Board Briefs: September 2021

board briefs sept 2021

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda to access all documents and presentations related to this meeting. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page later this week.

Featured School: Herrick Middle School Flag Salute and Presentation

Herrick Principal Dr. David Norman and Assistant Principal Samantha Inglima presented on how Herrick fosters school pride, focuses on learning, and connects with the community. PTA President Elect Kristin Noonan shared some of the many ways the PTA supports Herrick, and ELA Teacher Jennifer Tartaglione’s fifth period homebase students led a virtual Pledge of Allegiance. 

2021-22 Budget Hearing and Approval

The Board of Education held a public hearing on the proposed 2021-22 budget and later unanimously voted to adopt it. The budget includes an estimated $79.6 million in revenues and $79.2 million in expenditures, and was informed by the District’s Five Year Financial Plan. Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall said that the budget includes an estimated $3 million in proceeds from the sale of the Longfellow Center and a significant increase in federal funds, including federal COVID-19 relief (ESSER), Title and food service funding. This increased federal funding is earmarked toward these specific expenditures and will only be provided as a reimbursement upon receipt of the expenditures. 

Last year, the Board of Education adopted a 35% fund balance policy to ensure District 58 has sufficient cash available and help the District build up its capital project fund. Given the nature and delay in reimbursement of federal funds, the 2021-22 budget does not meet the 35% policy if Longfellow proceeds are not included. Several Board members discussed the unique circumstances, highlighted above, that affected the District’s ability to maintain a 35% fund balance and agreed that this year is an anomaly due to the increased federal expenditures and their delayed reimbursement. Going forward, the fund balance policy’s framework should ensure District 58 maintains the 35% fund balance.

During the public hearing, the Board received one public comment regarding differences in the bilingual education line items between the tentative and final budgets.

Spotlight: Enrollment and Staffing Update

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis presented a staffing and enrollment update. District 58’s enrollment remains steady at 4,905 students. In the past 20 years, enrollment has fluctuated between 4,700-5,100 students.

District 58 has continued to improve staffing allocations to decrease class sizes and make average class sizes more equitable districtwide. District 58 aims to achieve the following class size targets: 

  • 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 

Dr. Yudzentis shared that most grade levels are expected to meet their class size targets. She added that building principals and central administrators closely evaluated each classroom that did not meet its target to ensure it would have the necessary supports to provide all students with an excellent education. 

Dr. Russell noted that District 58 has a small neighborhood school model, which makes staffing allocations challenging due to shifting enrollment patterns and school capacity. He said he is proud that District 58 has managed to not only maintain small class sizes, but has also avoided combination classes and kept all students in their home schools, including students attending the Optional Kindergarten Enrichment and Enhancement Program.

Dr. Yudzentis noted that District 58 has increased its student support positions, with a focus on consistency across all schools and equitable opportunities for support. Schools continually monitor student progress and re-evaluate needs and adjust supports as appropriate.

School Board members asked questions about class size communications, hiring challenges and student support services.

Spotlight: Potential Village of Downers Grove Partnership 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell reported that District 58 and the Village of Downers Grove have discussed building a shared administrative facility for over a decade. Discussions have accelerated, and last month the Village Council approved the key terms for a Village and District 58 facility intergovernmental agreement. Dr. Russell presented the same key terms framework to the Board. Per the framework, a shared administrative space would not only be mutually beneficial to the Village and District 58, it would also consolidate building costs, saving taxpayers money. The Village would continue to own the property, and the District would sign a 50-year lease. District 58 would pay the construction costs for the additional square footage and parking required to accommodate District staff. The payment would be stretched over a 25-year period without an increase over that time. For the following 25 years, the lease payment would be halved to cover building maintenance and upkeep. 

