The Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night recognized the recent accomplishments of MPACT’D, a group of high school students devoted to promoting safe driving habits, voted to place this year’s proposed budget on public view and briefly discussed results of a state-mandated “Five Essentials” survey to measure individual school’s readiness to implement school improvement strategies.
MPACT’D faculty sponsor Jennifer Brown accompanied for of the groups members to report on national awards the group won during a July conference in Vermont, recent activities and future plans. The group received three national awards during the annual American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association held July 19-24 in Burlington, Vermont. Alissa McDaniel, Chance Reiniesch and Brianne Mull joined more than 150 high school students from throughout the nation for the event, Brown said. Upward of 400 driver’s education teachers also attended the conference.
Brown said MPACT’D (Miners Preparing and Caring for Teen Driving) was award first place in the nation for a Community Service Project, in recognition of “The Road to Reality,” a program centered around a mock crash scenario held last year at the Gillespie Civic Center. In addition to reaching local students, students from area schools also were invited to participate.
The group also won first place for Best T-Shirt Design for a t-shirt created by Klarissa Mull. MPACT’D was recognized with a third-place award for Outstanding Youth Group.
Brown said the group has been invited to present portions of the Road to Recovery presentation during the Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) national conference next June. During the current school year, the group has been challenged to work on establishing a statewide association of Student Safety Programs. Illinois currently has no statewide association of student safety organizations.
“I didn’t expect to have an opportunity like this,” McDaniel told the board. “It was such a great experience to get to know other groups.” She thanked the board and administration for providing funding for the students to make the trip. Other students attending the board meeting were Mull, who designed the first-place t-shirt, Luke Hatlee and Levi Hatlee.
“I’m super proud of them,” said Brown. “I hope you continue to support us as we go forward.”
Supt. Joe Tieman told the students they are getting invaluable experience in community service and public speaking. “You are great representatives of our school,” he said. “National recognition of your efforts says a lot about you.
On a motion by Becky Hatlee, seconded by Weye Schmidt, the board voted to place a proposed budget for the current fiscal year on file for public review for a minimum of 30 days. Tieman said he would make a more detailed presentation about the budget during the September meeting of the board at which time to board will be asked to approve the final budget.
The $14.6 million tentative budget is deemed “balanced” and includes no provisions for a deficit spending reduction plan. Based on current projections, Tieman said he expects the district to end the fiscal year with an aggregate balance of about $8 million among all funds.
He emphasized that the budget is a “plan” that could be impacted by any emergencies that occur during the the fiscal year. An anticipated increase in state funding, he said, will be “pretty well gobbled up by salary increases.”
Revenue and expenditures are balanced in some funds by shifting funds from line items that are flush with cash to funds that lack enough revenue to cover expenses. “An example would be Operations and Maintenance,” he said. “I can only levy for $300,000, but we spend half a million. That additional $200,000 has to come from elsewhere.”
The proposed budget will be available for review by members of the public until the next regular meeting of the board.
FIVE ESSENTIALS SURVEY
The board listened to several minutes of discussion by building principals regarding a “Five Essentials” Survey to assess each school’s readiness to plan and implement strategies to improve educational opportunities for students. Created by researchers at the University of Chicago, the survey requires administrators to collect data from teachers, students and parents. The survey assigns scores from 1 to 100 for “five essentials” believed to facilitate school improvement—Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers, Ambitious Instruction, Involved Families and Supportive Environment. Participation in the program is required by the Illinois State Board of Education.
“Schools that are at or above benchmark on three or more essentials are 10 times more likely to improve their schools than schools that are below the benchmarks,” according to the ISBE website.
Survey results discussed Monday night were from 2018. According to the survey Gillespie High School was “organized for improvement.” That rating is the second highest possible and is a step up from survey results in 2017, according to High School Principal Shane Owsley. The school earned an above average ratings of 66 for Collaborative Teachers and 65 for Effective Leaders. The school was assigned average scores of 54 for Ambitious Instruction, 48 for Involved Families and 40 for Supportive Environment.
Owsley said results of the survey will be used as a “guideline for the leadership team” in planning and implementing school improvement plans.
