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Chester school board seated; members approve cellphone pouches for high schoolers

  • Lorin Mott

    Lorin Mott

By Don Berry
Contributing writer
updated: 5/9/2019 6:48 PM

The new Chester school board welcomed one new face when it was sworn into office last week.

Lorin Mott, who ran a write-in campaign in the April 2 election, won the final seat on the board and was sworn in alongside the incumbents who won re-election: Debi Caraway, Dan Colvis, Charles Fricke, Mitch Hammel, Trent Vasquez and Tom Welge.

Mott took the seat that belonged to former board member Jamie Eggemeyer, who did not run for reelection.

April 2 was the first school board election where the members were elected at-large, not based on geography. Therefore, all the members were elected at once.

To get back to staggered terms so the whole board does not turn over at one time in the future, the members were assigned either two- or four-year terms. Hammel, Welge and Colvis got the two-year terms, meaning their seats will be up for reelection again in 2021.

Fricke, Vasquez, Mott and Caraway have the regular four-year terms.

With Superintendent Brian Pasero acting as president pro tem the board elected Mitch Hammel as president. The board then elected Tom Welge as vice president and Debi Caraway as secretary.

The committee assignments were made: Fricke and Hammel on the Finance Committee, Colvis and Vasquez on Transportation, Caraway and Mott on Policy, Colvis and Vasquez on Building and Grounds with Mott as an alternate, and Welge and Caraway on the Negotiations Committee with Fricke and Vasquez as alternates.

Student cellphones will get locked up

Chester High School students and their cellphones will be separated for the better part of the school day, starting next school year, as the school board has approved a one-year agreement with YONDR for the purchase of pouches.

High school Principal Melissa Meyer said cellphones are a major distraction, and the current system of classroom caddies (where phones are placed at the beginning of each class) usually wastes several minutes of classtime.

Under the YONDR system -- which Du Quoin High School currently uses -- students' phones will be placed in special pouches at the beginning of the school day, which are then sealed by the staff and can only be unlocked by the staff. Students would have access to them at lunch breaks and at the end of school, but not between classes. Apple Watches would also be unusable because they rely on the phone for access.

Meyer said the cost is $24 per pouch, $4 higher than she expected due to shipping and handling costs. The students would pay the first $15 and the district will pick up the remainder. Students who don't want to contribute will be barred from bringing phones into the school building.

The board approved a one-year agreement with YONDR.

Other business

• The new board designated its meeting times as the third Thursday of each month with the exception of April, May and November, when they will meet at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday at the Grade School Conference Room.

• The board agreed to buy two new computer servers and backup from QNS, at a cost of $23,993.25 and giving the district a chance to store the school's computer data off-site reducing the need for the servers and IT work.

John Buchantin, from QNS, said their servers will function even if the internet is down and two new servers will replace the current seven servers the district has, one of which has failed. Both servers would be located at the high school but would serve the grade school, as the buildings are connected by fiber optic cable.

The district will have the ability to expand the system if necessary, but each server has 12 hard drives, each having 300GB. The entire system will be backed up automatically every day.