Members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night gave permission for a five-member committee to pursue the development of a Wall of Fame program for outstanding school district athletes and supporters. Similar to the school’s longstanding Wall of Honor program, the Athletic Wall of Fame will recognize alumni of Gillespie High School and Benld High School who distinguished themselves either during their high school careers or as a post-graduate athlete. The program also will recognize non-athlete supporters who have contributed to the success of the district’s athletic programs.
In other action, the board reviewed a 2022 Annual Disclosure Report required under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and took action of several personnel issues. The Annual Disclosure Report includes information on the financial status of the district along with the amount of bonded indebtedness the district is carrying.
Gillespie High School Baseball Coach Jeremy Smith said establishing an Athletic Wall of Fame has been a goal for him for about five years. More recently, he spearheaded establishing a committee that consists of two administrators, the Athletic Director, one teacher/coach and one community member. Currently, Supt. Shane Owsley, High School Principal Jill Rosentreter, Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli, Smith and Gillespie Public Library Librarian Steve Joyce. Over the past five years, Smith said he has conducted extensive research to compile a list of persons he believes would make outstanding nominees for the Wall of Fame. That research stretches over more than 100 years of boys’ athletics and more than 45 years of girls’ athletic programs.
Smith cited Fullerton “Fully” Fulton, a basketball star for the Gillespie basketball team from 1930-1933 as an example of a possible inductee. Fulton, who died in 1985 at the age of 71, was a towering 6-foot, five-inch center who led GHS to a 70-14 record over his three-year career. He was central to Gillespie’s first team to take home a Macoupin County Championship in 1931-32, and led the team to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament in 1932-33. Additionally, Fulton had a stellar career as a football player, according to Smith. In another time and place, Fulton probably could have had a career in professional sports, Smith noted.
Tentatively, the awards would be broken down into four categories: Individual Athletes (limited to persons who have been out of school at least five years), Coaches (limited to coaches who coached at least five years and have been retired at least five years), Outstanding Teams, and Contributors who have supported athletic programs for the school district. Because of limited space, no decision has been made about where the names of recipients would be displayed. One option is to create video graphics that would play on monitors around the high school, including the gymnasium. No decision has been reached on whether or not recipients would receive a plaque because of the expense involved. Also because of expense, no decision has been made on whether or not the school would hold a banquet to honor inductees.
Owsley said costs associated with the Wall of Honor program currently are underwritten with concession stand proceeds from the Homecoming football game every other year. There is no funding mechanism in place at this time for the Athletic Wall of Fame.
GHS Principal Jill Rosentreter commented that because of Smith’s extensive research she has several pages of teams that won championships and players who were named all-state or all-conference team members. If funding can be found or generated, she said she wants to have banners designed for each sport that will list outstanding teams and players.
“We want to make sure this is meaningful,” Owsley told the board, noting that there are some years no one is inducted onto the Wall of Honor because no nominees make the cut. The committee will be responsible for selecting Athletic Wall of Fame honorees. Nominations, including the rationale for nominating the individual or team, will be accepted year-round with a deadline of April 1 for consideration for that year.
Though still tentative, Smith said there has been some discussion about alternating years for Wall of Honor and Athletic Wall of Fame honors.
“There have been some amazing athletes who have gone through this school,” Owsley said, noting individuals who have participated on Olympic teams and two GHS graduates who played football for the NFL, facing off against each other in one game. “I think this is an amazing way to honor our past athletes, and it gives something for our current athletes to shoot for.”
The board unanimously voted to proceed with developing the program on a motion by Jack Burns, seconded by Amanda Ross.
Though no formal action was required, Supt. Owsley briefly reviewed the content of an Annual Disclosure Report required under a Securities and Exchange Commission rule. The report focuses primarily on the school district’s bonded indebtedness but also provides additional information regarding the district’s financial status.
With $10.7 million in debt, $10.4 million of which result from the sale of bonds, the school district is at 88.5 percent of its borrowing capacity. The district’s debt limit of $12.2 million is determined by taking 13.8 percent of the district’s total equalized assessed valuation (the value on which property taxes are collected).
By virtue of special emergency legislation, $7 million in bonds issued to construct the BenGil Elementary School do not count toward the district’s debt limit. If those bonds were counted, the district would exceed its debt limit by about $5 million.