According to the survey, Gillespie Middle School is “partially organized for improvement” with an above average score of 61 for Ambitious Instruction, scores of 59 for Effective Leaders and 44 for Collaborative Teachers, and below average ratings of 34 for both Involved Families and Supportive Environment.
GMS Principal Jill Rosentreter said the survey documented improvement in the area of Collaborative Teaching from 2017 to 2018. She said the school now has a faculty leadership team that has been working all summer and will continue to work this year to focus improvement efforts on areas such as math where GMS students have scored relatively low on assessment tests.
“We’re celebrating the good stuff,” Rosentreter said of the survey, “and we’re targeting those lower scores.”
BenGil Elementary School received above average scores of 77 for Supportive Environment and 65 for Ambitious Instruction, an average score of 47 for Effective Leaders, and below average scores of 36 for Involved Families and 26 for Collaborative Teachers.
Elementary Principal Angela Sandretto said the lackluster score for Collaborative Teachers may have been due to vague or ambiguous questions on the survey questionnaire.
Tieman said the ISBE has approved two other alternative surveys that he wants to review to see if they might be more applicable to schools in the local school district.
Interested persons can read the survey results, including supplemental data, by visiting the ISBE website.
MINE SUBSIDENCE INSURANCE
Upon Tieman’s recommendation, the board voted to buy earthquake insurance for school properties at a cost of $59,823 for the year and mine subsidence insurance at a cost of $21,284. The two premiums total $12,000 more than what the district paid last year and provides $22 million in property damage coverage.
Tieman said the premium increase is not unexpected since only three or four companies in the United States offer mine subsidence insurance of any kind. Several years ago, there were no companies offering such insurance. He said former Supt. Paul Skeans tried to buy subsidence insurance for the Benld Elementary School and could find no domestic insurers that would write a policy. At the time the Benld School was damaged by mine subsidence, the only insurance payments the school was entitled to collect was $35,000 from the Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund. That limit has since been raised to $70,000.
“I don’t want to pay a $12,000 increase but if we don’t we would have a high school and middle school with no insurance coverage at all,” Tieman said.
Tieman reported to the board that the project to revamp that “hairpin” turn-around in front of the middle school and improve drainage is nearing completion.
“The city has been fantastic,” Tieman said, noting that city crews have replaced culverts and cleaned ditches in conjunction with the project. He said he went to the site following a recent weekend rain and was pleased to see water draining efficiently. “If you come out after a three-inch rain, you’ll see water in the ditch but in three or four hours it’s gone. I’ve been very happy with that.”
In view of the city’s cooperation, he said he would like to have a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime after the project is complete.
Tieman also reported that the Mount Olive School District is considering terminating its cooperative agreement with CUSD 7 for high school wrestling. Part of the issue is that the enrollments of the two schools together elevate the program from A competition to AA. If local students show interest in joining a wrestling program in the future, Tieman said the agreement could be restarted.
Tieman asked individual board members to consider whether they would like to attend an Illinois Association of School Boards conference in November in Chicago. He said the school used to routinely send interested board members to the conference but eliminated the practice during lean budget years.
“From a budgetary standpoint I think we are in a position to send board members again if they choose to do so,” Tieman said. He said the cost would range from 1,800 to 2,000 to pay for registration, travel expenses and lodging. He called the conference a “learning experience” during which board members can choose from hundreds of seminars and presentations to attend. “I think we should send any board member who wants to go.”
Both Schmidt and Dennis Tiburzi immediately declined the offer.
BOYS SOCCER GAME
Without taking formal action, the board informally gave High School Principal Owsley permission to approach the Litchfield School District, with which CUSD 7 cooperates for boys soccer, with an offer for Litchfield to host a home game if it would like to do so. Owsley said he was approached by the local soccer coach who wanted to give Litchfield an opportunity to host a game as “sort of an olive branch” to recognize the district’s cooperation with Gillespie.
In other action, the board:
- Agreed to hire Jason Menendez as a volunteer golf coach.
- Hired Mike Smith as a full-route bus driver.
- Posted a vacant position for a four-hour playground/cafeteria paraprofessional.
- Approved a transportation agreement with the Jerseyville School District to transport a local student who is deaf to the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville for classes.