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Summary of This Week’s School Board Meeting

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Members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night approved a controversial Project Labor Agreement in connection with the construction of a new elementary school, but balked at approving a floor plan for the new building, opting instead to take under advisement two possible configurations proposed by school architect Tom Hyde.

Until Monday night, the board had studied a single configuration. That plan would feature a wide main wing facing east, with two additional classroom wings on the west side of the building. The west wings would have been arrayed in a “V” shape.   A gymnasium and cafeteria facilities would be located at the north end of the main wing.

On Monday, however, Hyde presented a second option that would result in an “H” shaped floor plan.  The main wing would still face east, but a second wing would run parallel to the main wing immediately to the west.  The two wings would be connected by a short corridor at the center of the building.

Hyde said he was recommending the “H” shaped floor plan, in part, because of the results of a study regarding the locating of mine workings under the property.  Hyde said existing mine maps proved to be remarkably accurate.  “The location of the mine turns out to be very accurate,” he said. “We were surprised at how accurate the maps really were.”

The maps were “off” only 20 to 30 feet to the east and 20 to 30 feet to the south, he said.  In both proposals, the main, or front wing, of the building would be located over a barrier panel of solid coal.  Mine workings under the balance of the building would have to be “grouted,” or filled in to preclude the possibility of the building being damaged by mine subsidence.  The district’s seven-year-old Benld Elementary School was destroyed by a mine subsidence event that began in late March 2009.

The new building currently in the planning stages will be located on property formerly owned by Roger and Vicki DeWitt to the west of the existing high school/middle school campus.  Switching to an “H” shaped floor plan would reduce the “footprint” of the building and thereby reduce the amount of grouting needed to protect it from subsidence.

“One change I’m suggesting is to change the configuration of the building to an “H” shape as opposed to the “V” shape to minimize the amount of grouting needed on the west side of the building,” Hyde said.  The budget developed by the Capital Development Board includes about $3 million for grouting.  Changing the shape of the building from a “V” shape to an “H” shape could shave $750,000 to $1 million from the cost of the grouting, according to Hyde.

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The school district is the recipient of a $19 million grant through CDB to cover 75 percent of the building’s cost.  The local school district is responsible for 25 percent of the final cost.

Hyde described the grouting budget as a “floating” budget, meaning that an increase in the cost of grouting would not detract from the amount of money available for construction.  By the same token, saving money on grouting will not increase the amount of money available for construction.  An increase in the grouting budget would, however, increase the amount of local money needed to make up the districtÕs 25 percent share of the building cost.

“The budget was built around a certain amount for grouting,” Hyde noted. “If the cost of grouting goes up by $1 million, the grant goes up by $1 million. The cost to you is 25 percent of that.”

“So if additional money is spent on grouting, it does not take away from what we can spend on the school?” Griffel asked.  Both Hyde and Supt. Paul Skeans acknowledged an increase in the cost of grouting would not affect the amount of money available for construction.

“If the budget goes up, I think we have the money to cover it,” Skeans said.

Despite the possible savings in cost, several board members expressed a preference for the floor plan featuring wings arranged in a “V” on the west side of the building.  “This is exactly what I said would happen,” Jenni Alepra, board member, commented.  “The mine is now manipulating the school building.  We’ve got a $25 million project on the table and now we’re going to “settle” on this. Now we”re being told we’re going to be over budget.  This is not where we should be at all.  I thought this was all worked out already. That’s why I’m so frustrated.”

She pointed out that administrators, teachers, and board members had determined the configuration with wings arranged in a “V” would offer better security for the building.  With the classroom wings arrayed in such a fashion, a teacher or administrator could stand in the entry vestibule and have a clear view of all four classroom wings.

“This is a lot safer,” Alepra said, indicating the original floor plan.

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Board member Don Dobrino asked Elementary Principal Angela Turcol if she and faculty members had a preference for either of the two plans.  Turcol said teachers were “positive” about either plan.  But she indicated she did not ask them which plan they preferred.

While the H-shaped plan will be more difficult to monitor than the V-shaped plan, Turcol said either plan will be superior to the former Benld Elementary School in terms of security provisions.

“I’m good going either direction,” Hyde said, indicating the board could have another 30 days to make a decision without interfering with the construction timeline established for the project.