Realistically, according to Owsley, the district has no remaining capacity to borrow significant amounts for capital improvements or emergency repairs.
“We are bonded out to 2035,” Owsley said.
Still, the report includes positive news regarding the district’s financial condition. Between 2017 and 2021, the district’s total equalized assessed valuation grew from $69,847,262 to $87,198,959. Meanwhile, Owsley said, the school board has honored its commitment to use 25 percent of the money collected from a county School Facilities sales tax to pay down the debt on the BenGil School. Consequently, the district has been able to lower its levy for Bond and Interest over the past five years.
The amount of money collected from property taxes has increased from $69,847,262 to $87,198,959 over the past five years.
“While the amount of money we collected has gone up, our tax rate has gone down,” Owsley noted, primarily because of increases in the equalized assessed valuation. The tax rate fell from $4.20504 in 2017 to $3.65515 in 2021. The fact the school district consistently collects more than 99 percent of the taxes it extends also is a positive factor, Owsley said. “We’re doing what we said we’d do regarding tax rates,” Owsley said.
Moreover, fund balances reported at the end of the fiscal year have grown from a total of $8.5 million in 2017 to $11.1 million in 2021.
While the report paints a fairly rosy picture of the school district’s financial condition, Owsley noted that much of the positive news is due to an influx of federal grant dollars related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the coming years, we will probably see the federal share of our revenue to back down to 12 percent,” he said.
Following an executive session of about 90 minutes, the board voted to extend Supt. Owsley’s contract by one year. Superintendents are employed under terms of a three-year contract, so Monday night’s action will extend Owsley’s contract to the 2026-27 school year.
The board also voted to hire Casey Fellin as a volunteer assistant girls soccer coach and Donnie Allen as an assistant varsity football coach, both appointments subject to certification documentation and a background check.
On a motion by Dennis Tiburzi, seconded by Weye Schmidt, the board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of custodian Jeff Mueller, effective Jan. 31, and to post the position as vacant.
In other personnel-related matters, the board voted to approve a seniority list for both certificated and non-certificated employees.
GHS Principal Rosentreter reported that an idea for a safe driving public service announcement submitted by Kennedy Helmkamp was chosen for production in the Drive Safe Chicago contest. She said Alan Weiss, an Emmy-winning producer, and his team were expected at the school on Tuesday to film the PSA with Chloe Fellin and Ellie Wilson taking roles in the production. Helmkamp is scheduled to go to Chicago in two weeks for the Chicago Auto Show where her PSA will be screened for the first time.
Rosentreter also reported that Xavier Steward passed a Cyber Security Assessment given by the military. She said Steward’s recruiter was “ecstatic” because the test has an 86 percent failure rate. Only 11 people in Illinois, including Steward, have passed the assessment. As a result of his performance, Steward will attend a year-long training on National Security Threats starting in September.
Two GHS band students—Ellie Wilson and Travis Steward—were selected to participate in the Bi-State Band Festival at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The pair attended master classes in music and performed with the SIU-E wind ensemble. Steward was chosen to participate with the honor band—a first for any GHS band student.
Rosentreter reported Macie Wright and Emmarie Moutria had artwork selected for the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Show and will have their works displayed Feb. 5-23 at the Springfield Art Association. Additionally, GMS Principal Patrick McGinthy reported that photographic work by Madison Durstan also was selected for the Scholastic Art and Writing Show.
BenGil Elementary Principal Angela Sandretto told the board that more than 80 students are taking advantage of a tutoring program involving 18 of the school’s teachers. She said both parents and students have had positive things to say about the new program.
Supt. Owsley offered a brief report including his efforts to write grant applications for federal grants that, if awarded, would allow the school to replace appliances in the school’s cafeteria kitchen.
In other action, the board:
- Agreed to purchase a subscription to the MaintenanceX computer program at a cost of $16 per month. The program facilitates establishing maintenance schedules for HVAC equipment and other maintenance items and assigning maintenance workers to specific tasks. The program will be for the use of the Maintenance Director alone at this time, but Owsley told the board he is likely to return with a request to expand the program to other computers once the Director has familiarized himself with the program so other maintenance workers can access the program and use it.
- Approved a resolution to take delivery of leased buses. The board approved the lease agreement in June and the resolution is a formality allowing the district to take possession of the buses when they arrive.