Gearing up for an expanded program, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night approved hiring teaching staff and non-certificated staff for this year’s summer school. The action followed formal certification of election results and swearing-in of three members re-elected to their seats during the consolidated election earlier this month.
In other action, the board agreed to offer for sale two city lots the district acquired as a result of a gift and signed onto an intergovernmental agreement committing to participate in the South Central Illinois Regional Workforce Training and Innovation Center “if and when it makes sense to do so.”
The newly-organized board is the same as the old board in both composition and organization. During a brief meeting of the former board, the board unanimously certified election results as follows: 588 votes for Dennis Tiburzi, 555 votes for Don Dobrino, 540 votes for Bill Carter, and 283 votes for challenger Christopher Hicks. Upon reconvening the new board, re-elected board members Tiburzi, Dobrino and Carter were sworn in, and the board quickly re-elected Mark Hayes as Board President, Jenni Alepra as vice-president, and Carter as board secretary.
Hayes, who will continue to serve as treasurer in addition to the president, reappointed all board members to their current committee spots. Those appointments are as follows:
- Building and Grounds: Carter (Chair), Hayes and Becky Hatlee.
- Finance: Dobrino (Chair) and Alepra.
- Athletic: Carter (Chair), Dobrino and Tiburzi.
- Policy: Hayes (Chair), Carter and Weye Schmidt.
- Superintendent Evaluation: Alepra (Chair), Schmidt and Hayes.
- School Improvement: Hatlee (GHS), Alepra (GMS) and Tiburzi (BGES).
- Community: Alepra (Chair), Dobrino and Schmidt.
- Crisis Plan Review: Hayes.
- District Improvement: Tiburzi.
- Parent-Teacher: Hatlee.
- Strategic Plan: Schmidt.
- Contract Negotiations: Board officers.
- Representative to South Macoupin Association for Special Education: Hatlee.
Returning to open session following a 75-minute executive session, the board voted unanimously to make the following summer school hires:
- Dan Edgerton, high school math.
- Amy Goldasich, high school English.
- Korben Clark, high school science.
- Jennifer Brown, high school social science.
- Chase Peterson, middle school math.
- Christina Blevins, middle school English.
- Casey Edgerton, middle school social science.
- Jarrod Herron, middle school science.
- Jennifer Parker, elementary teacher.
- Vanessa Barrett, elementary teacher.
- Nancy Schmidt, elementary teacher.
- Karissa Smith, elementary teacher.
- Valerie Jubelt, elementary teacher.
- Additionally, the board hired Penny Feeley and Janice Hammann as summer school food service workers.
Participation in this year’s summer school program is expected to be unusually high due to the number of students who have fallen behind on academic goals or otherwise need to “catch up” on course materials as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instruction for the bulk of the current school year has been either exclusively online or a hybrid offering of in-classroom/remote learning. During administrator reports, BenGil Elementary Principal Angela Sandretto said 60 elementary students have confirmed they will attend summer classes. Middle School Principal Tara Cooper said at least 38 middle school students will attend summer school. High school students are continuing to sign up for summer classes, according to High School Principal Jill Rosentreter, but the number is likely to be near 100 students.
In other personnel action, the board accepted the resignation of full-route bus driver/Transportation Director Michael Smith less than a month after the board voted to hire him as a replacement for retiring Transportation Director Gary Niehaus. No reason for the resignation was provided. The board also voted to post the position as once again vacant. The board also posted a vacancy for a half-route bus driver.
The board accepted “with regret” the resignation of Kenna West, speech and language pathologist, effective at the end of the current school year and to post the position as vacant.
Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation for purposes of retirement of District Resource Officer Jassen Stinnett, effective June 11, as well as the retirement of BenGil elementary school paraprofessional Laura O’Brien. The board accepted the resignation of Suzy Tiburzi from the position of BenGil Yearbook sponsor, and the resignation of Jono Verticchio as mend’s soccer coach.
By unanimous vote, Nikki Brawner was hired as assistant high school girls basketball coach, Chase Peterson was hired as head middle school girls track coach, and Wade Hendricks was hired as a district custodian pending a routine background check.
SOUTH CENTRAL ILLINOIS REGIONAL WORKFORCE TRAINING AND INNOVATION CENTER
Following a brief discussion, the board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement in support of the South Central Regional Workforce Training and Innovation Center currently under construction in Litchfield. The 48,000-square-foot facility is funded with Rebuild Illinois funds and is being developed under the Litchfield School District. Upon completion, the facility will offer training in agricultural technology, auto mechanics, metal fabrication and welding, building trades, union trades, truck driving, road building and other career opportunities. The agreement calls for the local district to send students to the facility “when it makes sense to do so,” according to Owsley.
The board also approved an agreement with Lewis and Clark Community College to offer dual credit courses. Under the agreement, Gillespie High School students can earn college credits recognized by LCCC by successfully completing specific advanced courses designated as dual credit courses.
On a motion by Alepra, seconded by Schmidt, the board approved a resolution to accept sealed bids to sell two residential city lots in Gillespie to the highest qualified bidders. The district has no use for the lots, both of which were gifted to the district. Both lots measure 50-by-140 feet, are vacant and are located on Francis Street. They are appraised at $3,000 to $5,000. Bids will be opened during the May 21 meeting of the board.
EARLY GRADUATION REQUESTS
Board members voted unanimously to approve early graduation requests from Haylee Ikerman, Maci Smith Brock Doty, Olivia Borror and Rayven McDermitt contingent upon meeting all graduation requirements and credits.
The board briefly discussed a request from Litchfield High School to play a larger role in administering a men’s soccer coop involving Litchfield and Gillespie high schools. Owsley said the number of participants fielded by Litchfield is substantially greater than the numbers provided by Gillespie. Accordingly, he said, Litchfield would like to play a larger role, possibly even becoming the host school and the site for home games.
Board President Hayes said his concern would be the possibility of Litchfield deciding to end the coop at the end of the contract. “We don’t want to get to the end of two years and get left high and dry,” he said.
The board also heard briefly from retiring high school teacher Jack Burns who advocated for resurrecting the high school cross country program. He said the program pairs well with the track and field program and that Gillespie and Vandalia currently are the only schools in the conference without a cross country program.
President Hayes told Burns a cross country program was previously authorized by the board so no specific action would be needed for a group of parents to spearhead a new program.
In other action, the board:
- Authorized Superintendent Owsley to purchase two mowers at a cost not to exceed $11,000 each.
- Adopted an amended 2020-21 school calendar designating May 5 an in-service school improvement day to account for the last of five remote learning days allotted to schools by the state. There will be no student attendance that day. Commencement ceremonies are set for May 16.
- Adopted a 2021-22 school calendar calling for the first day of student attendance on Aug. 11 and the last day of student instruction on May 31.
- Voted to renew Gillespie High School’s membership in the Illinois High School Association.