Community leaders to meet with Superintendent

 

ALMONT — Following the defeat of a $58.4 million bond issue on February 27, by a margin of 3 to 1, school officials are planning to hit the “reset” button and potentially bring another bond proposal to the ballot as early as August.

Superintendent Kimberly VonHiltmayer, who had the “interim” tag removed from her title by the school board prior to the election, said she has scheduled meetings with board members and members of the community separately.

Almont Superintendent Kimberly VonHiltmayer has had the “interim” tag removed from her position and is ready to hit the ground running for the district.

“This gives us the chance to hit the “reset” button, if you will, and allow us to take a step back and take another look at things.”

VonHiltmayer, who has been with the district for 30 years prior to her being named the top administrator, said first she will get board input and then have a separate meeting with community leaders, with no board members present.

“We have to digest the input we are given, make some adjustments from the worksheet that was developed with our staff, at all levels, and see what we come up with. Clearly, in my opinion, infrastructure is something we cannot ignore. Beyond that, we’ll see what everyone has to say and go from there.”

VonHiltmayer said the connector, between Orchard Primary and the Middle School that would add eight classrooms in addition to a STEM room, would be high on the priority list.

It is the superintendent’s hope that, although there is a tight window, work can be completed and deadlines met to bring a version of another school bond issue in August of this year.

“Time is a big factor, and if we can move the process along, I feel we can come back to the district taxpayers with a proposal that is good for everyone. A lot of the work has already been done.”

According to VonHiltmayer, the district would need to submit their intentions to the State Treasury by April 10, file a preliminary application with the State by April 16, and then ballot language would need to be approved by May 14.

“We need to “right-side” this thing and move forward,” VonHiltmayer admitted. “The last (bond) issue was very divisive in the district. I feel we are a tough, close knit community with a lot of grit and determination. We absolutely want to hear what the public has to say. We are going to work together and come up with a good plan.”

The district has retained contractor Roncelli, along with French & Associates, and will consider keeping much of the footprint that had been previously prepared by the firms. According to VonHiltmayer, the board will be able to use a lot of the information that was prepared in the previous bond issue. Adjustments will be made.

“Obviously, the field house was a topic of much discussion, and I am guessing that will not be on the next ballot. The solar project was also a big topic and I’d expect the board may rethink that project as well, but, I am not speaking for them. It’s their decision.”

The field house, projected to use about 80,000 square feet of space, was pitched to be a revenue generator, along with serving the needs of the district.

Likewise, the solar project, with panels on the roof of district buildings, was estimated to potentially save the district thousands of dollars in energy costs.

Prior to the election, the board held a lengthy meeting that did not adjourn until nearly midnight on February 26. Before the final gavel fell, the board removed the “interim” tag from VonHiltmayer’s position and named her the district’s next superintendent.

“I ended my career as a principal, but knew I had interest in administration as well,” VonHiltmayer explained. “I applied the same time as Dr. (Bill) Kalmar, in 2016 and the board back then selected him. After a series of events, I literally had a knock at my door asking me to be the interim superintendent and I agreed to give it a shot.”

The new superintendent agreed the district has had a revolving door of sorts, with many new administrative faces now in place.

Some long time employees left the district for various reasons, and now the superintendent is kept busy making sure everyone has the support they need and the district is moving forward in a positive direction.

“There was a lot going on when I got here in May of 2023,” VonHiltmayer acknowledged. “New board members, the need to bring in new staff, the new bond issue, the board adjusting to a new superintendent. It was an extremely busy time.”

Since her hiring in May, VonHiltmayer says the district now has all new principals throughout the district; at the elementary, middle school and high school. They are also filling gaps administratively, most recently looking for a dean of students and a business manager.

“We’ve been able to have some great hires. Our staff is very dedicated,” said VonHiltmayer. “Everyone in the district is all about the students and their education. We have a great leadership team and a supportive school community.”

The new superintendent will be balancing her time with the day-to-day operations of the district, as well as working with the community, board and staff to come up with a revised bond issue for consideration later this year. There will be many more late night meetings and planning sessions. The new superintendent likened the upcoming process to a boxing match

“It’s round three, right? We’ve had two bond issues now, one in 2022 that was later revised by the current board. That one was defeated. We are going to involve the community, get feedback from everyone and come back again with something we can all be supportive of.”

If need be, the district also still has the option of placing a ballot question for the November general election.