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Applications open for Golden Apple’s scholars and accelerators



Aspiring teachers encouraged to apply to programs aimed at addressing Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis 

ILLINOIS – Golden Apple, a non-profit committed to preparing, supporting and mentoring aspiring teachers, is now accepting applications for both its Accelerators and Scholars programs. Golden Apple seeks to provide a pathway for aspiring educators to enter the profession through these programs and fill crucial open teaching positions across the state. 

Illinois faces an ongoing teacher shortage crisis, leading to classrooms lacking the highly-effective, well-qualified educators our students deserve. According to the 2022 – 2023 Educator Shortage Report from the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents, 79% of school districts statewide reported having a teacher shortage problem in 2022, with more than 2700 open teacher, special education, and support staff positions remaining unfilled or filled with someone less than qualified. The teacher shortage crisis leads to teacher burnout, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of educators in areas such as bilingual and special education and STEM.

“Opening applications for our Scholars and Accelerators programs is always an exciting time for Golden Apple, but it’s particularly meaningful this year as we look to welcome the largest classes of Scholars and Accelerators in our history,” said Golden Apple President Alan Mather. “There are so many people out there looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of future generations who just need a path to get into the classroom. Golden Apple’s Scholars and Accelerators programs provide that path, and we encourage all of those interested in teaching to apply. We look forward to hearing from inspiring future teachers from all across our state!”

The Accelerators program is a 15-month teacher residency and licensure program that expedites the preparation of highly-effective teachers in areas-of-need throughout the state. Geared toward career changers with a bachelor’s degree and current college students not already on a teaching path, program participants take courses at a partner university, receive instruction from established educators, and work with mentors who provide ongoing support throughout the school year and into their first years of teaching. Accelerators receive a $10,000 stipend and have their University-based licensure tuition and fees funded by the program. 

The Scholars program focuses on teacher preparation and tuition assistance for high school seniors as well as freshman and sophomore college students in Illinois who have the determination and drive to teach. Scholars receive up to $23,000 in financial assistance, extensive classroom teaching experience, academic and social-emotional support, job placement assistance and mentoring from Golden Apple’s award-winning teaching faculty. Throughout the history of the program, 53% of Golden Apple Scholars have been Scholars of color and 97% of Scholars find employment within 90 days of graduation.

To learn more and apply for either the Accelerators or Scholars program, interested parties can visit and

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Community News

School board disciplines staff member; hires AD and Student Services Coordinator




In a relatively brief meeting Monday night, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education approved a “resolution of remedial warning” against an unidentified district teacher, and hired a new Student Services Coordinator and Athletic Director.

The actions followed an 80-minute executive session during which board members presumably primarily discussed personnel issues. The regular monthly meeting of the board was moved up by one week to fill key positions, such as the Athletic Director and Student Services Coordinator, prior to the start of the school year next month. The district was taken by surprise when former Student Services Coordinator Stephanie Bray and Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli both announced their retirements within days of each other.

Supt. Shane Owsley said the resolution of remedial warning is a disciplinary action representing “a second strike, so to speak.” Neither the teacher or the nature of the infraction was disclosed in open session.

In other action, the board, voted unanimously to hire Shelsie Timmermeier as the district’s Student Services Coordinator for the 2024-25 school year, stepping into the vacancy created by Bray’s retirement, pending confirmation of certification and a background check. In a separate action, the board also appointed Timmermeier as an assistant high school women’s volleyball coach.

Jeremy Smith was hired, also by a unanimous vote, as the district’s Athletic Director for the 2024-25 school year. In a related matter, Smith’s resignation as middle school head baseball coach was accepted. Additionally, the board posted the coaching position as vacant for the coming school year.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board hired Alex Jasper as a high school social science teacher for the coming school year. The board also voted unanimously to hire Tate Wargo as a first-year, non-tenured physical education instructor, pending confirmation of certification. Both positions were vacated as a result of the sudden resignation of Dalton Barnes in April as head football coach, physical education teacher and social science teacher. 

In related matters, the board also hired Wargo Monday night as an eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and accepted Jasper’s resignation as a district paraprofessional and posted the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, the board:

  • Hired Amanda Ewin as a one-on-one aide.
  • Hired Anthony Kravanya as a freshman men’s basketball coach.
  • Appointed Melissa Heigert as a volunteer assistant high school softball coach.

