Board Briefs: January 2021 Regular Meeting

Board Briefs: January 2021 Regular Meeting

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda. The meeting video is posted on the District 58 YouTube page.

Featured School: Indian Trail Flag Salute and Presentation

Indian Trail Principal Mariana Nicasio shared how Indian Trail School has turned challenges into opportunities this school year. She highlighted how her staff and families have built a culture of respect and kindness, fostered relationships, increased parent involvement and more. The presentation also highlighted the RISE program, which is housed at Indian Trail. 

Indian Trail PTA Co-president Blair Covino reported that the PTA has supported families by providing a book for every student, donating holiday gifts for children in need, holding a fun virtual “Storytime with Santa” event and more. The presentation opened with students from both hybrid and remote classrooms leading a virtual Pledge of Allegiance.

View the presentation. 

Spotlight on our Schools: Health & Wellness Update

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall updated the Board on employee health and wellness initiatives. The District’s medical reserve fund continues to run a surplus, and employee medical costs decreased this year. This is likely in part due to the District 58 Health and Wellness Committee’s work, as well as to COVID-19 lifestyle adjustments.

Drafall reported that the District offered its second annual employee wellness screening last fall. Employee participation increased 60% from last year, with no significant increase in health risk reported. The screenings also found that District employees make strong use of preventative care. Looking forward, the Health and Wellness 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.  

View the presentation.

Discussion: Return to Learn Updates

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul presented a comprehensive update on the District’s Return to Learn plan. The District analyzed thousands of survey comments and held several small and large group staff meetings to synthesize the feedback as it enhanced its learning model for the upcoming months. Using this guidance, the District recommended that its Hybrid Learning Plan with Full Remote Option maintain its existing schedule and structure through the second trimester, which ends March 5. Families who wish to change their child’s learning model may do so by contacting their building administrator by Jan. 19.

The District also identified seven additional growth areas to continue to focus on this trimester. These areas are:

  1. Continue to increase student engagement across all grade levels.
  2. Develop more consistent and effective solutions for temporary remote scenarios in grades K-6.
  3. Develop more consistent and effective solutions for temporary remote scenarios for middle school students.
  4. Examine the focus of synchronous instruction, including pacing and connections to asynchronous work in grades 1-6.
  5. Increase the amount of synchronous instructional time for students in grades 1-6.
  6. Build a break into the middle school student/teacher day.
  7. Increase synchronous instructional time for middle school students.

The District will report its progress toward these growth areas, along with any third trimester recommendations, during the Feb. 22 School Board Curriculum Workshop.

View the presentation.

Superintendent Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum and Instruction: District 58 held a successful Teacher Institute Day on Jan. 4. All certified staff attended six one-hour learning sessions led by teachers and administrators, as well as outside experts. “I was extremely proud of our staff for the amount of work that went into planning this day, the quality of presentations, and the professionalism of the participants. District 58 has many instructional leaders that consistently go above and beyond for students, staff and families,” Dr. Russell said.

Dr. Russell added that the District’s winter student assessment period begins this week. Early winter assessment data will be presented to the Board next month.

Finance: District 58 expects to receive approximately $800,000 in additional stimulus funding over the next two years, which will help cover part of the District’s budget deficit, but not all of the shortfall.

Facilities: Fairmount’s mechanical systems are unreliable and have well surpassed their expected life. For example, Fairmount’s rooftop HVAC unit is 33 years old; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends this type of unit be replaced every 15 years. The District will begin replacing some of this equipment.

Personnel: District 58 took many actions to increase its substitute teacher pool over the past two months. These efforts helped eliminate unfilled substitute positions in our schools.

Technology: The FCC’s E-Rate program provides eligible schools and libraries with discounts for telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections. District 58 continues to use the E-rate program to secure discounts on technology services.

Student Services: The District’s Grove Children’s Preschool will hold virtual open houses on Monday, Jan. 25 and Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 6-7 p.m. via Zoom. A Zoom link will be posted at 2021-22 preschool registration opens Feb. 1.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) revised their close contact quarantine recommendations. Although they still recommend close contacts quarantine for 14 days, they will permit a 10-day quarantine if other requirements are met. (See #6 in the District’s COVID-19 FAQs for Families for more information).

Community Relations: Dr. Russell thanked the Education Foundation and Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club for donating several education grants to District 58 teachers and staff. In addition, the Education Foundation partnered with the Downers Grove Township to secure more than $7,500 in CARES Act funding for the Foundation’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund, which helps District 58 families in need.

Vaccinations: Dr. Russell reported that District 58 employees are part of the second priority group (1B) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Although the 1B group may be eligible for vaccinations within the coming weeks, 1B is a large group and vaccine availability is still low. All school districts in the District 99 consortium, including District 58, will collaborate with each other and the DuPage County Health Department to coordinate timely vaccinations for staff.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that the budget is trending as expected, with the exception of the transportation expenditures, which are lower than budgeted. Drafall explained that the State pays transportation reimbursements in arrears, so District 58 will need to prepare for decreased State transportation revenues next fiscal year. 

Committee Reports

Dr. Russell reported that the Regional Office of Education Compliance Team recently completed its routine compliance visit at District 58. The Compliance Team recommended that District 58 update Board Policy 7:190 Student Behavior to explicitly state that the District does not permit isolated timeout, and only permits physical restraint as a last resort when a student presents an imminent threat to him or herself or others. The Policy Committee updated the policy accordingly, and recommended the Board adopt it during this January meeting. Later in the meeting, the Board approved the updated Policy 7:190 Student Behavior. View memo.

President Darren Hughes reported on the Jan. 8 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the end-of-year fiscal report and discussed options for bringing the District’s intended $3.335 million bond issuance to market. The District’s financial adviser and underwriter attended the meeting and recommended the District consider seeking a credit rating from credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s in addition to its current rating with Moody’s. 

The Board’s Legislative Committee and Health and Wellness Committee did not have a report.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the Dec. 7 Financial Workshop and the Dec. 14 Regular Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Approved a resolution to declare the intent to issue $3.335 million in working cash fund bonds, as well as a second resolution calling for a public hearing concerning this intended sale. This funding would be used to fund critical capital project work at District 58 schools. 
  • Awarded a bid for floor tile abatement for Henry Puffer’s basement and two O’Neill classrooms to EHC for $63,250. This project is funded in part by a State of Illinois School Maintenance Project Grant. View memo.
  • Awarded a bid for new flooring for Henry Puffer’s basement and three O’Neill classrooms to Mazarini Inc. for $77,130.99. This project is funded in part by a State of Illinois School Maintenance Project Grant. View memo.
  • Approved an engineering proposal with Wight & Company for Fairmount mechanical equipment improvements. View memo.
  • Approved Grove Children’s Preschool fees for the 2021-22 school year.
  • Moved to give Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall the authority to execute a future fixed electrical agreement for up to 36 months starting in June 2021 at a rate not to exceed $.02816/KWh. View memo.
  • Adopted revisions to Policies 3:40, 4:80, 4:90, 5:270, 6:20, 6:340, 7:100, 7:140 and 7:300.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting 
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting
  • Monday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting

Meeting locations are dependent on current Health Department and IDPH guidance.

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.