Featured School: Highland School
The Highland Student Council led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and presented some of the recent school activities they’ve led, including a number of service projects, spirit days, and ways the Council has advocated and implemented some positive changes for the school. PTA Co-Presidents Carie Blonn and Julia Maschek highlighted ways it supports staff, students, and families, including launching One Book, One School, a VIP Day, and the upcoming parent/child Luau. Principal Zachary Craft and Assistant Principal Sandy Cristobal highlighted some Points of Pride, including the Husky High Five that reinforces positive behaviors. They also detailed Highland’s assessment results and growth targets, noting that the school met its overall growth targets. Using these results and other data for its School Improvement Plan (SIP), the school has focused its work on three goals: Improving student word recognition skills, implementing the Zones of Regulation curriculum in all classrooms that teach students how to use calming techniques and other strategies to stay in or move to a calming zone. The third focus is continuing to build a positive building culture using the Happiness Advantage as a guiding principle. Learn more about how Highland is working toward these goals.
Spotlight on our Schools: Staffing for 2023-24
Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Jayne Yudzentis gave an update on the staffing plan for the 2023-24 school year. At this time of year, the District reviews staffing allocations and its programs to identify efficiencies and enhancements that align with the district’s instructional priorities. One of the priorities has been to lower class sizes, a continuation of last year’s goal. Dr. Yudzentis noted that more than 90% of classrooms this year had achieved the class size targets. The district targets, as established through the prior Strategic Plan, are to have 80% of its classrooms meet the class size targets listed below:
- Preschool: 15-18 students per class
- Grades K-2: 24 or fewer students
- Grades 3-8: 26 or fewer students
In addition to lowering class sizes, the District will prioritize maintaining the current quality programs and consistency in all schools, including maintaining ongoing professional development with early release Mondays and support for teachers with instructional coordinators and coaches.
Dr. Yudzentis highlighted two potential areas of need for next year. Special education enrollment is expected to rise by 70 students and as a result, more support services and staff are needed. Among them are:
- Increase teaching staffing of DLP and BEST programs to accommodate enrollment increase and staffing shortages of Instructional Assistants
- Transition Occupational Therapist positions from SASED to the district
- Provide administrative support for oversight due to larger enrollment and expanded needs
The second is a need to allocate an additional Assistant Principal position at Herrick because of its larger enrollment. This position will provide student support for behavior, activities, and special education as well as staff and parent support. The timing of the new position is also key as the middle schools will be preparing for the transitioning of 6th graders following the facility additions and improvements. More information and updates regarding the staffing plan for next year will be shared in the upcoming months.
View the presentation to learn more.
Spotlight on our Schools: Middle School Facilities Conceptual Designs
Superintendent Kevin Russell gave an overview of conceptual designs to expand and improve the middle schools. He noted that these are rough, general overviews of work in the buildings and are subject to change. The conceptual drawings were developed following visioning sessions with the community and staff. Out of the visioning sessions, guiding principles were developed to execute the designs:
- Accommodate flexibility and agility
- Foster choice and independence
- Promote safe and sustainable environments
- Create warm and welcoming spaces to learn
- Honor tradition with timeless spaces
Later this spring, after further discussions with staff and site surveys, more detailed schematic designs will be presented to the Board. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2024.
View the presentation.
(Pictured below are draft conceptual designs for Herrick and O’Neill Middle Schools.
Approval: Bids for New Playgrounds
The Board approved bids for new playgrounds at Belle Aire, Fairmount, Indian Trail, and Kingsley. The work was awarded to the low bidder, Hacienda Landscaping for $793,317. The majority of funding comes from a state grant: Fairmount ($234,000), Indian Trail ($195,000), and Kingsley ($190,000) with considerable support from PTA and community groups. The District is contributing funds for engineering and design fees. While Belle Aire did not receive a state grant, the District is funding about 82% of the improvements at Belle Aire with the remaining from the PTA and the community. The District will also fund a maximum of $60,000 for the preschool playground at Indian Trail. Learn more.
Approval: Next Step for New Strategic Plan
With the current Strategic Plan expiring after this school year, the Board is looking at a new one. A new plan will build off of the existing one to enhance and improve upon the structures, processes, and improvements the District collectively put in place in the last five years. The Board approved a contract with Dr. Robert Madonia of RJM consulting for $15,000 to facilitate the District’s Strategic Plan for 2023-24 to 2028-29. The cost is significantly lower than other proposals and less than the previous Strategic Plan. Dr. Russell noted that because the expiring Strategic Plan was so robust, a more streamlined facilitation plan was called for. Again with the upcoming Strategic Plan, the involvement of staff, parents, and the community is integral to the process. Timeline. Presentation
Dr. Russell provided several updates, including:
- District Equity Leadership Team: The team completed its review of the draft equity audit report and will share the final report with the Board this spring.
