Board Briefs: March 2021 Regular Meeting

Board Briefs: March 2021 Regular Meeting

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, March 8, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube channel later this week.

Featured School: El Sierra Flag Salute and Presentation

The El Sierra Student Council virtually led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, El Sierra Principal Jason Lynde and El Sierra PTA President Katie Thomas shared some of the school’s recent accomplishments, including ways El Sierra successfully adapted activities and traditions during the pandemic. They also highlighted the new El Sierra playground, El Sierra’s learning goals and more. View their presentation for highlights.

Spotlight: Planning for 2021-22 Enrollment and Staffing

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell reported that District 58 annually reviews all positions, staffing allocations and educational systems to identify efficiencies while maximizing its effectiveness as a school district. District 58 leaders set specific instructional priorities to ensure the District can effectively and efficiently support all students. Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis reported that this school year, the District prioritized improving its special education services, decreasing class sizes, increasing intervention services, and developing consistent math acceleration processes districtwide. Next school year, District 58 will aim to maintain its class size targets:

  • Preschool: 15-18 students per class
  • Grades K-2: 80 percent of classrooms will have 24 or fewer students
  • Grades 3-8: 80 percent of classrooms will have 26 or fewer students

In addition, next school year the District will prioritize:

  • maintaining quality and consistent instructional programs across all schools 
  • resuming its weekly staff professional learning program 
  • maintaining quality and consistent special education programs and services
  • maintaining quality and consistent student support services

Additionally, District 58 hopes to offer the Optional Kindergarten Enrichment and Enhancement Program next school year, pending COVID-19 safety protocols and family interest/enrollment. The administration will make the official recommendation at the April Board meeting as to whether OKEEP can take place. This is a high priority for District 58, and the administration is hopeful that the program will be in place next school year.

View the presentation to learn more.

Superintendent’s Report 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum Workshop: District 58 will hold a Curriculum Workshop on March 22 to discuss the District’s curriculum, assessments and instructional practices. 

State Assessments: The U.S. Department of Education will not permit states to opt out of this year’s standardized testing. However, school districts may be able to postpone this year’s testing to the fall. While this may offer some relief this spring, if the District were to postpone its standardized testing, it would still be required to administer the same tests in spring 2022. District 58 will meet with staff to consider all options and make a decision. There are advantages and disadvantages with either testing window.

Finance: District 58 completed its recent bond sale, and proceeds will be immediately used on critical capital projects.

Facilities and Proposed Longfellow Sale: District 58’s Citizen Task Force met several times in winter 2020 to help District 58 prioritize its facility needs. In March 2020, the Citizen Task Force recommended a draft facility plan that included $179 million in facility needs and asked the School Board to engage in a robust community engagement process before seeking voter support on a referendum question. These plans were postponed when the pandemic struck, but District 58 intends to revive the conversation after spring break. 

While District 58 can postpone some of its facility needs, others cannot wait, and District 58 needs funds to address the most urgent work. Therefore, District 58 plans to sell the Longfellow Center. This building is very old, costly and in need of repair. The building serves as a storage and meeting space, along with office space for the District’s maintenance, technology and curriculum staff. Proceeds from the Longfellow sale would fund the District’s most urgent capital needs. The District’s Administrative Service Center (ASC) would be retrofitted to serve as a storage, technology and maintenance facility, and the District 58 administration would move to a new leased location within District 58 boundaries.

The District’s Financial Advisory Committee supports this plan, and the administration plans to ask the Board to approve the District’s architect to begin work to retrofit the ASC at the April Board meeting. The Board would then be asked to sell the Longfellow Center later this year. Originally, the sale of Longfellow was going to be discussed after the original referendum or in conjunction with the Village of Downers Grove’s plans to build a new Village Hall that could be shared with District 58. Unfortunately, the Village Hall proposal has been tabled, and the District’s capital needs cannot wait. The Financial Advisory Committee has formed a small study group to review the plan to sell Longfellow to ensure no details go overlooked. Please note, no final decisions have been made regarding the sale of Longfellow.

Vaccination Clinic: Along with our partner school districts and municipalities, District 58 co-hosted a vaccination clinic on Feb. 28 at Downers Grove South. About 1,300 individuals in the 1B priority group received a vaccine, including any District 58 staff member who wanted/was able to receive a vaccine. Additionally, we vaccinated local public/private school staff, senior citizens, municipal workers and other essential workers. This same group will reconvene on March 21 – prior to spring break – to receive their second dose.

New Lester Principal: Dr. Russell noted that the Board will be voting to appoint a new Lester School principal. The current principal, Carin Novak, is retiring at the end of the year. On behalf of a grateful District, Dr. Russell thanked Mrs. Novak for her 12 years of dedicated service. 

Lunchroom Supervisors: In order to increase the school day, District 58 seeks community members to serve as lunchroom supervisors. District 58 is grateful for the community’s willingness to help.

Technology: The Technology Department is preparing to shift learning models after spring break. This work includes creating new PowerSchool classes, ensuring students and staff have the digital resources they need, and adding audio-visual equipment to about 20 new learning spaces districtwide.

