A newly reorganized Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night informally authorized Gillespie High School Principal Shane Owsley to proceed with plans to implement advance placement classes—some as soon as next academic year—at the high school level. Board members also heard Supt. Joe Tieman outline a number of priorities he would like the Building and Grounds Committee to discuss in the coming months.
Before acting on agenda items, however, the board formally reorganized and named officers for the next two years. The reorganization is a formality required following a consolidated election in which board members are elected. The composition of the newly seated board is identical to the outgoing board and will have the same officers.
On a motion by Dennis Tiburzi, seconded by Don Dobrino, the board formally accepted vote totals documented by County Clerk Pete Duncan and declared Mark Hayes, Jenni Alepra, Weye Schmidt and Becky Hatlee elected to four-year terms on the board. Duncan certified that Hayes received 767 votes; Schmidt, 732 votes; Alepra, 797 votes; and Hatlee, recently appointed to a vacancy created by the resignation of Peyton Bernot, 659 votes. Challenger Jerry L. Yeager, Jr., received 275 votes, according to the election canvas
Following the certification of the vote, the retiring board adjourned and reconvened as a new board. Re-elected board members were sworn in, and officers were elected. Hayes will continue as President, with Alepra as Vice President and Bill Carter as Secretary. All three officers were re-elected by acclamation with only one nomination for each position. Hayes also appointed board committees that are identical to the composition of prior committees with Hatlee stepping onto committees on which Bernot formerly served.
Upon completing the reorganization, the board immediately retired to an 80-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues.
ADVANCE PLACEMENT COURSES
Without taking a formal vote, board members informally agreed to allow High School Principal Owsley to research the possibility of offering advance placement courses that could prepare college-bound students to take advance tests to establish their proficiency and waive taking some required courses in college. Owsley said students would pay $94 for each proficiency test they take but that cost pales in comparison to paying tuition fees to take those courses for credit hours in college.
“When you’re talking about college credits, you’re going to spend a lot more than $94,” Owsley said.
Under Owsley’s proposal, advance placement courses could be offered in biology, psychology, art and other areas of study. Art teacher Nikk Brawner has taught advance placement art in another school, Owsley said, meaning that advance placement art could be offered as early as the 2019-2020 school year.
From the perspective of the school district, Owsley said the advance placement courses are preferable to so-called “dual credit” courses that allow high school students to earn college credits without proficiency testing because the dual credit courses would require teachers who hold masters degrees. “As I said last year, those teachers (with masters degrees) are few and far between,” Owsley said.
If the district offers advance placement courses in areas such as biology, the AP course would be the only option available for students wanting to enroll in that particular class. As a result, all students, including those who do not intend to attend college, would be doing advance placement work. The only difference would be that those students planning to go on to college would have an option to take the proficiency test to earn credit at the college where they intend to enroll.
Through an arrangement with Lewis and Clark Community College, Owsley said the school already offers dual credits in chemistry and history. Under his proposal, those courses would be identified as both dual credit and advance placement courses for students who intend to enroll in a college other than LCCC.
“Is it possible to implement some of these courses next year?” Hayes asked.
“Yes,” said Owsley, “AP Art, obviously.” Some other AP classes might not be offered until the 2020-2021 academic year.
BUILDING AND GROUNDS GOALS
Supt. Tieman reported to the board that he would ask the Building and Grounds Committee to consider recommending a project to improve drainage in the area of the turn-around in front of Gillespie Middle School when the committee convenes for its next meeting. He said he has already asked school architect Tom Hyde to develop preliminary cost estimates for a project to replace the paved turn-around with “green space” and divert water away from the area.
“I would like to consider that project for this summer,” Tieman said. “It’s becoming a safety issue for our students, staff and community.”
The drainage project, however, is just one of the projects Tieman wants the committee to review and prioritize. He listed a number of potential projects he would like the committee to discuss.
Having completed a new science lab for the middle school, Tieman said he would like to consider improving and updating the high school science labs. “Our labs are as old as the building,” he said, adding that the district could use revenue from the county school facilities sales tax to fund an upgrade.
Replacing bathrooms at the school’s baseball field and replacing or upgrading the press box overlooking the football field also are projects on Tieman’s “wish list.” He said there may be funding coming to the school that would allow the school to add onto or renovate the vocational education building.
Tieman said the school district is realizing nearly $360,000 annual from the county’s school facilities sales tax. That revenue is earmarked for permanent improvements to school facilities. The district has committed $150,000 annually of that revenue over the next five years to pay off the new middle school science labs. Another $75,000 is committed annually toward paying off debt incurred from building the new BenGil Elementary School. That leaves about $135,000 annually to fund new projects.
