Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education members voted on Monday night to adopt an $18.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, and voted unanimously to ban a local parent from attending extracurricular activities on school property for the remainder of the 2022-23 academic year.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the district budget following 15-minute budget hearing required by law. During the hearing, Supt. Shane Owsley emphasized the budget reflects anticipated expenditures and revenues as of July 1 this year. Unexpected expenditures and/or revenue could require the budget to be amended at a later date. Owsley noted, however, that he included small amounts in several funds for contingencies as a hedge against having to formally amend the budget later.
Later in the meeting, the board authorized an application for a state maintenance grant of up to $50,000. Owsley said the district is authorized to use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Replacement (ESSER) funds to fund the district’s match for the grant. If awarded, the grant will change both the revenue and expenditure sides of the budget, which would probably precipitate amending the budget.
Owsley said the district is continuing to benefit from substantial receipts of cash through the state’s Evidence-Based School Funding Formula. CUSD 7 current is rated as a Tier I school, which it is “considered a district most in need.” Next year, however, the district could be elevated to Tier II, which would reduce the Evidence-Based funding the district receives next fiscal year, according to Owsley.
“We have a balanced budget,” Owsley said. “Fund balances are going up with the exception of Capital Projects.” Once the debt incurred for building the middle school science lab is retired in July, the Capital Projects fund also should start to increase again.
The budget projects total revenues of $18,886,077 with expenditures estimated at $18,494,524, resulting in a budget surplus of $545,503. While this year’s budget is balanced, Owsley reminded the board it includes significant amounts of ESSER money that will disappear from the revenue stream in the next two years.
Fund balances at the beginning of the fiscal year totaled $10,611,222. With this fiscal year’s surplus, the district is expected to end the year with $11,002,775 in the bank—slightly more than half the district’s total operating budget.
With projected revenues of $13,405,997 and $13,131,543 in expected expenditures, the Education Fund comprises the lion’s share of the district’s overall budget. State funding is expected to represent 68 percent of total revenues. Local funding, including property taxes and fees, will represent 13 percent of the revenue, and federal sources, including ESSER funds, is expected to comprise 19 percent of the funding. Sixty-one percent of the fund’s revenues are expected to be spent on instructional costs, which includes teacher salaries. For the first time this year, Owsley earmarked two percent—nearly $285,000—for contingencies as a hedge against having to amend the budget if expenditures exceed the current estimate.
Revenue of $2,505,106 is expected for the Building Operations and Maintenance Fund with federal funding in the amount of $1,727,300 comprising nearly 70 percent of the revenue. Estimated expenditures include $2,369,615 for custodial salaries, general maintenance, supplies and utilities, plus a $60,491 cushion for contingencies. The Building Fund budget also includes $1.7 million in expected expenditures to upgrade the HVAC system for the high school/middle school complex.
The district’s Transportation Fund is expected to take in $782,798 in revenues, with 61 percent of that amount coming from state sources. Local revenue, including tax dollars and reimbursements from parent-funded sports programs, is expected to make up 31 percent ($237,791) of the total revenue. Projected expenditures include $60,717 set aside for contingencies with the remaining $647,081 in projected expenditures earmarked for support services, salaries and supplies.
For Debt Service, the budget anticipates revenue of $1,213,053 with projected expenditures of $1,226,473. Owsley said the district will make it’s final debt service payment for the Middle School science lab in July, which will substantially reduce expenditures from the fund for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Revenue for the Capital Projects fund is projected at $25,000 with revenue coming entirely from the county’s one-cent school facilities sales tax. The district expects $400,000 in sales tax revenue, but $153,950 will go Debt Service for science lab payments, along with $75,000 to pay down existing bond debt. Capital Projects has projected expenditures of $81,000, which would leave a deficit of $56,000 for the fiscal year. The fund started with a bank balance of $567,946, however, and will end the year with a $357,996 fund balance.
Working Cash fund revenue is projected at $34,651 with no anticipated expenditures. Revenue for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Social Security is expected to total $484,323 with expenditures of $482,604, and revenue for the Tort Fund is expected to be $435,749 with expenditures projected at $435,000. The Tort Fund is used to pay for legal services and insurance costs.
The board met in executive session for 70 minutes with much of the closed-door discussion apparently devoted to deciding whether or not to ban Jason Schalk, father of a Gillespie Middle School student, from attending sporting events and other extracurricular activities on school property for the remainder of the academic year. The executive session was preceded by 20-minute public hearing during which Schalk was permitted to present his side of a Sept. 8 incident during which he confronted head football coach Dalton Barnes.
Owsley told the board Schalk was accused of violating Section 830 of the board’s policy manual which states the district expects visitors to the campus to exercise “mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct” on school property. Specifically, the policy prohibits, among other things, threatening behavior toward staff members, harassment, unsportsmanlike conduct, the use of profanity and behavior that disrupts or impedes school activities.
Owsley said he was called to the football field during a Junior Varsity practice session after Schalk’s son “got into a heated argument” with Barnes. According to Owsley, the player called his father who arrived a short time later and confronted the coach. The ensuing exchange devolved into physical threats and shouted profanities.
In a meeting afterward in Owsley’s office, Owsley said Schalk acknowledged he “should have handled it better” and that he had made threats and used profanity.
“However, he felt there was wrong on both sides,” Owsley said.
Owsley reported that Schalk alleged Barnes was “in his son’s face” and spat on the 15-year-old player.
Speaking on his own behalf, Schalk told the board he was driving with his two other children in the vehicle when his son called him. “He was crying,” Schalk said. “He said the coach was ‘in my face, cussing at me and he spit on me’,” Schalk said he drove to the football field to deal with the situation.
