Board Briefs: November 2020

Board Briefs: November 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page later this week.

Featured School: O’Neill Flag Salute and Presentation

The O’Neill Student Council led the Board and audience in a pre-recorded, virtual flag salute. O’Neill Principal Matt Durbala and Assistant Principal Haley Vermeer shared this video, which features mini-interviews with O’Neill students and staff sharing what makes O’Neill special and what they love about on-site learning. Durbala and Vermeer also explained how O’Neill achieves the District’s three strategic goals: Focusing on Learning, Connecting the Community, and Securing the Future. Lastly, they played a video of PTA President Suzette Stapleton sharing how the PTA elevates the O’Neill student experience. View the presentation.

Spotlight on our Schools: Illinois Report Card

The Illinois State Board of Education published its 2020 Illinois Report Card on Oct. 30. The Illinois Report Card annually highlights how well Illinois schools have progressed on their educational goals. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul reported that this year, several metrics were not available, including the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), Illinois Science Assessment (ISA), Growth Percentile for IAR, Assessment Participation Rate, and Climate Survey (5Essentials). Due to the pandemic and suspension of in-person instruction, other Illinois Report Card metrics were “calculated with concerns,” including chronic absenteeism, chronic truancy, number of school days, student attendance, student mobility, teacher attendance and teacher evaluation. ISBE annually awards every school a summative designation, which is a rating on a four-tiered scale. Due to the pandemic, each school’s 2019 designation will be reissued for 2020.

Sisul also noted that the State has not waived any assessment requirements for the 2020-21 school year; however the State will offer a longer testing period that allows for greater flexibility. Additionally, all State assessments must take place in-person. View the presentation. View the Illinois Report Cards for District 58.

Superintendent Report

School Board Member Appreciation Day
In recognition of School Board Member Appreciation Day on Sunday, Nov. 15, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell thanked the School Board members for their commitment and time.

El Sierra Playground
Dr. Russell announced that the State of Illinois will award El Sierra School with a grant to help build a new playground. Thanks to this grant, in combination with the school’s fundraising efforts, El Sierra anticipates that the new playground will open in fall 2021. Dr. Russell thanked the El Sierra Playground Committee, the PTA and the many generous El Sierra families who donated to El Sierra’s playground fundraisers over the years. In addition, he acknowledged Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, who advocated for El Sierra to receive this grant funding as part of the 2019 capital bill.

Temporary Shift to Full Remote Learning
District 58 will temporarily shift to full remote learning from Nov. 16-27. Dr. Russell shared the District’s rationale for this shift with the Board. Although District 58 has no documented COVID-19 cases that originated in its schools, the District does have many COVID-19 related absences due to strict quarantine guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The main causes of District 58’s COVID-19 absences are:

  • Students and staff who have confirmed COVID-19 cases (that originated outside of District 58) and must quarantine for at least 10 days
  • Students and staff who exhibit any COVID-19 symptom and must complete a 10-day quarantine, or get tested and present a negative test result, or receive an alternative diagnosis by a doctor
  • Students and staff who are a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case and must complete a 14-day quarantine, regardless of test result

District 58’s COVID-19-related absences have significantly disrupted the District’s ability to staff its classrooms, provide instructional continuity, coordinate quarantined student scheduling logistics, and achieve timely contact tracing and notification. As such, District 58 can no longer effectively provide hybrid in-person instruction for most students until it decreases its student and staff absence numbers. Some special education programs and preschool will continue in-person.

Through contact tracing, District 58 has determined that students and staff with positive COVID-19 diagnoses are catching the virus outside of school. Dr. Russell urged the community to strictly follow all social distancing guidelines during the next few weeks, as it will directly affect whether the District can resume hybrid in-person instruction.

In prior communications, Dr. Russell committed to evaluating District 58’s learning model every two weeks, and, when possible, to give families one-week’s notice before making a shift. This advanced notice is provided to give families time to arrange childcare. District 58 will continue this practice and will aim to update the community on Nov. 23 regarding whether the District can return to hybrid learning on Nov. 30.

View the Superintendent’s Report presentation.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that the District’s revenues increased this month. However, the District is processing Camp Edwards and milk fee refunds this week, so revenues are expected to slightly decrease next month. The District also received a much-anticipated transportation reimbursement from the State. Drafall noted that the Board will be asked to approve a mechanical engineering proposal later in the meeting. He explained that when Pierce Downer’s roof is replaced this year, it makes sense to also replace the aging roof HVAC units and 70-year-old boilers, which will require mechanical engineering services. Combining the boiler replacement with the roofing project will save operational dollars in the future and allow the District to take advantage of energy efficiency grants to help fund the project.

Committee Reports

Members Kirat Doshi and Emily Hanus reported on the Oct. 21 Legislative Committee meeting. The committee reviewed and considered proposal recommendations set forth by Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) in the 2020 Resolutions Committee Report. The IASB membership will vote on these recommendations during the Delegate Assembly in November. Hanus is the District 58 delegate.

President Darren Hughes and Member Steven Olcyzk reported on the Nov. 6 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee will begin to meet monthly to spend more time considering solutions to the District 58 budget deficit, which was caused by the pandemic. The committee will consider short-term, mid-term and long-term solutions to the District’s financial deficit, which may require some tough decisions. Member Hughes noted that the committee comprises many engaged community members with diverse financial backgrounds.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Nov. 5 Health & Wellness Committee Meeting. The medical reserve fund continues to run a surplus. The committee noted that at least 340 employees participated in this year’s wellness screenings, and staff open enrollment has successfully kicked off.

The Policy Committee and the District Leadership Team have not met since the last meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting at the ASC/Zoom
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at the ASC/Zoom
  • Monday, Dec. 7 at 3:45 p.m.: District Leadership Team Meeting at Herrick
  • Monday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.: Board Financial Workshop at Herrick

District 58 Board of Education members are: Darren Hughes, president; Gregory Harris, vice president; Kirat Doshi, Emily Hanus, Steven Olczyk, Jill Samonte and Tracy Weiner, with Dr. Kevin Russell, superintendent; and Melissa Jerves, board secretary.