Board Briefs: April 2021 Regular Meeting

Board Briefs: April 2021 Regular Meeting

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, April 12, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda for information and document/presentation links. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page later this week.

Featured School: Hillcrest Flag Salute and Presentation

The Hillcrest Student Council virtually led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, Hillcrest Principal Michelle Rzepka and Assistant Principal Lauri Smith shared a creative video highlighting some of Hillcrest’s student and community accomplishments. View the video.

Spotlight: Facilities Update and Board Recommendation 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell and Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall updated the Board on District 58’s facility planning. The District developed a comprehensive draft Master Facility Plan in 2018-19. The plan identified $245 million in District 58 facility needs, of which $111 million was for deferred school building maintenance. The District paused its facility planning last spring when the pandemic struck. As the community slowly recovers from the pandemic, the administration recommends that the District reconvene its Citizen Task Force, continue its facility planning work, launch a large facility planning community engagement effort, and possibly add a referendum question on the March 2022 ballot. 

One important component of District 58’s facility planning is its Longfellow Center. The Longfellow facility, located at 1435 Prairie Ave., operated as a school from 1928-1978. In subsequent years, it served several purposes and currently houses half of the District 58 administrative team, along with its Curriculum, Technology and Buildings & Grounds offices. The Longfellow Center does not meet District 58’s space and educational needs and requires a significant amount of costly deferred maintenance. 

District 58 has discussed the Longfellow Center’s future for decades. Recently, District 58 held Longfellow conversations during its community-wide strategic planning effort in 2018, as well as in 2019-2021 with several stakeholder groups, including the Citizen Task Force, Financial Advisory Committee, Superintendent’s Community Advisory Council and a small Longfellow community working group. Additionally, the District 58 Board of Education has discussed Longfellow during recent public meetings. Internally, District 58’s administration has analyzed several different solutions for the Longfellow Center, using community feedback and focusing on the most fiscally responsible options. District 58 is committed to fiscal responsibility and does not believe the Longfellow Center is a good investment.

Guided by the above, the administration recommends that District 58 sell the Longfellow Center, move the administrative team to a leased office space, and retrofit the existing Administrative Service Center (which houses the other half of the District’s admin team) to serve as a storage, technology and maintenance facility. Longfellow Center revenues could fund the District’s most urgent capital needs. In addition, the District would gain approximately $63,000 in new annual property tax revenues from the homes that could be built on the property. 

After a thoughtful discussion, the School Board shared support for the administration’s recommendation. Later in the meeting, the School Board recommended that District 58 seek an appraisal for the Longfellow Center and directed the District to work with its attorney to prepare documents and establish an official timeline to sell the Longfellow property, to secure a leased office space for administration, and to renovate the ASC for warehouse storage and maintenance use.

View the Spotlight on Facilities presentation.

View the Longfellow Property Review and Recommendation memo.

Superintendent’s Report 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum and Instruction: District 58 successfully shifted learning models last week. “I am extremely proud that we are now able to offer full day instruction for our in-person and remote learners,” Dr. Russell said. “I would like to give a giant thank you to our students, staff, families, and community members for rallying together to make this happen. District 58 has been a leader throughout this pandemic and I cannot thank everyone enough.”

Meal Program: With a full day of instruction, District 58 has revamped its meal program. The District is distributing over 200 hot lunches daily at each middle school and sending 235 lunches daily to the 11 elementary schools. In addition, the District continues to provide daily breakfasts and Saturday meals to children in the community. 

Facilities: Winter wrapup: Due to COVID and the additional demands placed upon the Buildings and Grounds team, the District hired a contractor to assist with snow removal this year. The contractor performed the required work, and the District’s custodial and maintenance staff helped with touch-ups. Throughout the winter, the District also partnered with the Village of Downers Grove’s Public Works Department to address various facility needs. District 58 appreciates its partnership with the Village.

Board Election: Congratulations to Board Members Darren Hughes, Gregory Harris and Tracy Weiner on their re-election to the School Board. Congratulations also to Melissa Bocker-Ellis on her election win and becoming the newest member of the Board of Education.

Student Registration/Staffing: District 58 will open 2021-22 registration on April 15 using an updated PowerSchool system. Registration will close for returning students on April 30. Once registration is complete, Dr. Jayne Yudzentis will present an initial 2021-22 staffing plan to the School Board.

COVID Reminders: As District 58 welcomes students back to increased instructional time, the District recognizes that it has created more instances of students potentially being closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period. The District knows that this is the IDPH's definition of a close contact and that in instances when a student is a close contact of a suspected or confirmed positive case, that he or she must be quarantined for 14 days.

As has been the case since the update to the IDPH guidance mid-March, students can return after their 10th day of quarantine with a negative RT-PCR test only if students are able to also maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more. In classrooms where space necessitates students being more than 3 feet apart but less than 6, principals will work to accommodate a classroom configuration that creates the needed distance for the student to return whenever possible. The District regrets that there may be times where it is not possible and in those instances, principals will work with families to ensure consistent programming during quarantining times.

