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CUSD #7 board turns down 2 consolidation requests

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Hayes explains the consolidation request from Carlinville and Litchfield.

On Monday evening, October 24, school district #7 school board denied two requests to consolidate high schools. The school board received their first reorganization request from Litchfield and their second one from Carlinville. Carlinville sent the same request three years ago when the Benld Elementary was condemned. Mark Hayes opened the discussion up for board members since Mr. Skeans had no comment to make about the consolidation. Hayes described the move as a high school only move. “They don’t want our middle school or elementary students, they just want our high school kids,” Hayes said, “They want numbers, they are in the red, and they are in debt.”

Peyton Bernot expressed his issue with Litchfield, “Litchfield is in Montgomery County and they are not subject to PTELL [Property Tax Extension Limitation Law] and with that, I don’t want to burden our taxpayers with their debt.” PTELL was passed by a referendum in Macoupin County in 1992 and is lacked in Montgomery County. Essentially, they can levy any amount they see fit. Hayes responded that he agreed with Bernot and went on to reemphasize, “They just want our numbers.” Griffel’s main concern with both Litchfield and Carlinville was the busing of the students as “industry is leaning toward technology.” Griffel went on to suggest that technology is the answer instead of moving bodies. “Wouldn’t it be easier to have a web teacher that can teach a classroom of kids via a room with drop-down microphones,” Griffel suggested, “This would make a lot more sense as technology continues to advance.”

Skeans agreed with board members as he is going to deny both of these requests and move forward with our “financially sound” district, but also agreed on sending a letter to Bunker Hill per Bernot’s request. Bernot suggested for CUSD #7 to send a letter to Bunker Hill and express our concern in a consolidation request. After further discussion and under Griffel’s recommendation, Skeans said he would draft a letter and send it the school board of Bunker Hill explaining that we are still interested in their school population and our offer is on the table. “I don’t think we need to say what the benefits are or anything else,” Griffel recommended, “We just need to say our offer is still on the table and to contact us when you are ready.”

Under personnel issues, the school board voted 5-1 to hire Neil Balzraine as custodian for CUSD #7. With the only oblige coming from Peyton Bernot, the school board approved Balzraine who already has experience in the school district from prior custodian employment.

Joseph Tieman explains the school report cards.

In new business, the school board authorized the adoption of a resolution 6-0 for the annexation of Ben-Gil Elementary into the municipal limits of the City of Gillespie per ILCS 5/6-1-14. The board also approved the sale of their surplus property that rests in the town of Henderson. “This property has been surplussed in Henderson which consists of about 11 lots,” Hayes mentioned, “It is actually been a cost to the school district and I believe there are horses grazing on it now.” After a 6-0 vote, the motion was carried and the school board will sell the property to the highest bidder.

Assistant Superintendent Joe Tieman presented the school report cards to the school board Monday evening. “I would caution you against data,” Tieman explained, “It can be used any way you want it to be used.” Tieman went on to explain that as a district, reading scores increased 4.7% while math scores increased 2%. The district was unable to meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Benld Elementary’s reading scores increased 5.6% while their math scores increased 10.1%. Only white and economically disadvantaged met AYP in reading while all students met AYP in math. Gillespie Middle School’s reading scores jumped 4.6% while the math scores fell 4.6%. Again in the middle school, white economically disadvantaged students did meet AYP in reading but the school did not meet AYP in math. In the high school, reading scores increased 2.5% while math dropped 1.3% and neither subject met AYP in the high school.

According to Superintendent Skeans, barrier grouting will be completed this week at the new school site. “We are finding where we have to build the barriers,” Skeans said. Barrier grouting will be complete this week on the south side to permit infill grouting to begin. According to Skeans, the infill grouting will run to the barrier grouts and fill. The barrier grouts have to be tested before and that has already been done. The infill grouting, which is set to begin this week, will take approximately two weeks to be finished. Foundation and structural steel will take about 4 weeks to get the steel fabricated and delivered to the site. Structural steel will be able to be set in mid-December and will take place until the end of January, according to Skeans.

The October bills were approved and paid under the consent agenda. The bills which total $116,426.02 are as follows:

  • $75,311.15 – Education Fund
  • $29,228.61 – Building Fund
  • $11,886.26 – Transportation Fund

Administrators from each school building then updated the school board of the current status of their school:

Mr. Dennis Tiburzi, high school principal, advised the school board that the month of September attendance was 94.7% and first quarter grade reports were sent home with the students. Tiburzi recorded that 49% of the students achieved honor roll. Per grant money obtained from the Illinois Department of Transportation of the amount of $2,000, Tiburzi explained the grant money will go to the MPACT’D program to fund various projects throughout the year. In other high school news, parent teacher conferences will take place this Thursday and Friday (October 27 & 28). In sports news, Tiburzi congratulated the volleyball team on first place in the Prairie State Conference which is the first time in 15 years. Finally, Tiburzi went on to say the football team will complete in playoffs this Friday.