The board voted unanimously to hire Korben Clark, Edwardsville, as a first-year, non-tenured high school science teacher for the 2019-2020 school year; Chase Peterson, Gillespie, as a first-year, non-tenured middle school math teacher for the 2019-2020 school year; and Jessica Kelly, Gillespie, as a first-year, non-tenured middle school special education teacher for the 2019-2020 school year.
The board hired Troy Barker as a summer school high school math teacher provided enough students enroll to warrant offering the program. Amy Goldasich was hired as a high school summer school English teacher provided enough students enroll to warrant offering the program, and Jennifer Brown was hired as a summer school consumer education and driver education teacher.
Board members voted unanimously to hire Jarrod Herron, Casey Edgington, Matt Brawner and Christina Blevins as teachers for a middle school summer school program. Kelly Vesper, Jennifer Parker, Tracy Petersen and Karissa Smith were hired as teachers for an elementary summer school program.
The board voted unanimously to accept the principals’ recommendations to rehired Casey Sholtis as head coach for high school boys basketball, with Matt Brawner and Dan Edgerton as assistants; Kevin Gray as head girls basketball coach with Christina Blevins as assistant; Tim Wargo as seventh grade boys basketball coach; Stuart Ringer as eighth grade boys basketball coach, Vanessa Kolesar as seventh grade girls volleyball coach, Celia Jubelt as eighth grade girls basketball coach, and Kyle Lamore as middle school scholar bowl coach.
In other personnel action, the board voted unanimously to hire Christopher Olson as a full-route bus driver, and Kerri Bailey as a full-time, full-route bus driver.
Penny Feeley and Janice Hammann were hired as summer school food service workers.
The board also appointed Stephanie Wilson and Liz Thackery as middle school student council sponsors.
MAINTENANCE TRUCK PURCHASE
On a motion by Tiburzi, seconded by Don Dobrino, the board voted unanimously to purchase a half-ton Dodge Ram 1500 truck from Victory Lane, Carlinville, at a cost of $19,458 to be used as maintenance truck. The decision had been delayed from last month when administrators proposed buying a used truck. At that time, the board directed Tieman to do more research and return with a proposal.
“What we found is that used trucks are expensive,” Tieman said. “A lot of the time, new ones are only $2,000 to $3,000 more and you’re not buying someone else’s problems.”
Transportation Director Gary Niehaus told the board the truck he recommended was a “plain jane” with no unnecessary options. “We don’t need anything more than that,” he said. Niehaus said the Dodge was about $3,000 less than the other two price quotes he secured for consideration.
On Tieman’s recommendation, the board amended the 2018-2019 school calendar to account for three unused emergency days. Under the revised calendar, the last day of classes this year will be May 29. The last day for teachers will be May 30.
The board also approved the official calendar for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, which includes some “radical differences,” according to Tieman.
The newly approved calendar has classes starting on Aug. 14., with the last day of classes set for May 27. A major difference, Tieman said, is that parent-teacher conferences at the elementary level are set for later in the year than in the past. Elementary school parent-teacher conferences will take place on Nov 25 and 26 instead of October. Parent-teacher conferences for middle school and high school students will be Oct. 23 and 24.
“This calendar is driven by what we think is better for parents and teachers,” Tieman said.
Another major change, he said, involves spring break. State assessment testing is scheduled after Easter, making it possible to take all five days off for the week prior to Easter. Consequently, spring break is set for April 6-10 next year.
“We’re going to try it for one year and see how it works,” Tieman said.
The board adopted a series of policies recommended by the State Board of Education but opted to exclude one policy dealing with a Targeted School Violence Prevention Program. The board routinely adopts state-recommended policies nearly every month as a matter of routine. Opting out of a policy is somewhat unusual.
Tieman said the concern is that adopting the policy would be tantamount to the board confirming that it has a violence prevention policy in place. He said the program recommended by the state board is a “good program” but that the local district is not ready to implement it. Further, he said he wants school attorneys to review any violence prevention program the school adopts to protect the district from liability concerns.
“We will have a targeted school violence prevention program at some point,” Tieman said. “We’re just not equipped for it at this time.”
In other action, the board approved renewing membership in the Illinois Elementary School Association.
The next regular meeting of the board will be Monday, June 17—one week earlier than the regularly scheduled meeting date—at the request of Board President Mark Hayes.