A Spotlight on our Schools from Kingsley School
2022-23 Kingsley School Student Council officers Abby, Jenna and Ellie led the Pledge of Allegiance and reported on activities they organized last year, including food collections for FISH Pantry, the annual Giving Tree to fulfill wishlists during the holidays and the all-school walk to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Student Council elections are in progress now at Kingsley. PTA Finance Officer Jeff Leesman shared how the PTA raised $102,000 to support the new playground. He added that the PTA’s goal is to fundraise around experiences and to focus on increasing memberships.
Kingsley Principal Charles Brewster detailed the school’s 2022-23 goal that targeted developing guided reading structures and systems, which resulted in gains in test data, most markedly in student subgroups. Assistant Principal Dr. Eleni Gajewski shared the school’s theme for the year: “Be kind, be you, belong.” She said “belong” means many things such as being physically safe, emotionally safe, and showing students they are seen and that they are cared for. She also outlined “Orange Frog” or positive psychology activities by the Culture Committee for staff and students.
Budget Hearing and Approval
The Board of Education held a public hearing on the proposed 2023-24 budget and later unanimously voted to adopt it. Noting that there have been five years of balanced budgets after deficit budgets, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell said that the District is in a much more positive position than it was several years ago. A positive fund balance has been possible even as the District added some needed programs such as Full-Day Kindergarten, Dual-Language program, and specialized special education programs.
Revenues are projected to exceed expenditures by $4.9 million in the 23-24 budget. Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall said that the budget reflects the District’s Five-Year Financial Plan and follows the District’s 35% fund balance policy (rounded up from 34.7%). The fund balance policy is needed to ensure the District has a rainy day fund and avoids the need to issue tax anticipation warrants during low cash-on-hand periods.
However, the budget is tight and reflects a conservative spending plan. “We estimate higher on expenditures and lower on revenues,” said Dr. Russell. The District expects to tighten its belt in coming years and will likely have to reduce some positions due to the elimination of federal ESSER funds that were provided for pandemic-related needs.
Spotlight on our Schools: Enrollment Update
Assistant Superintendent for Personnel & Staff Development Justin Sisul presented a staffing and enrollment update. District 58’s enrollment remains steady at 4826 total, a 1 percent decrease in students.
As in the last few years, District 58 has continued to improve staffing allocations to decrease class sizes and make average class sizes more equitable districtwide. Again this year, most grade levels met the class size targets below:
- Grades K-2: 80% of classrooms will have 24 or fewer students
- Grades 3-8: 80% of classrooms will have 26 or fewer students
He noted that there were five instances in grades K-6 in which classes exceeded the class size targets, three of them at the sixth-grade level. He said that they have been keeping a close eye on those sections and have been working with principals to determine if there are needs for additional support. At the middle schools, there are a total of 11 individual classes with more than 26 students, over half of which are co-taught by two certified staff members. View the report
With a neighborhood school model, where there is limited capacity and shifting enrollment, there is typically a range of fluctuation in class sizes.
Additionally, all certified positions are fully staffed in the District. Seven instructional assistant (IA) positions remain unfilled and are temporarily staffed with substitute teachers. The District has implemented a recruitment program, including instituting a $2,000 stipend for hard-to-fill IA positions. The District continues to monitor enrollment, class sizes and programs and will adjust as necessary throughout the year.
Board amends 2023-24 calendar
The Board of Education approved amending the school calendar, setting the last day of school as Wednesday, May 29, 2024. It will be a half day of school for students and they will be released at 11:30 a.m. for grades K-6 and 11:45 a.m. for grades 7-8. In addition, students will attend school on Tuesday, May 28. The two days were declared student attendance days in this year’s calendar as school started later than planned in August 2023 due to excessive heat. Here is the amended 2023-24 calendar.
Board approves first bid for referendum construction
After nearly a year of planning, the Board approved a large bid package for mechanical, electrical and fire alarm equipment for construction in the amount of $3.02 million. It was the first bid in the referendum process. The bids were placed early in order to ensure delivery in time for summer 2024 construction at the two middle schools and Phase I elementary schools.