In other action, the board gave routine approval to a list of policies provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Supt. Owsley also provided a brief update on the progress being made on safety projects expected to be completed before the start of the school year, including installation of a new intercom system, a card-reader entry system and shatter-proof protective film on exterior windows.

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CUSD 7 News

School board amends budget by $300,000, accepts athletic director’s retirement




Mike Bertagnolli

Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education members on Monday night approved a $300,000 adjustment to the fiscal 2024 district budget, accepted the retirement of long-serving Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli, and decided, after lengthy debate, to commit nearly $90,000 in grant funds to adding solar panels on the roof of BenGil Elementary School.

Action to adopt the amended budget followed a 10-minute public hearing at the beginning of the meeting during which Supt. Shane Owsley explained the need for adjusting the budget numbers. State law limits district expenditures to whatever is budgeted for specific line items. The budgeting process, however, is complicated by the fact that school districts may not know what revenue will be forthcoming from state and federal sources when the budget is passed in August or September each year. This year, for example, the state has approved about $600,000 in state aid to the district but those funds have not yet been released by the comptroller. Since there is doubt about whether those funds will be released before June 30, Owsley said there is uncertainty about whether that $600,000 should be considered revenue for fiscal 2024, which ends June 30, or for fiscal 2025, which starts July 1.

Additionally, the district’s expenditures exceeded the budget in three specific funds—Transportation, Site and Construction, and Tort—for fiscal 2024. The amended budget increases both expenditures and revenue in those funds to not only cover expenses but provide a slight buffer. The newly amended budget also includes additional revenue in  Education, Debt Service, and Building Operations and Maintenance to provide more of a buffer than originally slated to cover any late bills that could come in after June 30

“Trying to predict revenue and expenditures in August and September is much more difficult than in June,” Owsley quipped. “An amended budget is required anytime you spend more than you expected to spend in August.”

Under the amended budget, revenue for the Transportation Fund is adjusted upward from $924,329 to $933,060. Nearly 95 percent of the budgeted revenue—$884,322—has been received and deposited as of Monday’s meeting. Expenditures for Transportation were upped from 861,359 originally budgeted to $901,359, $872,006 of which has been spent.

Owsley said the increases were necessitated by unexpected personnel costs for additional bus aides and special bus aides, plus the acquisition of new routing software that allows the Transportation Director to efficiently map the most effective routes for drivers to run on their daily routes. Owsley said the software is especially useful now that the district is going to consolidated bus routes to deliver and pick up students and the same time rather than staggered times.

The cost of retaining architectural services for projects resulting from a federal safety grant and from approval of an alternate revenue bond issue precipitated increasing both revenue and expenditures for the Site and Construction budget.  On the revenue side, the budget was increased from $2,054,870 to $2,351,669, reflecting unanticipated revenue from the safety grant and bond issue. Expenditures were increased from $780,000 budgeted last September to $986,229, of which $929,598 has been spent.

Increases in the cost of mine subsidence insurance required the board to boost Tort Fund expenditures from the originally budgeted $453,750 to $509,539, of which $476,366 has been spent. The revenue side of the budget was increased from $282,206 to $286,910.


The board voted unanimously to adopt the amended budget on a motion by Peyton Bernot, seconded by Amanda Ross.


On a motion by Kellie Vesper, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board accepted “with regret” Mike Bertagnolli’s resignation for retirement as Gillespie High School instructor and Athletic Director. The resignation is effective June 30. Board members noted

Bertagnolli was a part of the district’s staff for 19 years. He served the last 13 years as Athletic Director, according to board member Tiburzi, who held that position before Bertagnolli was named. In addition to accepting Bertagnolli’s retirement, the board voted to post the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, all of which followed a one-hour executive session, the board appointed Korben Clark as a high school freshman football coach and hired Jordan Bartok as the head high school women’s volleyball coach, pending a background check and verification of certification.

In separate actions, the board hired Lexie Bussman as the head middle school cheerleading coach, accepted Bussman’s resignations from her position as a BenGil Elementary School one-on-one aid and as a high school assistant volleyball coach, and posted vacancies for both spots.

Board members voted unanimously to hire Emilie Campbell as a district paraprofessional, pending verification of certification and a background check, and hired Olivia VanDoren as a district one-on-one paraprofessional aide, pending verification of certification and a background check.

With separate actions, the board voted unanimously to post as vacant a student services coordinator position, and a high school social science instructor position.