Thank You: Dr. Russell noted that several visitors were attending the meeting and thanked them for their engagement and participation. 

“I recognize that many of you are here due to the potential sale of the Longfellow Center. I also recognize that many are in favor of the sale and others oppose such a decision. Regardless of where you fall on the issue, I would like to thank everyone for the respectful dialogue,” Dr. Russell said. “So many times this past year we have been faced with difficult challenges and tough decisions. I am extremely grateful to work in a community that can come together to share their views on a topic in a constructive manner. Later tonight we will likely hear several public comments regarding Longfellow. Please know that the Board and our team will thoroughly listen to each and every one. Regardless of any decision that is made this evening or at subsequent meetings, I hope we can all continue to work together in a manner that is best for our students and staff.”

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported on several items, including:

  • The Business Office is on schedule for preparing bids for summer work and resources for the 2021-22 school year. 
  • The fiscal year-to-date report shows the District’s 2020-21 budget is on track. Due to remote learning, the District did not use transportation during the first month of the school year, which decreased the District’s overall expenditures.
  • The District received its property tax extension report. There was $36.2 million in new property within District 58 boundaries last year. Approximately half of this amount was from new non-residential properties (such as the new Amazon facilities), which is a higher amount than typical. 
  • The downtown Downers Grove TIF expires next year, and District 58 will begin receiving new property tax payments from this area starting in 2022.
  • The District convened a small group to assess the Longfellow Center. This group included three former Board members and other community stakeholders and spent approximately nine hours discussing the Longfellow Center's future. The group contributed insights that the District used to inform its recommendation. District 58 appreciates these individuals' time and feedback.

Committee Reports

President Darren Hughes reported on the April 9 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the draft Financial Plan, Longfellow Center plans and the related Board presentation, the year-to-date report, and the District’s draft fund balance policy.

The Board’s Policy Committee, Legislative Committee, District Leadership Team and Health and Wellness Committee did not meet.

Discussion: Thank You to Outgoing Board Member

Board of Education members and Superintendent Dr. Russell thanked outgoing Board Member Jill Samonte for her four years of dedicated service to the District 58 Board of Education.

“Jill Samonte is not only one of the finest Board members I have ever worked with, she is also an outstanding person,” Dr. Russell said. “Jill is a champion for all students. She cares deeply about providing the best education for the children in District 58. Jill is a champion for those in need, for those who struggle, for those with a disability, and for those that may not have as much as others. Jill is a champion for equity. Jill is a fighter and will always do what is best for kids.”

Member Samonte gave a heartfelt speech thanking her fellow board members, as well as the District 58 administration, staff, community and her family for their support, hard work and dedication. She encouraged the community to work collaboratively and respectfully with the District and future School Board.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Received a combined 23 in-person and remote public comments. Eighteen comments were opposed to the proposed sale of the Longfellow Center, and four were in favor of the sale. In addition, former Board member and District 58 teacher Rich Samonte shared his pride in his daughter Jill’s service on the Board, and reminisced about his family’s ties to the District.
  • Approved minutes from the March 8 Regular Meeting and March 22 Curriculum Workshop
  • Approved the consent agenda, which included tenure recommendations and 2021-22 non-union technology staff salaries, 2021-22 non-union educational support staff salaries and 2021-22 registered nurse salaries, among other items.
  • Approved a $2,850 fee for the 2021-22 Optional Kindergarten Enrichment and Enhancement Program. Dr. Russell noted that District 58 is committed to offering this program to all incoming kindergarten students next school year. While the District hopes to host it at every elementary school, depending on enrollment and COVID-19 restrictions, it is possible that some schools may not have the capacity. If this were to occur, students from affected schools would attend kindergarten with OKEEP at a nearby District 58 school with transportation provided. 
  • 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 determine how many employees it can rehire. 
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the agreed property tax abatement for the Rexnord facility for the 2020 tax year. 
  • Approved the District’s Five-Year Financial Plan.
  • Approved a one-year contract extension with First Student for 2021-22 student transportation with a rate increase of 4%. 
  • Approved a one-year contract extension with Sunrise Transportation for 2021-22 special education transportation with a rate increase of 5%. 
  • Approved a first reading of Policy 4:20, which directs District 58 to seek to maintain a year-end fund balance to expense ratio of no less than 35% percent.
  • Approved a 24-month managed Internet service contract with AT&T, reimbursable via e-rate at 40%. 
  • Awarded base and alternate bids for Kingsley technology modifications and server relocation to Oak Brook Mechanical Inc., for $118,340. 
  • Awarded base and alternate bids for miscellaneous painting at various schools to Wright and Sons for $23,800.
  • Awarded a bid for Fairmount HVAC upgrades to Quality Mechanical Inc., for $364,940.
  • Awarded pavement improvements at various schools/buildings to Schroeder Asphalt Services for $158,833.75. 

Upcoming Events

Monday, May 3 at 6 p.m.: Board Reorganization/Special Meeting and Tentative Budget Workshop at Downers Grove Village Hall.

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.