Curriculum and Instruction
The District welcomed all of its families into the schools for Curriculum Nights this month. The evenings are designed for families to meet the staff and learn about the class or course structure. Parents also learn about key initiatives in the District and at their schools. The District is fortunate to have great attendance on Curriculum Night.
A survey was sent to elementary parents on Friday to gauge their interest in a boxed lunch for their child and as of Monday morning there were nearly 1,100 responses. The District will compile and post the results at the end of this week.
The school year was off to a successful start and devices were ready for students. New wireless access points were performing well. In addition, the District is shifting to a new primary wireless network that will be reserved for District 58-issued devices, ensuring improved security and segregating guest traffic. The Tech Department is also preparing for parent-teacher conferences and will again use the PowerPTC platform for parent sign-up.
The Special Services Department invites all parents of students with IEPs or those who are participating in the special education evaluation process for a Facilitated IEP training on Oct. 11 from 7-8:30 p.m. The presentation will outline the new process District 58 will use during IEP meetings starting later this fall called IEP Meeting Facilitation. The presentation, which is virtual, will explain the process and its benefits and help parents prepare for IEP meetings. The workshop will help parents build skills to participate in more effective and efficient communications among all team members.
The next step in planning for middle school construction is the final material selection. Meetings were held recently on door hardware, plumbing, and electrical items. On Sept. 26, the District will host the initial neighborhood meeting for Herrick and O’Neill, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively, for feedback and questions. The Downers Grove Plan Commission Meeting is set for Nov. 6.
Belle Aire’s playground is expected to be ready to open in a couple of days once the construction fence is removed. Construction at Fairmount has begun and is expected to take 4-6 weeks. Again, the District is very disappointed and frustrated with the contractor for not holding to the initial timeline and hope they can finish soon. We are grateful to the PTA, parents and State Representative Anne Stava-Murray, who all made these playground projects a reality.
Thanks to a number of community groups, our students in need have backpacks and school supplies. An abundance of school supplies and backpacks were donated by individuals and community groups, including the Community Christian Church of Downers Grove, the Regional Office of Education and Catholic Charities and the Kim Moustis Group of Keller Williams. In addition, First Christian Church held two days of a School Supply Fair before the start of school where our teachers could pick out school supplies to use in their classrooms.
The 2023 District 58 Annual Report was mailed to all District 58 residents last month. It is also posted on our website and is available in each of our schools.
Glenbard Parent Series
We are official partners with the Glenbard Parent Series, which provides free workshops about parenting and youth every week. We are highlighting the workshops in our newsletters and on our social media pages. The workshops are held virtually. The next ones coming up are Wednesday: Inside the Emotional Lives of Teenagers, and Thursday: Valuing and Celebrating our Students’ Success.
The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 will hold its 10th Annual Oktoberfest in downtown Downers Grove this Friday and Saturday. All proceeds will benefit the Education Foundation. Learn more at https://www.dgoktoberfest.org/
- Financial Advisory Committee - Board President Darren Hughes gave a report on the Financial Advisory Committee, noting that the committee discussed capital and playground updates, ESSA reports, the 23-24 budget and fund balance policy and reviewed the pharmacy management plan.
- District Leadership Team - Board Member Tracy Weiner reported that the committee reviewed the Strategic Plan process and timeline and updated the board on the five focus areas and progress.
- Health and Wellness Committee - Board Vice President Greg Harris reported that the committee discussed summer data, the recommended switch of pharmacy benefit management to Aetna and the projected savings of $4 million.
During the Meeting, the Board Also:
- Approved a proposal to switch staff pharmacy benefits management to Aetna, creating a potential savings of $4 million
- Heard a report from Dr. Russell on SASED noting that the organization is recruiting for a new executive director and that he will serve on the group’s policy committee
- Approved items on the consent agenda
- Approved minutes of the Aug. 14, 2023 board meeting
- September 19, 2023, 7 a.m. Policy Committee Meeting, O'Neill Middle School
- October 4, 2023, 3:45 p.m. Legislative Committee Meeting, O'Neill Middle School
- October 6, 2023, 7 a.m. Financial Advisory Committee Meeting, O'Neill Middle School
- October 9, 2023, 3:45 p.m. District Leadership Team Meeting, O'Neill Middle School
- October 9, 2023, 7 p.m. Regular Board Meeting, 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.