg Elementary School physical education teacher Carol Tuggle, effective Sept. 9. This was not a termination. Robert Newlin was appointed to replace her, full-time with benefits, $15 per hour, effective Sept. 30.
  • Separating varsity assistant softball coach Kelsey Richardson, effective immediately. This was not a termination.
  • Separating general education bus driver Leslie Dras, effective Sept. 13. This was not a termination.
  • Appointing Brown County Junior High School National Junior Honor Society sponsor Terri Whitcomb, $279.50 split stipend. She is a replacement for Emily Pettijohn.
  • Appointing Van Buren Elementary School second-shift custodian Mary Boicourt, full-time with benefits, $9.78 per hour, effective Aug. 31. She is a replacement for Dane Mowery.
  • Appointing district high ability coordinator Brenda Kreiger, $2,783 stipend.
  • Appointing BCJHS eighth-grade volleyball coach Emma Totten, $1,598 stipend. She is a replacement for Jessica Morgan Robertson.
  • The sale of two school buses from Gerald and Violet Miller to Charles Wright on Oct. 1 for an undisclosed amount. The buses are routes 22 and 23. Route 22 includes the Helmsburg shuttle for kindergarten through fourth grade.
  • An extension for bus route 23 due to the closure of Oak Grove Road Aug. 10 to 19. The total amount will be $252.
  • A maternity leave request for Van Buren third-grade teacher Angie Shirley, approximately Dec. 9 to March 27. Karen Kirby was appointed to cover for her.
  • A $300 payment to Mel Chance for his assistance with Brown County Intermediate and junior high summer band camps.
  • A change in the pay schedule for substitute special needs bus drivers from $77 per day to $25.67 per trip, up to three trips per day.
  • Separating intense intervention paraprofessional Carrie Jackson, effective Sept. 12. This was not a termination.
  • Appointing general education bus driver Leanna Bond, full time with benefits, $85 per day, effective Sept. 12. She is a replacement for Leslie Dras.
  • Appointing BCHS junior varsity softball coach Emily Roberts, $1,535 stipend.
  • Appointing BCHS volunteer softball coach Troy Summers.
  • Appointing BCHS assistant varsity softball coach Doug Payne, $2,302 stipend.
  • Appointing BCHS regional science fair coordinator Paige Burton, $2,308 stipend.
  • Appointing Brown County Schools IT help desk manager Jonathon Petro, full-time with benefits, $13.22 per hour, effective Sept. 20, pending background check. He is a replacement for James Mullen.
  • Transferring HES special education paraprofessional Dawn Seidle-Barnett to Title I paraprofessional, part-time with no benefits, $8.86 per hour, effective Sept. 6.
Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.