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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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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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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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School board names new head football coach




Members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night voted unanimously to appoint Cory Bonstead as the Gillespie High School head football coach for the 2024-25 school year, replacing Dalton Barnes, whose resignation was accepted last month. In other action, the board voted to dismiss Assistant Varsity Football Coach Donnie Allen, and to not renew Allen’s appointment as the high school track and field coach.

The actions bring to an end several weeks of controversy related to the former head coach and assistant coach. Barnes resigned last month as both a high school physical education and social studies teacher as well as the head football coach after parents alleged he and Allen engaged in verbal and physical abuse of student-athletes. An online petition garnering more than 630 electronic signatures accused Barnes and Allen of “child abuse,” citing alleged “verbal abuse, physical abuse, influencing and coercing student-athletes to act against other student-athletes that have spoken out against the abuse, and attempting to limit the First Amendment rights of student-athletes with threats and manipulation.”

While Barnes submitted his resignation, Allen did not step down, precipitating Monday night’s actions to sever him from the district.

Bonstead was hired in July 2022 as a high school resource teacher. He has served as an assistant football coach for the past two years. Before coming to the school district, he was an assistant football coach for Galesburg’s Knox College, where he earned his degree. As a formality, the board also officially accepted Bonstead’s formal resignation as assistant freshman football coach and posted a vacancy for that position.

The actions to hire a new head coach and dismiss the assistant coach took place following a one-hour executive session to discuss personnel issues and other concerns. Upon returning to open session, the board voted unanimously to rehire a roster of certified staff members discussed in executive session.

The board accepted “with regret” the resignation for purposes of retirement of long-serving district custodian Jerry Balzraine, effective May 31, 2025.

Custodian Neil Balzraine, representing non-certificated employees, read a statement thanking Supt. Shane Owsley, Board President Mark Hayes and other board members for coming to an agreement with the union for a new contract covering non-certificated employees.

“Through night and weekends, we worked hard and got a lot done,” Balzraine said. “These meetings were most professional, cordial and productive.”


Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept the new contract, which reportedly was ratified by union members Monday morning.

In other personnel action, the board reappointed winter coaches, including Casey Sholtis as GHS head boy’s basketball coach, Jake Kellebrew as assistant high school boy’s basketball coach, Anthony Kravanya as an unpaid volunteer assistant boy’s basketball coach, Jarrod Herron as scholar bowl coach for high school as well as seventh and eighth grade, Andrea Williamson as high school dance coach, Elizabeth Thackery as seventh-grade volleyball coach, and Celia Jubelt as eighth-grade volleyball coach.

Board members unanimously voted to accept the resignation of middle school paraprofessional James Bryant and to post a vacancy for the position. The board also approved a maternity leave request for BenGil Elementary School paraprofessional Kristin Schoen.

The board voted unanimously in separate actions to accept the resignation of Celia Jubelt as head high school women’s volleyball coach and post a vacancy for the position, and to appoint Matt Brawner as a GHS assistant women’s basketball coach.

Also in separate actions, the board voted to post job openings for a district head cook and a district kitchen employee. Board member Amanda Ross who moved to approve both actions pointed out the openings represent existing positions. “I want to be clear that we are not creating new positions,” she said.


On a motion by Peyton Bernot, seconded by Ross, the board green-lit three safety projects to be funded with proceeds of a COPS Federal Safety Grant.

PASS Security of Fairview Heights was the sole bidder for adding door access security for entry to the middle school/high school complex at a cost of $81,210.

Barcom Security with base offices in Springfield, Swansea and St. Louis, submitted the sole bid of $113,000 for an updated fire alarm system for the middle school/high school complex.


Commercial Telephone Systems, Collinsville, also the sole bidder, will install an updated intercom system at the middle school at a cost of $62,769.

“The companies we hoped would submit bids did submit bids and the prices were what we expected,” Supt. Owsley told the board. The contracts call for the work to be completed by two days before the start of the 2024-25 school year.


The board voted to place on file for public review an amended budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Owsley advised that some numbers in the tentative amended budget are likely to change for the board’s final approval next month. State law requires a 30-day review period, however, even though some data to be reflected in the budget is still being collected.

“I can tell this will change,” Owsley said. “I will have final numbers and a presentation for the board in June.”

Last month, the board directed Owsley to begin work on a tentative fiscal 2025 budget authorized operational expenditures for the period between July 1 and whenever the new budget is approved. Typically, the district finalizes a budget for the current fiscal year in September.


Upon Owsley’s recommendation, the board declared two buses and one truck as surplus property. The three vehicles will be advertised for sale to the highest qualified bidders.


In other words action, the board:

  • Approved a high school course description book for the 2024-25 school year. GHS Principal Jill Rosentreter said there are no major changes from the course description document the district used last year.
  • Approved a revised school calendar. Supt. Owsley said the only change is setting 12:45 p.m. as the dismissal time on days that have early dismissal. Previously, early dismissal times were staggered at 12:30 and 1 p.m. The change is precipitated by the district’s decision to start the school day as the same time for all three attendance centers.
  • Approved a district-wide job description list.
  • Approved a corrected school fees schedule. Owsley said the action was needed because the schedule approved last month was inaccurate due to a computer error resulting from merging fee schedules from the district’s three attendance centers.

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