Board Briefs: Nov. 13, 2023 Regular Meeting

board members photographed against brick wall

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, at Downers Grove Village Hall. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page within the week.

School Report: Fairmount School 

Members of the Fairmount Student Council led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and reported on their fundraisers and service activities planned this year, including a fall supply collection for NAWS Humane Society, a winter wear giving tree collection and a spring canned food drive. Principal Lisa Niforatos highlighted the work of the Positive Behavior Support System team to educate students on positive behavior: Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe, and to celebrate those behaviors with school-wide assemblies called Monthly Matters. New this year are 6th-grade student ambassadors who provide student leadership throughout the building, including tasks such as mentorship at recess for younger students, leading school-wide announcements and safety patrol duties. She outlined efforts to work on student achievement growth areas, targeting numbers and operations in math, as well as continuing the focus on previous SIP focus areas led by the Instructional Leadership Team – vocabulary development and work on informational text – both of which have shown gains in both student growth and achievement across grade levels.  

Public hearing on tax levy; Board approves 2023 tax levy

The Board held a public hearing on the 2023 tax levy, a requirement of the Truth and Taxation Law. School Districts in Illinois are limited to raising property taxes by either 5% or the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less. The hearing is required if any local government submits a tax levy more than 105% of the prior year. The District also, as it does every month, shared its current cash balance of all of its funds, a required disclosure during the adoption of the district budget and or tax levy. No members of the public spoke at the hearing. Later in the meeting, the Board approved the 2023 estimated tax levy of $79.83 million. Taxes collected from the levy cover the second half of the 2024 budget and the start of the 2025 budget. Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall noted that the levy extension recommendation is based on a higher CPI than in past years, unknown assessed valuations, high inflation and increased costs in contracts and medical plans.

Spotlight: School Report Cards

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart shared data from the 2023 Illinois Report Card for District 58, noting that District 58 student achievement data reflected both high growth and high proficiency. The two KPIs or Key Performance Indicators that the District uses showed strong performance. Specifically, the KPI on proficiency was as follows: 

KPI Target = 75th Percentile in ELA and 85th Percentile in Math on Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) 

  • Actual 2023 ELA  = Students ranked in the 90th Percentile state-wide in English Language Arts (This means that District 58 students performed better than 90% of Illinois school districts)
  • Actual 2023 Math = Students ranked in the 94th Percentile state-wide in Math (This means that District 58 students performed better than 94% of Illinois school districts)

The School Report Card presents Math and English-Language Arts (ELA) academic proficiency and growth data using results from the 2023 Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), which is the state test students in grades 3-8 took last spring. 

“This is a pretty incredible achievement,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell. He also cautioned that these are data points in time and “we shouldn’t over-celebrate but we want to acknowledge the good work that has been done.” 

Last year, nine schools were above the 75th percentile target in ELA and ranged from the 61st to the 90th percentile. In 2023, 10 schools were at or above the 75th percentile and ranged from the 68th to the 95th percentile. 

In math, nine schools were at/above the 85th percentile and ranged from the 68th to the 96th percentile. In 2023, nine schools were at/above the 85th percentile and ranged from the 69th to 97th percentile. 

Other data shows:

  • District 58’s Illinois Assessment for Readiness (IAR) results found that 58.1% of students are proficient in ELA and 53.3% are proficient in Math. 
  • District 58 is considered a large elementary school district and when compared to all 13 DuPage County large elementary school districts, District 58’s Math proficiency and its ELA proficiency both ranked third. 
  • District 58 is one of six elementary school districts that feed into District 99 for high school. When compared to these districts, District 58’s Math and ELA proficiency both ranked the highest. ELA proficiency moved up from third last year. 

The Illinois Report Card also gives each school a summative designation, designed to help families and communities understand how well schools are serving all students. For 2022, only one school earned an Exemplary rating, the State’s highest rating, and all other District 58 schools earned a Commendable rating. In 2023, two schools earned an Exemplary rating. 

The State uses a variety of data points to calculate school ratings, including academic growth and proficiency, chronic absenteeism and climate survey participation. Ehrhart noted some schools were on the cusp of moving to Exemplary but chronic absenteeism had kept them in the Commendable rating. Curtailing absenteeism is a key priority for the District this year. 

The report card shares other metrics, including school funding and demographics. The 2023 School Report Card is posted on the District 58 website.

School Report Card Presentation

Board adopts Strategic Plan

The Board adopted the 2023-28 Strategic Plan, highlighting the community’s eight-month involvement in developing and fine-tuning the goals, objectives and action plans. Now, Board committees and District councils will take those objectives and develop actionable steps to make those goals a reality. Dr. Russell thanked everyone –  community members, parents and staff who attended engagement meetings and served on Development Teams – for their efforts in creating the plan. Strategic Plan Consultant Robert Madonia, who facilitated the community engagement process, addressed the Board and said the plan should be a model for other Districts. Progress updates on the Strategic Plan will be provided quarterly at District Leadership Team meetings and also will be highlighted in Board Briefs and on the website.