- Assessments: State assessments are currently taking place. Students in grades 5 and 8 will take the Illinois Science Assessment prior to spring break, and students in grades 3-8 will take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) after spring break. The tests are used by the state to measure and compare schools to others in Illinois. Dr. Russell thanked families for their partnership in helping set up students for success and for the can-do attitude of the students.
- Finance: The administration will recommend to the Board to amend its budget later this spring to reflect the bond sale related to the facilities referendum that passed in November. Another recommended change is to amend $500,000 in the budget that was earmarked for a potential early prepayment for future leased space with the Village. The payment was budgeted to potentially reduce the borrowing costs of the construction of the new Civic Center. After recent conversations with the Village regarding that payment, it was determined that there was no advantage or lowering of borrowing costs for the Village to receive early payment.
- Registration: Registration for new and returning families opened on March 13. Dr. Russell reminded families to register by April 3 in order to determine staffing, classroom, and transportation needs for the coming year.
- Safety and Security: The District is taking several steps to enhance safety protocols and procedures in addition to the facilities plan to create safe and secure school entrances. All schools will be implementing the new Raptor screening system for visitors following spring break. Visitors will be asked to show a driver’s license or other ID, which will be scanned against a sex offender database. In addition, the District is partnering with the Regional Office of Education (ROE) on threat assessments training and a safety walk-through assessment of the schools. The District is also working with the ROE and other school districts on an Intergovernmental Agreement that will allow the ROE to develop an App that would coordinate and centralize voluntary support for districts in the event of an emergency or large-scale crisis. Dr. Russell noted that the district continues to take an “all of the above” approach to safety protocols and procedures.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall said that in light of the reported recent bank failures, he wanted to highlight the district’s investment report. He said the Treasurer’s report, that is posted each month in the Board agenda, outlines the list of investments and that a significant amount of those investments of operating funds are in Treasury Bonds. He also said that the District’s operating accounts at 5/3 bank also have a third-party collateralization agreement with Bank of New York which has a continually automated format to ensure our funds are collateralized. These are reviewed annually as part of the District audit. He said the year-to-date financial report shows the district entering its low cash point, waiting for spring receipts. He also outlined items that are on later in the agenda, including summer work and transportation contract renewals, which are lower than other districts this year.
- Board Member Emily Hanus reported on the Feb. 22 Legislative Committee meeting. The committee reviewed survey results of legislators and participants from the Legislative Breakfast, which was held on Feb. 3, and discussed suggestions for future events.
- Board President Darren Hughes reported on the March 10 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee continued its discussion regarding a capital fund policy, recommending setting aside a minimum of $750,000 annually for capital projects. They also discussed the food service bidding process and the potential of expanding the hot lunch service to the elementary schools, which would require new equipment and larger spaces.
- Board Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Feb. 27 District Leadership Team. The team discussed the strategic planning recommendation for 2023-29 and middle school conceptual designs, as well as the progress toward the current strategic plan goals. Work on Goal 1 has included brainstorming ideas to improve parent education resources to assist parents in helping their students learn. Goal 2 progress focused on engaging the community and staff in facility visioning sessions to guide the referendum construction design process. Progress toward Goal 3 has included the issuance of bonds to spend on facility projects over the next three years, and the scheduling of weekly meetings with the architect and construction manager to discuss design parameters and budget alignment.
- Board Vice President Greg Harris reported on the March 2 Health and Wellness Committee. The committee discussed staff wellness incentives and reviewed early health plan data.
The Board’s other committees have not met since the last Board meeting.
During the Meeting, the Board Also:
- Approved minutes from the Feb. 27 Special Meeting and Curriculum Workshop.
- Approved minutes from the Feb. 13 Business Meeting.
- Approved all contents in the consent agenda.
- Discussed a proposal to amend the Articles of Agreement for SASED. Proposed is to revise the governing structure so that the Board of Control would be comprised of superintendent representatives, and the Governing Board to be comprised of member district board members. This would allow superintendents to be more involved in the day-to-day operations and for the board to keep its more traditional role of oversight and governance. View the presentation.
- Approved a one-year extension with transportation provider First Student. The contract will increase by 6.5% from the current rate and 5% for field trips. View the award letter.
- Approved a one-year extension with Sunrise for transportation services for special education services. The rate increase is 6%. View the award letter.
- Awarded the landscape maintenance contract with Langton Group for $91,253. View the award letter.
- Awarded a bid for new flooring and related improvements at Henry Puffer to Ashlaur Construction Company for $215,730. View the award letter.
- Awarded a bid for asbestos abatement of old flooring beneath carpeting at Henry Puffer to Cove Remediation for $114,000. View the award letter.
- Monday, March 27 to Friday, March 31: Spring Break
- Monday, April 3: Classes Resume
- Monday, April 10 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Downers Grove Village Hall
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.