Board Briefs: December 2020

Board Briefs: December 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, 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: Fairmount Flag Salute and Presentation

Fairmount students from Alicia Micele’s first grade and Colleen Brejcha and Kate Matson’s fifth grade classes led the Board in a pre-recorded, virtual flag salute. Fairmount Principal Lisa Niforatos shared how students have adapted to both hybrid and remote learning environments. For example, one teacher successfully adapted her classroom “Compliments Project” into a virtual format. Niforatos also reported that the District’s new math resources provide more powerful and hands-on ways for Fairmount students to grow their conceptual math understanding. Fairmount also focuses on strong communication and family/student partnerships. This year, the school is launching a new Student Advisory Committee to increase student engagement. Finally, PTA President Dominic Zucchero shared how the PTA continues to provide resources for students, staff and families throughout the pandemic. View the presentation and videos to learn more. 

Spotlight on our Schools: Update on District 58 Learning Model

District 58’s central administrative team updated the Board on the District’s instructional learning model. Last month, nearly 2,000 families and staff completed a survey, providing input on their experiences with the District’s learning models this fall. This month, the entire administrative team and a volunteer staff working group analyzed the survey feedback to recognize themes. On Dec. 11, all staff had the opportunity to weigh in on the survey feedback and initial themes. 

Some major survey themes that were discussed with staff on Dec. 11 include: 

  • Supporting students who are temporarily remote due to mandatory quarantine
  • Maintaining a model that can transition fluidly between hybrid and fully remote with the best possible instructional opportunities in each scenario 
  • Identifying additional ways to support students and families who are struggling
  • Identifying additional ways to support staff members  
  • Reflecting on the additional check-in time (elementary) 
  • Focusing on remote engagement strategies (middle school)

Other survey themes that were identified, but not part of the Dec. 11 staff discussions, include:

  • Maintaining current teachers whenever possible 
  • Valuing synchronous instruction; many families expressed a desire to see an eventual increase in live/in-person instruction 
  • Considering the recommitment process for hybrid/remote in January (Classes have become less balanced since October as individual families have asked to change their commitment) 
  • Continually emphasizing health/safety protocols

This week, the full administrative team and volunteer staff working group will reconvene to synthesize Dec. 11 staff feedback and discuss next steps. District leadership aims to use the survey feedback and subsequent staff conversations to strengthen its existing learning model. Any improvements or changes to the current learning model will be recommended to the Board during the Jan. 11 School Board meeting. After a recommendation is approved, families will receive information and be asked to recommit their child(ren)’s learning model.

View the presentation to learn more.

Superintendent Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum and Instruction: District 58 looks forward to its Monday, Jan. 4 Teacher Institute Day. Certified staff will virtually attend six one-hour professional learning sessions. They have more than 100 sessions to choose from; sessions will be presented by District 58 teachers and administrators, as well as outside experts and consultants.

Finance: The DuPage County Clerk’s Office received District 58’s tax levy, which the Board approved last month.

Facilities: The State awarded El Sierra School a grant to help fund a new playground. The District recently received official approval for this grant, and last week El Sierra playground construction began! The contractor anticipates the project will be finished by mid-May, although its completion is weather dependent.

Last week, a significant water leak at Herrick caused heating problems at the school. The leaky pipe was original from the school’s 1953 construction and was severely damaged through normal wear and tear. The District’s Buildings and Grounds team and an outside contractor worked overnight to fix the leak and resolve the heating problem. Dr. Russell thanked the team for their hard work, which prevented a school shutdown.

Personnel: This week, several staff will receive Green Apple Awards from District 58 families, via the Education Foundation. Due to COVID-19, the District will not deliver these awards in the typical in-person manner. However, each awardee will still be recognized on social media, the District newsletter and on the District’s website.

This past month, the District took several actions to increase its substitute teacher pool, including increasing sub pay and expanding substitute teacher recruitment. These efforts have helped significantly decrease the number of unfilled positions in the District's buildings each day.

Technology: The District used a new parent-teacher conference scheduling system this fall. The new system worked well, with more than 6,200 conferences scheduled on it. The District intends to migrate its existing student registration system to this same platform in the spring.

Student Services: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new quarantine requirements. The DuPage Health Department (DHC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are still interpreting these updates. The District will not change its quarantine requirements until receiving clarity from the DHC and the IDPH. 

