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Principal hired for Putnam County Primary School

Superintendent says emergency notification system valuable in Putnam County

GRANVILLE — The Illinois Valley is losing at least two school administrators this year.

Current Putnam County Primary School Principal Ronda Cross will leave her current position in mid-June, said Superintendent Carl Carlson.

Carlson said Cross has been principal at the primary school for eight years, and she will be relocating with her husband, Mark Cross, who is currently superintendent of Peru Elementary District.

Earlier this winter, the school board at Cass School District 73 approved Cross as the next superintendent of a grade school district in the west-suburban Chicago communities of Darien and Hinsdale.

Tuesday night, the Putnam County School board hired Chawn Huffaker to be the district’s primary school principal.

He is currently principal at Allen Junior High in LaMoille and Van Orin Grade School. Huffaker’s salary at Putnam County will be roughly $74,000, and he will start his new position Aug. 1, said Carlson.

Putnam County’s district had 20 applicants apply for the principal position, and eight applicants were interviewed. Four candidates were narrowed down, and Huffaker was the best candidate chosen by the staff and administration, Carlson said.

The board also hired Cambria Robinson as a new speech pathologist; accepted resignations from Carrie Damekas, preschool special education teacher, Jennifer Dudek as science fair sponsor, Brandi LeQuia as sophomore class sponsor; and accepted maternity leave for Susan Sale, high school paraprofessional.

Putnam County School Superintendent Carl Carlson also shared with board members Tuesday a recent weather issue that affected a bus route during a snowfall Feb. 12.

At about 4 p.m. Carlson was notified the pre-K bus was stuck on Spotted Dutchman's Hill due to snow-covered roads.

“The bus remained on the road but as it tried to climb the curved areas it began to slide toward the ravine side of the road.," Carlson said. "It is one of the most hazardous roads even in good weather. County road crews and the sheriff’s department were quickly on the scene. The situation resolved itself as quickly as it could and at no time were students in danger.”

Carlson sent out updated alerts through the notification system. Parents were advised not to come pick up their children in order to allow the crews to place salt and cinders on the road. Carlson told the board that this type of situation reaffirms the district’s acquisition of the notification service as being extremely valuable.

The weather continued to affect the roads the following day but Carlson applauded the road crews that were already out taking care of the roads when he was checking road conditions at 5 a.m.

Carlson said, “While the roads were not great due to the winter conditions, they were able to be traveled with precautionary measures being taken. I wanted to tip our hats to those crews for their work because it very likely saved our district from taking a snow day.”

School Safety Committee meeting

A School Safety Committee meeting was held prior to the regular meeting Tuesday night; the committee discussed the hiring of a school resource officer. Carlson will post the position and a detailed job description will be created.

The committee also heard an update concerning the entryway work that will be done at the junior high and high school to create a secure vestibule area. Quotes are being solidified.

Board member Emily Chiado shared information with the committee concerning cyber safety and cyber bullying that she heard during the Triple I Conference. Carlson will look into whether the same presenter would be available to present to the PC staff members. 

In other news:

Twenty-six people attended a recent phase I strategic planning session where the strengths and weaknesses of the school district were discussed. On Feb. 29 there will be a second meeting to continue the discussion and devise a plan concerning the facility, curriculum and finances. Carlson said he believes this is a good process.

Annette Davis updated the board on the 2020 Illinois State Library Grant, which she applied for in October. Davis was notified in December that the district was receiving $750.  

Coach Jerry Kriewald addressed the board about the wrestling program. Sophomore Connor Brooker is the first Putnam County student to qualify for state, which Kriewald said was an indication that the junior high wrestling program is working. Kriewald would like the board to think about finding a place for the wrestling program to be housed. Currently they are using the media center and it takes 20 minutes to set up and 20 minutes to clean up every day.

The board heard an investment report presented by Carlson. A Certificate of Deposit was ready for renewal and the best interest rate was from First State Bank at 1.81% for 36 months.

Carlson said, “This is down from the recent interest rates that were over 2%. However, with uncertainty in futures, the recommendation is to lock in this rate for a longer term. The shorter term rates were much lower and getting at least close to 2% is much better than the less than 1% we were receiving three years ago.”

Carlson said that the state of Illinois is up to date on their payments and the school should receive their next categorical payment in the next few weeks.  

The next meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, in the Putnam County Primary School Media Center.

NewsTribune reporter Ali Braboy contributed to this story.

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