Ms. Lori Emmons, middle school principal, advised the school board that 62% of students made honor roll in 8th grade, while 67% achieved it in 7th grade and then 58% in 6th grade. Board member Bill Carter asked to compare our standings to other schools around since “the public is always comparing us to everyone else.” Emmons went on to say it was just honor roll and is not comparable to able to be compared to other schools in the nearby area. In other news at Gillespie Middle School, the Gold Canyon Candles fundraiser was a great success. Emmons closed with the boys basketball program, their first game will be on Halloween (October 31) in Carlinville.

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Ms. Angela Turcol, elementary principal, explained to the school board that $646 was made off the bake sale from the past Saturday for the Promethaean boards. With Dr. Michael Haggerty’s $4,000 donation, the school has enough for 2 boards and $1,000 to their next two, according to Turcol. Turcol went on to say the Halloween Parade for the students will be at 1:00pm on October 31 at the track. Parents and community are welcome to attend.

IMACT'D and Student Council update the school board on what they are doing and what they have planned.

Taylor Monke and Katie Stromsland then updated the board on MPACT’D, the safe driving group in the high school. According to Stromsland, this is the 5th straight year MPACT’D has obtained the IDOT grant for the amount of $2,000. The group is also set to participate in AT&T “It can wait”. This project is directed toward students who take a pledge to not text while driving, “it can wait” is referring to the text message. MPACT’D is going to participate in the “Act out Loud” grant, according to Taylor Monke. The Act out Loud grant has 3 stages. Monke also mentioned that the group will host a ‘Road to Reality’ at the school along with a driver’s education night for parents and students to participate in. The group will continue to do seat belt checks at the school and compute the data recorded from the checks.

Elise Newman represented student council at Monday night’s meeting. Newman explained that student council has accomplished “quite a bit” this year and provided insight for more events that are planned. According to Newman, student council is planning a “Faculty of the Month” program along with a “Teacher Favorites” to recognize the faculty. Student council will continue to decorate the halls for Christmas and have a lock-in one night during Christmas break.

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News

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Cases filed during July 7 through July 13. Visit the “Court News” category under the “Community News” tab for other editions.

FELONIES

Timothy D. Conlee, 29 of Gillespie, is charged with aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving in connection with a July 6 incident.

Dylan J. Arview, 25 of Benld, is charged with driving under the influence while license revoked or suspending, DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving 15-20 mph above the limit in connection with a July 5 incident.

Bobby L. Walker, 35 of Sorento, is charged with driving revoked/suspended with a DUI, driving on revoked license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, displayed registration plate, and expired registration in connection with a June 27 incident.

Dustin W. Gooch, 34 of Beecher City, is charged with aggravated fleeing/bodily injury, unlawful display of a title, improper use of registration/title, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and registration light in connection with a June 17 incident.

MISDEMEANORS

Jordan A. Black, 24 of Gillespie, is charged with battery/causing bodily harm in connection with a July 8 incident.

Dustin R. Stieglitz, 37 of Shipman, is charged with aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon in connection to a June 29 incident.

Steven A. Kroll, 33 of Eagarville, is charged with resisting a peace officer, fire fighter, or corrections employee in connection with a June 26 incident.

TRAFFIC

David B. Brown, 58 of Virden, is charged with cancelled/revoked/suspended registration in connection with a July 3 incident.

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Jennifer L. Roberts, 47 of Worden, is charged with driving on a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in connection with July 5 incident.

Andrew L. Connoyer, 31 of Bethalto, is charged with improper use of registration, driving 15-20 mph above the limit, and no valid registration in connection with July 7 incident.

Megan E. Bertoldi, 37 of Gillespie, is charged with leaving the scene in connection with July 11 incident.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE FILED

  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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

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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:

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  • 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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Gillespie Library, United Community Bank to host Fraud and Scam Prevention seminar on July 22

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Gillespie Public Library (Photo by Gillespie Public Library)

Friends of the Gillespie Public Library and United Community Bank are hosting a joint “Fraud and Scam Prevention” seminar at on Monday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.

The seminar will focus on today’s common scams and frauds, which includes imposter and check scams, money mule fraud and those that target seniors. Presenters will be Jenni Alepra of Gillespie UCB and Kennen Bertolis of Carlinville UCB.

The seminar is open to the public and is free of charge. For additional questions, call the Gillespie Public Library at 217-839-3614.

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