After hearing a brief presentation from high school teacher Stuart Ringer, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night unanimously approved offering a golf program for high school men and women as a parent-sponsored activity starting with the coming school year. Ringer said CUSD 7 is the only school in the South Central Conference that doesn’t currently offer a golf program. Before the end of the 2018-2019 school year, he said 10 boys and eight girls expressed an interest in participating in a golf program.
Timber Lakes Golf Course near Staunton has agreed to offer the use of its facilities free of charge for a potential golf program, Ringer said. All other expenses, including transportation to away golf meets, would be covered by fund-raising and fees charged to the parents of participating students. Transportation is expected to be the largest expense associated with the program.
Earlier in the meeting, the board agreed to post an open position for a golf coach on the assumption the program would be approved. Tieman said he and the board were aware that a salary for the position will be added to the contract subject to negotiation with the teachers’ union. Ringer reportedly has agreed to take on the position without pay.
“I want you to know that you have a contractual right to the amount of money in the contract,” Tieman told Ringer. “You can take less than that or you can take nothing. But there’s nothing wrong with you saying that’s what the contract says and that’s what I deserve, and your parents will have to pay for that.”
Tieman said he also wanted parents to be aware there is a cost involved for transportation to away meets. Bus transport will be required; parents cannot carpool to transport players. He recommended that the program contracts with the school district to provide transportation. “It’s probably the most cost effective, efficient and safest alternative,” he said.
Ringer said the schedule would probably include 14 meets, but it was unclear how many of those would be away meets.
BAND/CHORUS TRIP APPROVED
Board members unanimously voted to approve a band/chorus trip next year to Walt Disney World in Florida, but only after calling chorus teacher Weinberg to the board room to answer questions about the week-long outing. After noting Weinberg was not in the room, Board President Hayes tabled the issue until she could be summoned from her home. She arrived after a few minutes to face grilling by several board members.
Among the issues board members wanted addressed were the cost of the trip and the fact that seniors participating in the trip will have already graduated by the time the bus leaves Gillespie.
Weinberg said she worked with the tour company to trim the cost down from about $1,200 to $986 per person. To get that pricing, she said, the school will have to sign up a minimum of 122 participants. She said she hopes the final total will be closer to 150 students. Most of the cost will be subsidized through fund-raising activities held throughout the year, including monthly Krispy Kreme Donut sales. Students would be responsible for incidentals such as souvenirs. Weinberg said the cost is “in line” with other trips she’s taken with students.
Participants will leave Gillespie June 12 and return on June 17. While staying at Walt Disney World, they will participate in workshops hosted by Disney.
“Walt Disney World is the No. 1 workshop in the world,” Weinberg said. “To have the No. 1 workshop in the world, plus a performance at Walt Disney World, it’s going to be good for morale. This is above and beyond grades. These kids are going to have an amazing trip.”
For band students, Disney musicians will create a musical arrangement exclusively for Gillespie that will be keyed to the instruments played by participating students.
The schedule has the students arriving one day before the workshops begin so they will have time to relax and be ready to get the most out of the workshop the next day. The trip also includes some opportunities for fun and recreation, including time at a nearby beach. Weinberg said students will be covered by liability insurance even though there are no lifeguards on the beach.
Some board members questioned scheduling the trip in June, noting that some of those participating will be seniors who have already graduated. “You will have lost control” over seniors, Hayes asserted.
“I’ve taken seniors before and I’ve never had a problem,” Weinberg said. “That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a problem, but I give them the same deal if they get into trouble: ‘I’m calling your parents to come get you’.”
Weinberg said she also gravitated to the June date because “we’ve been discouraged from going over Easter” as has been the case with performance trips.
High School Principal Shane Owsley noted that students going on the trip will not be able to enroll in summer school.
“If the board has a problem with June, you can speak through your vote,” Tieman advised.
Ultimately, on a motion by Carter, seconded by Schmidt, board member unanimously approved the trip.
ACCELERATED PLACEMENT AND COURSE NAMES
After hearing a presentation by Lisa Ballinger, Response to Intervention coordinator, the board unanimously voted to implement a state-mandated formal plan addressing accelerated placement for high-performing students. Education opportunities can be accelerated, Ballinger said, by giving the student more challenging opportunities within his or her grade level, providing accelerated opportunities within a specific subject area or by skipping to a more advanced grade or class.
Plans for accelerating educational opportunities for specific students will be individualized, Ballinger said. “A kindergartener who needs acceleration is going to look very different from a high school student,” she said.
Students can be referred for consideration for acceleration by a teacher or administrator, or a parent. Students referred for consideration will be evaluated by a team of teachers who will recommend whether or not the student would benefit from acceleration. The team’s decision can be appealed within 10 days.
If the student expresses a desire not to be accelerated, the process will stop, Ballinger noted.