Either option, he said, would offer about 70,000 square feet for 39 classrooms, plus a gymnasium and cafeteria, bringing the total building size to about 93,000 square feet.

Griffel expressed concerns about rushing into a decision.
“We’ve been working with the other plan for six or seven months,” he said. “Then we’re presented with another plan and we’re expected to come back with a decision in 30 days.”

Apart from the floor plan question, Hyde also discussed other aspects of the proposed building the district plans to incorporate regardless of which configuration is chosen.  Responding to public comments and faculty requests, Hyde said the new building will include a gymnasium equipped with a stage for performances and other events.

With bleachers capable of seating more than 300 people, the new gym can serve as a venue for sporting events.  For plays, concerts and other events utilizing the stage, there will be enough room on the gym floor for another 500 folding chairs, providing a total seating capacity in excess of 800.

Adjacent to the gym will be a separate cafeteria facility, Hyde said. In the former Benld school the gym and cafeteria shared the same floor space.  Hyde also discussed several grants the district has applied for to help offset the cost of the school building. The school recently applied for a $400,000 Clean Communities Energy grant, a $140,000 energy grant from Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and a $180,000 Energy Efficiency Design grant, also administered by DCEO.  Combined with the $250,000 Pepsi grant secured by the BenGil Boosters, the district stands to land nearly $1 million in grant funds for the school.

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The bulk of the money the school has applied for is directed toward encouraging “green” construction and energy efficiency. For example, Hyde said, the new building will be equipped with solar panels and a small wind turbine to generate power and supplement the building’s energy needs.  Hyde said the alternative energy sources should provide 20 to 30 percent of the building’s energy needs.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a resolution to enter into a Project Labor Agreement with Southwestern Illinois Building Trades and Construction Trades Council. PLAs are collective bargaining agreements between the project owner and the trades council to set out basic terms and work conditions for the project. The Elementary School PLA has been on the table for five months and has been the focus of some controversy at past meetings of the board.

“In that time, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to have information passed from both sides,” Skeans told the board, noting he had been working with Dale Stewart of the Trades Council over the weekend to make final adjustments to the PLA. “I think we have a consensus and it is my recommendation that we move forward with the Project Labor Agreement.”

Following an extensive discussion with High School Principal Joe Tieman, the board approved a plan to implement an “eighth period” next school year for sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Tieman said several area schools have adopted the eighth period plan, which is designed to assist students who are struggling in some subjects or who need in-school time for study.

Under the plan, the length of class periods will be reduced to allow for an eighth period at the end of the day.  Students whose grades are high enough to qualify may opt to leave school early.  Other students, especially those who need additional help in some subjects, would stay to the end of the day for study and tutoring.

Tieman said he expects the program to result in higher grade-point averages, better scores on standardized tests and better rates of homework completion.

In the area of personnel, board members voted to appoint Jennifer Brown as High School Student Council sponsor for the 2011-2012 school year, Aaron Cooper as an assistant high school football coach for next school year, and Celia Jubelt as assistant high school volleyball coach for the coming school year.

With Board President Lloyd “Rusty” Bilbruck abstaining from the vote, the board agreed to appoint Bilbruck as a volunteer assistant high school football coach for 2011-2012.  Monday night was Bilbruck‘s last meeting; his term will end with the seating of the new board next week.

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Board members accepted the resignation of Jill Rosentreter as middle school volleyball coach and agreed to post the position as vacant for the 2011-2012 school year. Rosentreter has coached the team for 12 years.

On a motion by Alepra, seconded by Hayes, the board voted to hire Jennifer Brown and Rob Macias as summer school teacher, provided there is enough summer school enrollment to offset the cost.  Brown will teach consumer education and driver’s education; Macias will teach driver’s education.

In a related matter, the board agreed to post a vacancy for a cafeteria worker for the summer school session.  Also in the area of personnel, the board approved rehiring the district’s non-certificated staff members for the coming school year.

In other action, the board approved early graduation requests for Hayley Baumann, Jessica Johnston, Owen McGrady, Mikala Tarro, Ally Tieman, Courtney Sellars, and Taylor Wasylenko.  The students will graduate after the completion of their seventh semester provided they have completed all requirements for graduation.

The board also voted unanimously to transfer a middle school student to the Regional Office of Education’s Safe Schools program.

by David Ambrose

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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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Community News

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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