Board members voted unanimously to reappoint the following spring coaches for the upcoming school year: Chase Peterson, middle school boys track; Jacob West, middle school girls track; Casey Fellin, high school women’s soccer; Michael Rodriguez, assistant high school women’s soccer; Lindsay Bearden, volunteer assistant women’s soccer; Jeremy Smith, high school head men’s baseball; Tim Wargo, assistant high school baseball; Adam Tallman, Dan Smith and Tate Wargo, volunteer assistant baseball; Michelle Smith, head women’s softball; Jim Matesa, assistant women’s softball; Joe Kelly, volunteer assistant women’s softball; Alex Ottersburg, assistant men’s track; Korben Clark, head women’s track; Jacob Kellebrew, bass fishing; and Ryan Bussman and J.O. Halterman, volunteer assistant bass fishing.



Board members spent several minutes discussing how to spend nearly $90,000 in grant funds the district is expected to receive as a result of a Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) grant application for which the city of Gillespie applied. CUSD 7 was one of 16 participating taxing bodies to receive grant funds under the city’s joint application. The city will be responsible for disbursing $1.1 million in grant funds to the participating agencies under terms of the grant, which is designed to mitigate against revenue loss resulting from the closure of Shay Mine No. 1.

Owsley said the school district is expected to receive about $98,167, three percent of which will be earmarked for grant adminstration. Spendable revenue from the grant will amount to about $87,000. To get its share of the grant money, the district must complete a project authorized under terms of the grant and apply to the city for reimbursement after the project is completed.

Owsley said he met with City Treasurer Dan Fisher about the grant and learned that Fisher wants documentation about how the district intends to spend its share of the grant by July 1, so he can submit it to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity by July 15.

“There’s a wide range of things we can do,” Owsley said, but he cautioned some projects could come with “strings attached.” Any project that might require earth moving, such as building a parking lot, would require an environmental student, which could cut into the grant funds. Likewise, altering an existing building would trigger a historical asset study.

While not taking a formal vote, the board authorized Owsley by consensus to indicate to Fisher the district would use its share of the grant to buy solar panels for installation at BenGil Elementary School. The district can circumvent the grant’s requirements for environmental or historical asset studies by earmarking the funds for the acquisition of materials and using the district’s own funds for installation.

“It sounds kind of foolish to eat up funds for environmental testing,” Bill Carter commented.

Bernot indicated the board should opt to buy materials only with grant funds, and use local funds for labor to install them. Additionally, because of the national push to install more solar, the district would be eligible for a 70 percent reimbursement from Ameren in addition to reductions in power usage.

“I think solar is the path of least resistance,” Bernot said.


Board President Mark Hayes agreed saying the district could avoid unnecessary restrictions on how the money is used, and get 70 percent of the investment back. Recapturing 70 percent of the grant money, plus reducing the school’s power consumption, he said, would provide the greatest benefit to the community.

BenGil Elementary was designed to potentially be energy self-sufficient. The number of solar panels on the roof now currently provides about 10 percent of the energy needed to run the building. Owsley said additional solar power would reduce the building’s reliance on the power grid but would not make the building totally self-sufficient. While self-sufficiency is a goal, Owsley said it would require three acres of solar panels to accomplish that objective.


The board voted unanimously to authorize Owsley to invest funds from the Ashby Family Trust in nine-month certificates of deposit earning five percent interest. The funds currently are in a money market account earning only 1.25 percent. Owsley said the goal is to maximize the return on the memorial funds, which are used to fund three annual scholarships named for members of the Ashby family.


In separate actions, the board voted unanimously to accept Prairie Farms Dairy’s bid to supply milk products for the 2024-25 school year, and Kohl’s Wholesale, Quincy, to provide bread products. Kohl’s Wholesale also was the successful bidder to provide food commodities for the school lunch program. Kohl’s bid reportedly includes options for fresh fruits and vegetables, and Owsley said district cooks are expected to meet with Kohl’s representatives soon to discuss offering more options of food choices to students.


The board voted to renew health care coverage with Blue Cross-Blue Shield, with a premium increase of about five percent for the same coverage.


The board unanimously approved a Consolidated District Plan. Owsley said the plan basically is a formality the district must have in place to maintain eligibility for certain grant funds.

In separate actions, the board also approved teachers’ handbook and a coaches’ handbook for the 2024-25 school year.


The board voted unanimously to move the regular July meeting of the board from July 22 to Monday, July 15, presumably to facilitate filling vacancies prior to the upcoming school year.


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Community News

School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting




Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.


The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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