Student Services: Special Services partnered with the nonprofit Darkness to Light to host a virtual training about how families can talk to their children about sexual abuse and prevention. Over 100 families participated in this training. Next month, Special Services will co-host a webinar and subsequent breakout session with Madrigal Consulting and Counseling regarding specific child safety strategies for children who have specialized care needs.

Instructional Model Update: District 58 is working to increase the instructional day starting after spring break. Last month, the Board asked the administration to find ways to speed up the timeline for a full day of instruction at the elementary level and avoid a two-step process. Dr. Russell was happy to report that the administration is making good progress toward that goal. The team is planning around the clock with building administrators and staff on scheduling, class lists, lunch and hiring additional staff. The administration hopes to send an update next week to families that will indicate whether this will be able to take place. The District is optimistic that it can be done, but wants to be cautious not to over promise anything. 

Dr. Russell noted that there are strong feelings on all sides of the issue. 

“Unfortunately, when tensions are high, some may choose to act in a manner that is not consistent with our values in District 58,” Dr. Russell said. “Staff, administrators, Board members and community members on all sides of the issue have been attacked based on their opinions regarding increasing instructional time. One of the things that separates our District from others is our ability to share ideas, rigorously debate those ideas, take a vote, and then come together to support the decision. Now is the time to once again come together and treat each other with mutual respect and civility. We all want what is best for our students. The students deserve the very best from all of us, and I am committed to ensuring that we move forward together.”

International Women’s Day: Dr. Russell closed his report by celebrating International Women’s Day.

“A special shout out to all of the women in District 58 who make a difference every single day!” Dr. Russell said. “Many of us would not be where we are today without the help of our mothers, women educators and other female leaders. We appreciate all that you do and cannot thank you enough for your valuable contributions!”

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported on several items:

  • Revenues are on budget. Expenditures are lower than expected, due to low transportation usage. Transportation expenditures are expected to increase next year.
  • Proceeds from the District’s bond sale were deposited into the working cash fund and will be used to fund critical capital projects.
  • The District recently received approximately $1 million in federal IDEA grant funding.
  • The District shared the in-progress draft Financial Plan. The plan still needs to incorporate staffing budget information, as well as any funding the District will receive through the anticipated federal stimulus.
  • The County Clerk made an $80,000 clerical error in last year’s bond and interest levy that they will adjust this year. The District’s bond and interest fund is separate from its educational and operational funds, and the District will not need to borrow money from its educational/operational funds to reimburse this fund.

Committee Reports

Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Feb. 19 Legislative Forum and the Feb. 24 Legislative Committee meeting. The Committee hosted its annual Legislative Forum in a virtual format. Seven legislative officials attended the forum and contributed to a robust discussion on education policy. The event also featured a new format with a large group discussion, followed by small breakout sessions. The Feb. 24 Legislative Committee meeting discussed the forum and began making plans for next year.

President Darren Hughes reported on the March 5 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the draft Financial Plan, expected federal stimulus money, Longfellow Center plans, the recent bond sale (noting that the District negotiated an interest rate of under 1%), and the potential amendment of the District’s fund balance policy.

President Hughes also reported on the Feb. 22 District Leadership Team meeting. This team meets quarterly to review progress toward the District’s three strategic goals: Focusing on Learning, Connecting the Community, and Securing the Future. Read about their progress.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the March 4 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. As expected, insurance expenditures were low in January, as employee deductibles were reset. The committee is working with its wellness provider to develop a multi-year employee wellness program.

The Board’s Policy Committee did not have a report.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Received one public comment from a parent who prioritized teacher consistency and advocated for the community to show District 58 staff members grace and support during the upcoming transition.
  • Approved minutes from the Jan. 25 Special Meeting, Feb. 8 Regular Meeting, Feb. 16 Special Meeting and Feb. 22 Special Meeting/Instructional Workshop.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda, including the appointment of Katie Novosel to the Lester School principal position, as well as 2020-21 staff stipends and 2021-22 administrative salaries.
  • Approved the amended 2020-21 school calendar
  • Approved the 2021-22 school calendar.
  • Approved 2021-22 school fees.
  • Approved an abatement resolution to move $3.2 million from the working cash fund to the capital projects fund in order to pay for needed capital projects this summer. View memo.
  • Approved an abatement resolution to move $30,000 out of the working cash fund to the bond and interest fund to cover this fund’s negative balance. View memo.
  • Approved a resolution regarding the honorable dismissal of teachers. Annually, positions are reduced pending enrollment and staffing plans for the upcoming year. As in years past, as soon as District 58 opens its 2021-22 enrollment process and can verify its enrollment needs for next school year, the District will call back these important employees.
  • Awarded a base bid and alternate bid for the Pierce Downer roof replacement to Elens & Maichin Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. for a total cost of $1,203,850. View memo.
  • Awarded a base bid and alternate bids 2, 2A, 3 and 4 for mechanical upgrades at Pierce Downer to C. Acitelli Heating & Piping Contractors, Inc. for a total of $468,800. View memo. View bid responses.
  • Awarded a bid for 2021-22 general supplies to Warehouse Direct, Inc. for an estimated cost of $21,633.78. View memo.
  • Awarded a bid for 2021-22 art supplies to Runco Office Supply for an estimated cost of $11,204.25. View memo.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, March 22 at 7 p.m.: Curriculum Workshop at O’Neill/District 58 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.