School board welcomes trio of new HNHS classes

Three new courses proposed to be taught at Huntington North High School were welcomed by the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees at their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 12.

One in particular, using the Bible as a text, gained their interest and support.

The first course, Basic Skills Development/Freshmen Transition 100/101, would be taught in the summer only as a multidisciplinary course giving students the opportunity to develop their basic skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, mathematical computation, note taking, study and organizational skills and problem-solving skills.

The summer school class, which would be taught by both math and English teachers, is recommended for all grade levels but would be primarily available for students transitioning from eighth grade to high school. A special needs teacher would also round out the teaching team.

The course also meets Indiana state standards for basic skills development.

In spring 2018 it was discovered that more than 40 middle school eighth grade students had failed English, math, social studies and science between their sixth-grade year and eighth grade. Administrators say the class will earn students two elective credits and position them for better success to earn their high school diploma.

The second course, Health Science Education II, is a modification of a previous course with the same name, but will add certifications for dementia care and home health aide with the current certified nursing assistant (CNA) class. Both are eligible for dual credit with Ivy Tech and meet Indiana state standards.

But it was the third class, “The Bible as Literature” that drew the most interest from the board. The new course seeks to add the literature of the Bible along with other HNHS courses including Greek mythology.

“Because many students lack knowledge of common Biblical heroes, they lack full comprehension of many classics we cover,” stated teacher Carla Mobley, who wrote the proposal for the class. “Biblical Literature, an English elective, will address this gap … after completing this course, students will have deeper comprehension about the source of inspiration for many works in the Western canon of literature.”

Topics covered by the course would include Genesis: creation stories and allegory; Psalms: poetry; Proverbs: wisdom sayings; Song of Solomon: love story between God and his people; Heroes: Moses, David and Solomon; the Gospels: synoptic gospels; Christ as Savior: parables; Epistles: letters; and Revelation: allegory and prophecy.
Students would also write their own epistles, modern proverbs and their own psalm and allegorical Song of Solomon examples.

“It is presented in a way that it focuses on literature aspects and elements,” said HNHS Principal Russ Degitz. “Essentially it takes those literary elements that you often see references to in other works of literature and just allows a deeper understanding and meaning because of the Biblical references that are within it.”

Degitz assured the board that no additional teachers would need to be hired to teach the courses.

Board member Reed Christiansen expressed his support for the course and its goals.

“I think that’s wonderful,” he said. “I am impressed with all the course offerings, but that one specifically for the context that you mentioned, the background, how much, whether it’s poetry or parables or all those different things that are found in there are excellent from a literature perspective.”

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Chad Daugherty said the Bible as Literature course is approved by the Indiana Department of Education.

Superintendent Randy Harris said if the board approves them, the availability of each of the three courses would be dependent on the number of students who sign up for them.

The courses were presented at the meeting on their first reading. Board President Matt Roth said he would like to wait until the next board meeting on Nov. 26 to vote on their approval because board members Tim Allen and Gary McClellan were absent from the meeting Monday and he wanted to give them the opportunity to weigh in and vote on the courses.

Another item of interest that was not on the agenda was brought up by Board Member Kevin Yarger, who wanted to know why the board does not vote on issues regarding the corporation’s insurance trust.

“Next year, the premium is going to have a 7.2 percent increase, and we approve right now $515,000 a month, which is just shy of $6.2 million a year. That leaves, with a 7.2 percent increase, it’s going to cost us an extra $445,000 next year,” Yarger said. “Why do we not have to approve that? If the Coke contract went up 7.2 percent we’d be approving a new contract. So what makes the insurance trust different than any other contract we ever approve?”

Yarger added that second to payroll, insurance is the corporation’s biggest expense. He also asked for an update on the trust, saying there hasn’t been one presented to the board since he joined it.

Christiansen said while he believed the insurance trust is a great selling point for the school district, he, too wanted an update.

“It would be good to know, especially with that big of an expenditure, what the agreement is, for one, and just have a little more information so we can approve it,” he added.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner said he believed there has been a history of agreements that have been made that the board has not weighed in on.

Harris said he and Bumgardner will look at the original establishment of the trust and the agreement between the board and the trust at that time and would report back his findings at the next meeting.

He also said he would ask Doug McElhaney, the president of the health trust, to make a presentation to the board when it reconvenes on Monday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie Elementary School.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the purchase of a new Toro mower, at a cost of $64,307.92. Harris said the corporation would keep the older mower as a backup.

Board members also approved the appointments of Robert Landon and Dennis Wilson to the Roanoke Library Board. Their terms will begin Jan. 1.

Also at the next meeting, board members may decide what they want to do with the Lancaster and Northwest school buildings. Bumgardner will present the newly-received appraisals of the buildings at that meeting and said he would bring an approval to publish an ad to sell them, inviting bidders from the public.