The District 58 Board approved the key terms. This approval means that both entities may now begin the project design phase. Please note, this approval is not a final commitment from the District. The Village will begin to design the facility with input from District 58 on the portions of the facility that District 58 would use. An intergovernmental agreement finalizing all terms of this facility partnership would be drafted and voted on after the design development plans are completed.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates, including:

  • Personnel: In accordance with Illinois School Code, District 58 has posted its 2021-22 IMRF Compensation Report and its 2020-21 Teacher and Administrator Compensation Report in the Board agenda and on the District website.
  • Curriculum Workshop: The Board’s Curriculum Workshop will take place next month; it will include an update on curriculum and assessment results. 
  • Illinois Assessment of Readiness: District 58 deferred administering the Illinois Assessment of Readiness last spring to avoid taking time away from in-person learning. District 58 will administer this assessment starting next week. As a reminder, in the past couple of years, the District and community significantly changed how this assessment is approached. While District 58 does not teach to a test, the District now places greater emphasis on preparing students for the testing platform and strongly encouraging students, staff and families to take it seriously. 
  • Student Services: The Illinois State Board of Education awarded District 58 the highest designation rating possible for its implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s requirements for schools. Special thanks to Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Jessica Stewart and our building-based special education teams for implementing consistent District special education procedures.
  • Technology: The Technology Department achieved its goal of having all student devices ready for the first day of school, along with necessary digital resources. 
  • Facilities: Congratulations to Highland School on the recent grand opening of their new playground. “A big thank you to all of the vendors, staff and parents involved with Highland Elementary to make this project happen,” Dr. Russell said. “A special note of thanks to the Climb Higher at Highland group and especially Rachel Upton for all of their work in getting this off the ground and to completion. The new areas and equipment are fantastic and Principal Craft has remarked how well the kids are enjoying the space.”
  • In addition, the flooring contractor completed work on the Henry Puffer basement and three O’Neill classrooms. Of note, the Puffer lower level now houses the library and gifted classrooms; this move opened space upstairs to better align preschool classrooms and maximize room usage in the school.
  • Oktoberfest: The Education Foundation’s Oktoberfest festival takes place in downtown Downers Grove on Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18. All funds raised will support District 58 schools. This event needs volunteers to be a success; visit to sign up.
  • Communication Awards: Dr. Russell congratulated Community Relations Coordinator Megan Hewitt for earning two state-level communication awards for the District’s community and staff newsletters.

Business Report 

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that District 58’s revenues continue to be higher than usual because DuPage County adjusted its property tax distribution cycle and delayed a payment typically dispersed in June to July. 

Director of Buildings and Grounds Kevin Barto reported that most summer construction projects have concluded. A few projects are running behind due to supply chain delays, and crews are working in the evenings and weekends to finish as quickly as possible while minimizing disruptions to students.

Committee Reports 

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Aug. 17 Policy Committee meeting. The committee reviewed several policy manual updates recommended by the Illinois Association of School Board’s PRESS service. The committee agreed to present updates to 20 Board policies for first reading to the Board.

President Darren Hughes reported on the Sept. 10 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee discussed the recent property tax disbursement delay, insurance rates, and the potential partnership with the Village on a shared administrative space.

Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Aug. 30 District Leadership Team meeting. The committee reviewed progress on the District’s three strategic goals and noted that the current Strategic Plan expires next year. They recommended the Board have a conversation this fall regarding how to approach the next strategic planning process.

Vice President Harris reported on the Sept. 8 Health & Wellness Committee meeting. The committee discussed how, after a year of lower-than-usual medical claims, the District reached a record amount of claims for July 2021. For next calendar year, District 58’s insurance benefits provider tentatively is recommending an 8% increase for all District 58 medical plans, except for the HSA plan (which continues to perform well and does not have a deficit). 

The Legislative Committee did not meet in the last month.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Received five public comments. Comments were regarding District 58 staff vaccine mandates, plans for in-district COVID testing, the lack of full-day preschool programming, academic gaps between the United States and China, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work in District 58, student mask usage, and programmatic changes to the Dual Language Program.
  • Approved minutes from the Aug. 9 Regular Board Meeting and Aug. 18 Special Board Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the Consent Agenda, including the appointment of Preschool Coordinator Susan Dillon.
  • Approved a fundraising plan by the Pierce Downer community for improving the playground area at their school. 
  • Designated serious safety hazards for the 2021-22 school year. This allows students who reside within these designated areas to be eligible for fee-based bus transportation services, despite living within the 1.5 mile limit.
  • Adopted a resolution appointing District Bookkeeper Carly Book to serve as District 58’s authorized agent for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. 
  • Designated a display case, floor machine, wooden cart and two trucks as surplus equipment.

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Monday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.: Special Board Meeting at Downers Grove Village Hall
  • Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 a.m.: Financial Advisory Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at O’Neill Middle School

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