Columbia School Board OKs attorney fees


The Columbia School District did not have a fee agreement with its current attorney prior to its May board meeting, Columbia School Board member Tammy Mitchell Hines told the Republic-Times.

Hines informed board members in April that, when she asked for the current agreement, she received a 2006 fee schedule with law firm Robbins Schwartz. The district currently employs Guin Mundorf.

“When we were preparing for the expulsion hearing, it came to my attention that we didn’t have an agreement with our board attorney,” Hines said in April.

She said when Barney Mundorf left Robbins Schwartz years ago to start his own firm, the board should have approved a new agreement.

“It’s the firm I believe that we follow, not the attorney,” Hines said.

The board agreed in April to approve a new agreement but had to wait since it was not on the agenda.

Segobiano told the Columbia School Board during the May 17 meeting there had not been an “updated fee agreement” with the current attorney since she became superintendent. 

“We just have not had an updated fee agreement with Barney since I’ve been here … And, obviously, fee agreements, they just roll over year-to-year. But we have not had anything updated for a (while).”

Board member John Long asked Segobiano about the difference between a retainer and legal services agreement.

“The retainer is part of the legal services agreement,” she replied. “If we pay $100 a month, that’s a retainer that I could ask any question and you’re not charged.”

“Do we do that? Because I don’t see that specifically,” Long added.

“I don’t know if we have done that in the past,” Segobiano answered. “But $100 a month is nothing compared to the hourly rate of $250 to $300 … Yeah I would recommend $100 a month to ask questions.”

Segobiano said the retainer involves questions an attorney should already know how to answer.

“They’re expected to know most general school law questions,” she said.

The board added the piece about the retainer to the motion before putting it to a vote.

Asked why an attorney fee agreement was approved at the meeting, Segobiano replied, “A board member requested an updated attorney fee agreement to be approved.”

Hines said in an email she had asked for a copy of the current attorney fee agreement prior to the board’s April student disciplinary hearing. During the hearing, a Columbia High School student who allegedly made threats on social media was expelled.

“I wanted to know approximately what the cost to the taxpayers would be since we were told the board attorney would be hearing the expulsion case rather than the board conducting the hearing,” she explained.

The Illinois School Code states that a school board must take a roll call vote every time a district wishes to spend money.

“On all questions involving the expenditure of money, the yeas and nays shall be taken and entered on the records of the proceedings of the board,” the school code reads.

In other news, Columbia Middle School principal Kevin Moore will not be returning to the district this fall. He will be the new Collinsville Middle School assistant principal/athletic director.

“I’ve had a ton of support here,” Moore said. “So many staff have asked me why I can’t stay … I needed to resign and find something that was a better fit for me and my family getting closer to home.”

Moore said he will miss the people he came to know in the district.

“I made so many great friendships with parents, students and staff members,” he expressed.

Not only did Moore share a desire to stay in touch with these friends, he also said he would be open to someday returning to Columbia.

“I think in the right situation with my family and some future directions that this district would go in, I would be more than willing to come back,” he relayed.

Moore came on as CHS principal in 2016 before being moved to CMS in 2017. Brian Reeves was then brought over from the middle school to serve as CHS principal.

In a 2017 email, Segobiano told the Republic-Times that Moore’s re-assignment was intended “to balance a new administrator with an experienced administrator.” 

Following a brief executive session, the board voted to have CMS assistant principal Dr. Courtney Castelli take Moore’s place.

Segobiano also told the board about the progress of several school facility projects. The projects range from health/life/safety renovations to adding handicap-accessible bleachers to the CHS multi-purpose field.

The district will do some work this summer to ensure the CHS shop class’s welding system is ventilated according to code, Segobiano said. Funding for the project comes from a $30,000 Okaw Regional Vocation System grant and the district’s health/life/safety fund.

Segobiano said the district also plans to tear out and replace cabinets and countertops in CHS’ culinary classroom using facility sales tax revenue. Additionally, the shop class built a partition to separate the pantry from the kitchens.

The district plans to do some resurfacing this summer on the CHS track. Segobiano said she believes the new surface will last about eight years.

For the ADA bleachers, Segobiano said the district needs quotes for sitework before starting construction. The HVAC controls work involves a replacement of the HVAC Sage system, which adjusts controls based on weather conditions.

After Segobiano finished running through the list, Hines asked, “Do we need to take a vote on spending the money on these items?”

“I would say all of them — ADA bleachers will be because that will be a contract. The HVAC controls, no,” Segobiano listed. “The track repairs is the state contract. That will be in the bills payable. 

“And the cabinets we don’t have yet. And the vote that is an Okaw, you will be voting on that once we get the bid because that’s a building permit that’s issued. 

“So you will get that. It just depends on the level of the project, what type of contract is needed.”

Segobiano also informed the board that the district recently received the results of  an Illinois State Board of Education annual special education compliance review.

For the 2016-17 school year, the district received the “Meets Requirements” designation, meaning there is no corrective action needed.

Segobiano also said parents of special ed students were sent surveys to provide feedback on services.

Items on the survey included  related service, educational service, Individualized Education Plans and interests for professional development. The district received 63 responses representing 79 students and is still collecting surveys.

“What we’re going to be doing is really dissecting this to see what type of goals and takeaways we can do as a response to this survey,” Segobiano added. 

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