The Illinois State Board of Education requires schools to either conduct student symptom screenings and temperature checks OR accept student self-certifications that they are symptom-free before entering school. Currently, District 58 does both measures. District 58 has found that temperature checks are not effective at catching sick students, particularly because colder outdoor weather has caused thermometer performance issues. The District is considering eliminating temperature checks; this consideration is supported by the District’s nursing staff and other employee groups. A final recommendation will likely not be made until the learning model is evaluated at the January School Board meeting.

Winter Break: District 58 schools will be closed Dec. 21-Jan. 1 for winter break. During this period the District's Administrative Service Center and Longfellow Center will be open Dec. 21-22 and Dec. 28-30. Monday, Jan. 4 is a Teacher Institute Day, and a non-attendance day for students. School will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.

Holiday Giving: District 58 is incredibly fortunate to be part of a caring and dedicated community. Throughout this pandemic, the District has seen a number of efforts to support families. Here is a summary of recent community efforts to help District 58 families in need:

  • COVID Family Support Fund via the Education Foundation of District 58
  • Blessings in a Backpack via District 58 School PTAs
  • Internet Essentials Program via the DuPage County Board
  • Meals and Supplies via the FISH Food Pantry
  • Coats and Winter Wear via the Knights of Columbus, Moose Lodge, the Woodridge Park District and Knitting for Charity
  • Masks via the DG Junior Women’s Club
  • Holiday Gifts via the Roadrunners Soccer Club
  • Free Meal Program via District 58 and the USDA
  • Winter Wear and Grocery Gift Card Donations from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, as well as Individual Community Members

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that the District is at its fiscal year “high point” for revenues, and likely will not receive additional revenues until property taxes arrive in May/June. He noted that the District’s revenues are down this year, primarily due to a reduction of OKEEP and other student fees, and a decrease in transportation reimbursements, interest income and the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax.

Committee Reports

Dr. Russell reported that the Policy Committee recently received a draft of its new administrative procedure manual. Administrative procedures provide greater detail into Board policies and do not require adoption by the Board. Dr. Russell also reported that during the Policy Committee’s Nov. 17 meeting, the committee reviewed recommended PRESS Plus updates to nine District 58 policies. PRESS Plus is a service that helps Illinois school districts keep their Board policies up-to-date. Later in the meeting, the Board completed a first reading of the nine updated policies, and will place these policies on the January Board agenda for final review and approval. The nine policies with proposed updates are:

  • 3:40 Superintendent
  • 4:80 Accounting and Audits
  • 4:90 Student Activity and Fiduciary Funds
  • 5:270 Employment At-Will, Compensation, and Assignment
  • 6:20 School Year Calendar and Day
  • 6:340 Student Testing and Assessment Program
  • 7:100 Health, Eye, and Dental Examinations; Immunizations; and Exclusion of Students
  • 7:140 Search and Seizure
  • 7:300 Extracurricular Athletics

View the proposed updates.

Member Kirat Doshi reported that the Legislative Committee began planning its annual Legislative Breakfast during its Nov. 11 committee meeting. Member Emily Hanus reported that she attended the virtual Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) Delegate Assembly and voted on IASB resolutions in accordance with the Board’s recommendations.

President Darren Hughes reported that the Financial Advisory Committee met Dec. 4 to preview and provide feedback on the information presented during last week’s Board Financial Workshop. Hughes thanked this committee for their guidance and expertise.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Dec. 3 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. He noted that medical claim costs are down this year, largely due to the prescription cost decreases that this committee helped implement. In addition, 51% of staff participated in this year’s wellness program. Looking forward, the committee intends to roll out new employee wellness incentive programs, as this type of program is a proven method to improve employee health while decreasing long-term medical costs. 

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Recognized the 41 students selected to participate in the Illinois Music Education Association’s virtual Fall Festival Masterclass Day. Learn more.
  • Approved the 2019-20 audit report from Miller Cooper & Co., Ltd., the independent auditor District 58 hired for this process. View the memo. View the Board agenda for additional audit-related documents.
  • Discussed the District’s electric rate contracts. Electric rates are hitting all-time lows, so it makes financial sense for District 58 to lock in a longer-term electric rate. The District intends to bring forth a resolution allowing the District to lock in a low rate for the Board’s vote in January.
  • Approved minutes from the Nov. 9 regular business meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.

Upcoming Events

  • Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 a.m.: Financial Advisory Committee Meeting via Zoom
  • Monday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Village Hall/YouTube Livestream

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.