Strategic Plan

Board approves joining new athletic conference 

The Board approved joining a new athletic conference for the two middle schools next school year (2024-25), which will have a number of benefits for students and families. Currently, the District competes in the DuPage Metro Valley Conference (DMVC) and beginning next year Herrick and O’Neill will be part of the Southeast DuPage Elementary Athletic Association (SDEAA). 

Schools in SDEAA include all District 99 feeder schools and are therefore geographically closer, which will help with travel for students, families and staff. The SDEAA also has more sports and activities that are available to its member districts, such as soccer, chess and Scholastic Bowl. Each District can select which sports and activities it will be a part of via an à la carte system. Dr. Russell thanked principals for their work on this initiative and the SDEAA members for approving District 58’s membership.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

  • School Board Members Day: District 58 is celebrating the statewide School Board Members Day on Nov. 15. This annual recognition gives an opportunity for the school district and the public to say thank you to members of the District 58 Board of Education. Dr. Russell said board members spend multiple hours each month on District work, attending meetings, and other responsibilities to benefit students and the community.
  • Grove Express 5K: District 58 invites the community to participate in the Grove Express 5K on Thanksgiving morning. Not only is this a fantastic community event, but a portion of the proceeds will benefit District 58.
  • Personnel
    The District is currently working to develop the 2024-25 and 2025-26 calendars and plans to present them for approval in December. They are preparing two years ahead for two reasons: to enable construction timelines and to better meet the needs of families. After this year, the District will return to a one-year approval process.
  • Curriculum and Instruction
    Last week, the schools honored our Veterans with various celebrations, activities and assemblies. Thank you to our principals for all their planning and preparation for these Veterans Day events.
  • Finance
    Over the past month, members of the Health and Wellness Committee have visited all 13 schools to share information about the District’s benefits ahead of the open enrollment period, which began on Nov. 1 and ends Nov. 15. The goal is to educate staff to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. As a self-insured school district, the District strives to provide good benefits to staff while also being good stewards of taxpayer money.
  • Technology
    The technology department has begun reviewing the registration system for the 2024-2025 school year with the plan to open registration to new and returning students in February of 2024. In addition, the team is planning on the necessary technology to have in place for any new construction. 
  • Special Services
    The Special Services Department encourages all families of students with special needs to learn more about the Downers Grove Police Department’s Safe Return program. Safe Return is an alert program for children who may have difficulty communicating and are at risk of becoming confused, disoriented, or lost during an emergency. Police use the details provided by families for the purpose of identifying and locating a child who is reported missing, found wandering, or other emergency circumstances. Information will be highlighted in upcoming Principal newsletters. 
  • Facilities
    The Fairmount playground was opened last week and Dr. Russell thanked the students, staff, and families for their flexibility and patience. He noted that although the District has used the contractor before with no issues, the timeline for completion of the Fairmount playground was unacceptable and the District will not use the company in the future.
    Last week, plans for renovations and additions to the two middle schools were presented and approved by the Village Plan Commission. They will be presented on first reading to the Downers Grove Village Council on Dec. 5 with final approval on Dec. 12. Dr. Russell thanked neighbors and residents who attended and asked questions at the neighborhood meetings; and also thanked the Plan Commission for their questions and the village staff for their work with the DG58 team.  
  • Education Support Professionals
    On behalf of the Board of Education and the entire District 58 community, Dr. Russell thanked the instructional assistants and secretaries for all they do to support students, teaching staff and our schools as part of Education Support Professionals Day. He said, “We are fortunate to work alongside such talented individuals and grateful for everything they do!”
  • Happy Thanksgiving
    Finally, on behalf of the Board of Education, Dr. Russell wished everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Adopted a resolution supporting American Education Week Nov. 13-17, 2023.
  • Approved a recommendation to purchase an internet circuit that would connect the new district office at the civic center building for $1,038.20 per month for a 36-month term.
  • Approved a recommendation to designate surplus equipment so it can be sold.
  • Approved a contract addition with Quest to provide a pilot food service program at the elementary schools. 
  • Approved a contract with Langton Group for snow removal of all school parking lots for $4,990 for 1-2 inches of snow, and up to $16,845 for 10.1-14-inches of snow. 
  • Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Downers Grove to replace a water main in conjunction with referendum construction at Herrick. By combining the work of the village with the District’s project, there will be overall savings for the taxpayers by eliminating the duplication of work.
  • Approved a school maintenance grant application. 

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, November 27, 3:45 p.m. ~ District Leadership Team ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Friday, December 8, 7 a.m. ~ Financial Advisory Committee ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, December 11, 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. To view all Board meeting topics, view the agenda.