Board Briefs: Jan. 8, 2024

Seven board members standing in front of brick wall.

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024 at the Downers Grove Village Hall. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page within the week.

School Report: Hillcrest School

The Hillcrest Student Council members led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and reported on their school programs, fundraisers and service activities planned this year. Students said they enjoyed serving as mentors to younger students in Hillcrest “families,” one of the notable hallmarks of the school. Officers highlighted service projects such as donating candy for Operation Support The Troops, collecting food for FISH food pantry and plans for making Valentine cards for senior citizens.

PTA co-presidents Kelly Fallon-Wilson and Katie Wojciechowski highlighted the family atmosphere at Hillcrest and how the school and PTA ensure everyone has a voice. Some examples include programs such as a school celebration tree and new family mentoring. They also plan activities that are family-oriented and free such as Bingo Night and Movie Night.

Principal Michelle Rzepka highlighted test scores and the school improvement goal to improve reading comprehension and writing fluency. She noted, among other things, growth in reading and writing stamina, reading comprehension and improved test scores. For example, students in grades 3-6 showed a jump in IAR scores from 47% to 66% meeting the benchmark in ELA year over year from 2021-22 to 2022-23 following the enhancements. 

View the presentation

Spotlight on Our Schools: Gifted Programming Update

The Gifted Committee gave an update on its work. Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Eleni Gajewski said the committee has delved deeply into the gifted learning standards, best practices of the pedagogy and reviewed how the District identifies criteria. They have conducted a book study and attended differentiation workshops by educational consultant Jan Kise, who has authored 20 books on education. The committee’s focus will be to make recommendations on how to serve gifted students in their home school. In a related report, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart gave an update on the math acceleration process. She said that currently, 800 students are taking accelerated math, either one or two classes ahead of their grade level. The Curriculum Office will continue the same criteria as last year and is currently establishing a timeline, creating class lists and determining transportation needs.

View the presentation

School Fees approved

The Board approved the 2024-25 school fees, which traditionally are based on inflation rates. The measure of inflation used was 6.5%. Some fee increases, for example, transportation, are based on vendor rate increases. The fees were reviewed by the Board at its December meeting and by the Financial Advisory Committee. Fees for the 2024-25 school year are:

  • Instructional fee K-6 $257
  • Instructional fee 7-8 $300
  • Transportation (eligible) $53
  • Transportation (paid) $614
  • Preschool application $50
  • Preschool fee $4,376
  • Instrumental rental $40

See a complete list of fees here.

Construction bids for Elementary Schools Phase I

The Board approved its first bid for construction work at Phase I elementary schools (Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest and Whittier). The bids are for heavy equipment and were bid early because of the long lead time needed for the goods. Called Elementary Group Bid #2, the award was given to responsive low bidders for $813,948.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates including:

  • Curriculum and Instruction
    As part of winter benchmarking this month, all K-8 students will take the NWEA MAP growth assessments in reading and math; many students will also take AIMSWeb Plus assessments. Individual student assessment reports will be sent home at the end of the month. Staff will review student data during professional learning Mondays in late January and early February.

    The District is currently piloting some English Language Arts resources this year and plans to recommend a resource this spring. Materials under consideration are currently on display at the Downers Grove Public Library and the District Office.
  • Technology
    District 58 is collaborating with the Downers Grove Public Library to provide all District 58 students, including those in unincorporated Downers Grove and non-Downers Grove residents, with a library card. This partnership will extend a valuable resource to our students, both in the classroom and at home. Parents/guardians will be asked for permission as a part of the annual student registration process. 
  • Special Services
    Beginning in 2024, Special Services teams will be utilizing the IEP Facilitation model for IEP meetings moving forward.  We are grateful to our families that allowed our teams to pilot this new format for their child’s meeting before winter break.  We are very pleased with this new model and look forward to using this as our standard approach.
  • Facilities
    Asbestos abatement work at the middle schools over winter break were given air clearances by the environmental testing company on Thursday, Jan. 4. This work was to prepare for construction during spring break and summer. Additionally, contractors moved some exterior doors at O’Neill. We’re happy the construction team was able to complete the work prior to the return to school. 
    At the February Board meeting, the District will seek approval of an agreement with the furniture dealer Henricksen as part of the referendum project. They were one of three finalists, and after interviews and checking references, came highly recommended and also showed some competitive sample pricing.
  • Public Relations
    District 58 is closely monitoring the winter weather forecast this upcoming week. We are taking the necessary steps with our students and staff members to be prepared in the event that there are snow days and e-learning/remote days. We will email updates to parents and staff, post similar notices on social media and will include updates in Communicate 58 to specifically ask families to familiarize themselves with the District's e-Learning Plan and winter weather procedures.

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Policy Committee Chair Greg Harris reported on the work of the Dec. 19 Policy Committee meeting. He said that the committee reviewed all of the policies and recommended them for approval, which will be on tonight’s agenda for first reading. 
  • Legislative Committee Chair Emily Hanus reported on discussions of the Dec. 20 committee meeting, which centered on plans for the Legislative Breakfast Feb. 2. The event will have a similar format to last year. The group brainstormed topics and questions to ask legislators and will meet Wednesday to finalize those topics.
  • District Leadership Team Chair Kirat Doshi gave an update on the Dec. 18 meeting. He said the DLT is in its early stages, focusing now on how it would provide updates for the community on the new Strategic Plan. 
  • The Board accepted the 2023 audit following a short presentation from a representative from the District’s auditor Miller & Cooper.   
  • The Board approved on first reading, policy updates as recommended by the Illinois Association of School Board’s PRESS Issue 113. 
  • The Board heard an update from Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell on SASED. He said a new executive director, Dr. Kim Dryier, was appointed. He also congratulated Mark Cross for his work as chairperson of the SASED governing board.
  • The Board declared miscellaneous items such as computer cart, mister and clipper floor machine as surplus so they could be sold.
  • The Board approved a recommendation to accept the fiscal year 2023 audit report.
  • The Board approved all items on the consent agenda.

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday, Jan. 31, 3:45 p.m. ~ Legislative Committee Meeting ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, Feb. 12, 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.