In some circumstances, the decision whether or not to accelerate a student may take into consideration factors other than academic performance. For example, a decision to move a student from middle school to high school would depend somewhat upon the student’s emotional maturity and ability to function in a high school environment.
“That would have to be very creative,” Middle School Principle Jill Rosentreter said. “As she mentioned several times, these plans will be very individualized.”
Board members voted 5-1 to approve a proposal to rename some courses offered at the high school level. Owsley said the intent is better reflecting course content and to establish some classes that cater to high-performing students within specific subject areas. Under the proposal, the school will offer Geometry for average students and Honors Geometry for high-performing, college-bound students. Algebra I, Algebra II and Spanish also will have Honors components. Ag I will become Introduction to Agriculture, Ag II will become Ag Science and Ag 3 will become Ag Business.
The renaming will allow students to pick courses geared to their interest, Owsley said. An ag student more interested in the business side of ag production, for example, could skip Ag Science to enroll in Ag Business.
Tiburzi cast the sole negative vote on the measure.
In addition to posting an open position for a golf coach, the board voted unanimously to hire Paula Cox as a district secretary and appointed Corbin Clark as a volunteer assistant football coach.
The board accepted the resignation of Alice Maddox as a full-route bus driver and posted the position as vacant.
Also in the area of personnel, the board approved reappointment of spring sports coaches as follows: Robin Niemeyer, head high school women’s soccer coach; Paige Niemeyer, assistant high school women’s soccer coach; Jeremy Smith, head high school men’s baseball coach; Tim Wargo, paid volunteer assistant high school baseball coach; Adam Tallman and Dan Smith, volunteer assistant high school baseball coaches; Michelle Smith, head high school women’s softball coach; Joe Kelly, paid assistant high school women’s softball coach; Jim Matesa and Beth Fields, assistant high school women’s softball coaches; Mike Bertagnolli, head high school men’s track and field coach; Jack Burns, head high school women’s track and field coach; Jerrod Herron, assistant high school track and field coach; Christina Blevins, middle school girls track coach; and Casey Niehaus, middle school boys track coach.
COMMUNITY ELIGIBILITY PROGRAM
On Tieman’s recommendation, the board voted unanimously to participate in a federal Community Eligibility Provision program at the elementary and middle school levels which will allow the district to provide free lunch and free breakfast for all enrolled students. The district meets the minimum percentage of low-income students to participate in the program, Tieman said.
“If you have a certain percentage of poverty, you can offer breakfast and lunch for free,” Tieman said. The USDA reimburses participating districts a certain amount for each meal served based upon poverty levels and other factors. Participating school districts sign a four-year agreement but can opt out after one year if the program proves to be cost ineffective. CUSD 7 has participated in the program at the elementary level for the past four years, making this the year to either renew or discontinue participation.
Tieman said his staff “crunched the numbers” and found that the program would also be cost effective to offer at the middle school level. With a five percent increase in the number of meals served, the reimbursement the school receives would result in the district “breaking even” on the middle school program. A five percent spike translates into only 15 meals per day.
“We should break even on it,” Tieman noted. “At most it would cost us $5,000 to $6,000 for the year. If we can break even on this and kids who aren’t eating get to it, I’m for it.”
Participation in the program was approved on a motion by Carter, seconded by Hatlee.
EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE
Also on Tieman’s recommendation, the board agreed to contract with Blue Cross-Blue Shield to provide employee health insurance. Tieman said Blue Cross-Blue Shield has provided insurance for the past 11 years. This year, the district again sought bids for health care coverage, but because the district prefers a Preferred Provider policy, Blue Cross-Blue Shield was the only company to submit a bid.
The company’s original bid called for a 4.5 increase in premiums.
“I told them that was unacceptable and told them to go back and refigure,” Tieman said. As a result, the premium will be the same as last year with no changes in deductibles or coverage.
“The good news for employees is that their $6.36 per month contribution for health care will go down to about $1.50 because the union contract calls for the district to keep increasing its share of the cost every year,” Tieman said.
In other action, the board:
- Approved a draft Consolidated District Plan to be submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education. Tieman said the document is the same planning document the district has been preparing anyway to guide school improvement, but state law now requires the district to file the document with the state.
- Approved an intergovernmental agreement with five other school districts in Macoupin County in anticipation of a $2 million vocational education grant the county is expected to receive. Tieman said Carlinville School District is designated as the lead school to administer the grant. CUSD 7 is expected to receive about $400,000 for vocational education purposes.
- Accepted bids from Kohl’s Wholesale Foods, Quincy; Aunt Millie’s Bakeries, Ford Wayne, Ind.; and Prairie Farms Dairy, Carlinville to provide grocery items, bread and milk for the district’s food services programs for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Approved a prevailing wage resolution required by law which obligates the district to use service providers that pay their employees prevailing wages as determined by the Department of Labor.