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Highest marks go to superintendent

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton-Portage Township Schools Superintendent Anders Hill, left, listens to recommendations from Baord President Amanda Massaway after his evaluation Monday. The board rated Hill as “highly effective,” the highest of four categories in the state’s system.

HOUGHTON — Houghton-Portage Township Schools Superintendent Andres Hill was rated as “highly effective” in the board’s annual evaluation.

The rating is the highest of four on the scale used by the Michigan Association of School Boards, which also includes effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

“I’m thankful I have a great board, and I feel lucky to work here,” Hill said. “It’s easy to receive high ratings when you work with great principals, great teachers and great students and community. So I feel really lucky and hopefully I can improve this year.”

Board president Amanda Massaway told Hill the board would like to see him proactively strengthen community relations in advance of a possible bond request and formalize a community communication strategy.

“This year has been fantastic,” she said. “Everybody’s very complimentary of the strategic plan.”

Board members agreed.

“You’re a great representative for this district,” said Tom Leonard.

Hill told the board he is excited to start work on the plan.

“Being really proactive in how we communicate is going to be a really positive thing,” he said.

In October, the board passed a resolution authorizing Hill to explore and evaluate potential district facility expansion and bond planning.

That followed a September meeting where consultants presented the board with options for optimizing the district’s space in light of growing enrollment. One recommendation was adding more square footage to district buildings.

In the past decade, the district has added about 100 students.

Monday, the board approved discontinuing open enrollment for school of choice for fourth and eighth grades for the upcoming second semester. Neither grade has any available openings for school of choice students, Hill said. The fourth grade is at 108 students, or 27 per section. The eighth grade is at 110.

The district might ask other grades not to have open enrollment for next fall, depending on what enrollment projections and space audits show in the spring, Hill said.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time in many, many years we’ve considered that,” he said.

Houghton has been a popular draw for school-of-choice students. The district placed highly on recent U.S. News & World Report rankings, which put the elementary school 65th in Michigan, the middle school 42nd and the high school 39th.

“I think it’s really telling that all three schools across our district are in the top 3% of all schools in the state of Michigan,” Hill said. “I don’t know that other schools are able to say that across the state.”

Hill and Elementary School Principal Cole Klein also reported on their recent trip to Washington, D.C. with second-grade teacher Pam Bostwick to accept the school’s Blue Ribbon Award. The U.S. Department of Education program recognized the school for high achievement, making it one of around 380 schools in the country to be honored.

“We were in this room that had the best educators in the country, and it was really neat to think about that and see all those educators across the stage,” Klein said. “It was a great honor for us to represent Houghton Elementary and our school community with that.”

In other action, the board:

• Held a special meeting Monday afternoon in which they approved the expulsion of a student for the remainder of the first semester. The student’s identity and reason for the expulsion were not disclosed.

• Approved the 2022-23 audit report. The auditors found the district to be “very healthy financially,” said Business Manager Amanda Marcotte. In the general fund, the district had a surplus for the year of $1.7 million and a fund balance of $5.1 million. The only issue noted was an invoice received in August not recorded in the proper year, which the auditor found to be minor.

• Approved participation in Michigan High School Athletic Association boys and girls soccer. The teams have already been operating as clubs, drawing about 25 to 30 players last spring for girls soccer and 45 in the fall for boys soccer.

• Approved a bid for refinishing the high school gym floor by Baseman Brothers Floors of Eagle River, Wisconsin for $38,985. The floors are recommended to be taken down to the wood and repainted and restriped every seven to 10 years, Hill said. The floors were installed with the addition of the new gym, which was completed in 2010.

• Approved Whitney Brey and Kathryn Kass as co-chairs for the Reproductive Health Committee. Both work for Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center, and as required, have children in the district.

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