“It was pretty obvious,” he said. “There was a 15-year-old kid off in the corner crying his eyes out because someone just spit on him. I was worked up. Some adult just spit in my son’s face. I’m still upset about it.”
Schalk admitted his language was profane during the confrontation, but he alleged Barnes’ approach to him also was laced with vulgarities. “He was cussing the same as me,” he said.
At some point, Schalk said he urged Barnes to come into the street for a fight and that Barnes initially agreed. Schalk said Barnes, however, stopped short of leaving the field, at which point Schalk suggested that he “call his boss.” Owsley reportedly arrived a few minutes later to defuse the situation.
“What’s being done to the coach?” Schalk asked. “I’ve been punished and my son has been punished. I’m seeking discipline for this guy. You just don’t spit in somebody’s face. That’s unsanitary. It’s disgusting.”
Owsley said that, if warranted, the incident could become a part of Barnes’ performance evaluation. Barnes is a first-year social sciences teacher and was hired as head coach this summer after former head coach Jake Bilbruck’s contract was not renewed.
Schalk alleged Barnes targeted his son because of a critical comment Schalk had posted on Facebook about Barnes’ coaching. He said Barnes belittled his son for wearing his football jersey to school while other students who did the same thing were not questioned. He claimed his son was harassed and targeted as retribution against him.
“I had forgotten about it,” he said. “I had forgotten about it. I put a critical comment on Facebook. When I remembered that, it all made sense.”
Jessica Street, another football parent, said a number of Junior Varsity parents had issues with Barnes. Asked how many parents had concerns with Barnes, Street replied, “At least 12. The majority of parents have a problem with Coach Barnes.”
Street also praised Schalk as a consistent cheerleader for Junior Varsity players, calling encouragement from the sidelines and boosting the team’s morale. Schalk said his son is considering quitting the team after the incident. “He said, ‘I look up in the stands to see you and you’re not there, and it just doesn’t seem right’,” Schalk reported.
Board member Bill Carter tried to confirm whether Barnes deliberately spat in the player’s face or if it was an inadvertent result of being in the boy’s face. Schalk claimed it was a deliberate act.
Returning to open session after deliberating about the incident, Board President Mark Hayes said written testimony from other coaches and players who witnessed the incident contradicted Schalk’s version of the incident. He noted that the board had the option of banning Schalk for a full calendar year but asked for a motion to instead exclude Schalk from extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year. That penalty was unanimously imposed on a motion by Carter, seconded by Weye Schmidt.
Schalk did not react to the decision and left the meeting shortly after the vote.
BAND AND CHOIR TOUR
Following a brief presentation by band instructor Zach Simon and choir director Benjamin McCullough, the board approved an April trip for music students to Nashville, Tenn. The itinerary, offered by Educational Tours, Inc., includes visits to the Grand Old Opry, National Museum of African American Music, Ryman Auditorium and the RCA Recording Studio.
Planners tentatively planned to leave by chartered bus on Thursday, April 20, and return on Sunday, April 23, but may trim the trip by one day as a cost savings measure. Promoters originally priced the trip at $800 per student but recently notified Simon and McCullough that the cost had increased to $1,125.
The teachers said initial interest in the trip indicated they would have to take two coaches to accommodate students. If some students drop out before April, they said they might be able to cut back to one bus to save more money. As in past, the band and choir will sponsor fundraising activities over the coming months but participating students will be responsible for covering costs not covered by fundraising.
Due to the COVID pandemic, there has been no music tour since 2018 when the choir and band traveled to New Orleans. Board member Becky Hatlee said she went on that trip as a chaperone.
“It was a great trip,” she said. “This trip is incorporating more music-related activities.”
Hatlee moved to approve the trip with a second by Jack Burns.
On the recommendation of Supt. Owsley, the board voted unanimously to renew a wide-ranging insurance policy and EWC Insurance and Zenith Insurance for an annual premium of $245,531. EWC provides coverage for property, liability, vehicles and umbrella coverage; Zenith provides coverage for workers compensation.
The new premium represents an increase of about $30,000 from last year’s premium of $218,666.
Owsley said the increase is due, in part, to the addition of the new Vocational Education building. Workers compensation increased significantly because “we had claims and they were big claims,” Owsley said.
At the request of board members, Owsley said he would seek bids from other providers for next year. Because the current policy is near termination, however, he recommended accepting the EWC/Zenith bid for this year.
REMOTE LEARNING CONTRACTS
In separate actions, the board accepted contracts with One Room, Inc. and Parallel, Inc. to provide remoter learning services through the district’s distance learning lab. Owsley said the remote learning options were necessary because the district has been unable to find a Spanish teacher for the district and has received no applications to fill and speech and language professional.
Parallel is providing speech and language services while One Room is filling the Spanish position.
High School Principal Jill Rosentreter said the Spanish sessions are going well, utilizing a remote Spanish teacher who actually is in Spain.
“Remote learning isn’t great,” Owsley said, “but at least it allows us to fulfill these requirements. It’s not perfect but it’s what we have.”
In other action, the board:
- Voted to move existing accounts from Associated Bank, Benld, to United Community Bank, Gillespie, in view of Associated Bank’s intended closure of the Benld location. Board policy calls for school funds to be deposited locally.
- Accepted “with regret” the announced retirement of music teacher Leana Sawyer, effective at the end of the 2023-24 school year.
- Hire Jeff Mueller as district custodian, pending a routine background check, and voted to post a vacancy for a district custodian.
- Reviewed sixth-day enrollment figures which put school enrollment at 1,114 on the sixth day of the school year. Owsley said another 39 students have enrolled since then, bringing enrollment to 1,153. The enrollment figure is down slightly from previous years. The average enrollment over the past eight years is 1,257.