Board Briefs: Feb. 12, 2024

7 board members posed standing against brick wall

Board Briefs: Feb. 12, 2024 Regular Meeting

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, 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: Whittier School

The Whittier 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. 

PTA co-presidents Britta Waszak and Christine Paulik noted that the PTA earned a School of Excellence distinction, one of nine received in Illinois, for its communication, collaboration and family partnerships. It also earned a Gold Membership Award. The co-presidents outlined the many programs and services the PTA operates, including a Fun Run, Math and Science Night, Whittier Variety Show, Fun Fair, Butterfly Garden, Leap Family Mitten program and several after-school clubs. 

Whittier Principal Michael Krugman outlined assessment results, school improvement plans and the school’s theme for the year: Change Maker. He said change is inevitable and the theme is designed to help everyone express, welcome and cope with growth and change. Overall, in math and reading, winter data combined showed expected growth. He said that instructional leadership teams dove into the data and focused on increasing small group instruction. For example, in math, they developed interventions with students in Tier 2 and 3 and currently are focusing on Tier 1 instruction. Teachers are also focusing on small group instruction and interventions in English Language Arts, reviewing and developing teaching structures that data shows help students learn best. 

View the presentation

Spotlight on Our Schools: Winter Data Benchmark

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart gave an overview of the District’s winter 2024 Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) data. The snapshot is like a mid-point check. “What is our data showing us; should we stay on our current path, or do we need to make adjustments?” she said.

Overall, combining all schools and all grades, the District saw expected growth for both math and reading. Growth scores represent the difference between actual and expected achievement. Each deviation from zero indicates more (or less) than expected growth observed in the District based on historical data. A negative growth score does not indicate a student is losing knowledge, but rather that the student did not grow as much on this assessment as his or her peers with the same historical achievement data. 

Ehrhart reported the following highlights on winter 2024 assessment results:

  • When viewing results by grade, math growth is higher than expected for Kindergarten and grade 3
  • Math growth is lower than expected for grades 7 and 8 
  • When viewing results by grade, reading growth is lower than expected for grade 5
  • Both grades 7 and 8 saw an increase in their growth scores from fall to winter
  • When viewing results by subgroups, all showed expected growth 

Each school’s grade level teams reviewed the data to determine what, if any, instructional adjustments need to be made. Ehrhart said that teams will continue to review classroom instruction, assessments and additional professional learning opportunities. Much of this happens during the Professional Learning Mondays. The data will also be used to identify additional support for students and student eligibility for accelerated math and gifted programming.

View the presentation

Treasurer’s Report and Food Service Update

Assistant Superintendent of Business Todd Drafall reported that the budget is in a good position but noted that at this time of year, until revenues come in from property taxes, expenditures exceed revenues. He also reported on Food Service plans for next year. He said that the Financial Advisory Committee reviewed several options and financial projections and recommends continuing the cold lunch option for K-6 next year and the hot lunch program at the middle schools. Elementary schools will not have the capacity to serve hot lunches until the middle school kitchen renovations are completed in the fall of 2025. 

The administration will recommend to the Board in March that the District should go out to bid for the middle school hot lunch program under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which it currently operates at the middle schools. It will then use that same provider the Board selects to offer the cold lunch option at the elementary schools. 

In 2025-26, when there will be kitchens in the middle schools large enough to make meals to ship to the elementary schools, the District will then determine whether to consider a hot lunch program K-8. Part of that decision would be to determine whether to participate in the NSLP for all grades K-8. If so, the District would receive a $4.25 subsidy for a free lunch, $3.85 for a reduced-fee lunch, and $0.40 for each sold lunch. Schools not under NSLP receive $0.04/meal for free or reduced lunches. Currently, 664 students in K-6 qualify for free/reduced lunch. 

View the Food Service Presentation 

Board honors Superintendent

The Board of Education commended Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell on being named the 2024 Superintendent of Distinction by his peers in the DuPage Region of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA). “Dr. Russell has consistently exemplified a profound commitment to the betterment of our schools and the success of our students,” said Board President Darren Hughes.

“Not only is he superintendent, but he has become an expert in commercial real estate, health and infectious disease, referendum and strategic planning and resident meteorologist,” he joked. “Kevin, the district has continued to flourish under your leadership,” Hughes said. Nominated by peers, Superintendents of Distinction are selected for their leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement. Dr. Russell will be honored at an IASA dinner in Springfield this spring. 

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates including:

  • Curriculum and Instruction
    The Band and Orchestra Solo Fest was held Feb. 10 with more than 400 solo performances. Dr. Russell thanked the Instrumental Music Department for all their hard work planning and preparing and the parent volunteers for their help in running the event. He also noted that the DG58 Festival of Music will be held Feb. 26 at Downers Grove South when O’Neill and Herrick middle school students combine their bands, orchestras and choirs.
  • Finance
    The District received its final report from DuPage County Treasurer’s Office on the 2022 payable 2023 taxes. The collection rate for the County historically has been over 99%, but being a reassessment year, there may be some appeals, which could delay collections. The District will monitor the situation closely.
  • Technology
    The technology department is finalizing registration and is using a new PowerSchool platform that it hopes will be simpler for families to use. Registration will open later this month. As a reminder, registration information is an essential part of the District’s planning process for staffing for the upcoming school year and as a result the District is asking families to register by April 8. 
  • Personnel
    Related to registration, we are beginning work on staffing decisions for the 2024-25 school year. At the March Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Justin Sisul will provide a high-level overview of staffing projections for the coming year; however, the completion of student registration is a critical component of finalizing those decisions. The District works diligently to balance class size targets and student support needs with the realistic constraints of our budget each year.
  • Special Services
    District 58 looks forward to offering Extended School Year programming to eligible students with disabilities this summer. Families of students who qualify for Extended School Year through their IEP will receive a direct invitation and more information from their child’s case manager.  Dates are June 4-July 2.
  • Facilities
    In the coming weeks, the District will open Bid Group No. 3 for Phase 1 elementary schools, which will be presented for approval at the March 4 Board of Education special meeting. Middle school Bid Group No. 3 will be opened later this month and be presented at the March 11 regular Board of Education meeting. The bids will increase the budget allocation from approximately 48% to 67% of the referendum project.
    During spring break O’Neill will lose 70 parking spaces on its site during construction. The YMCA has graciously allowed staff to park in their lot until the new parking lot is in place. The District thanks them for allowing us to park in their lot. 
  • Public Relations
    The District opened up its spring surveys this week. District 58 participates in two surveys each year, the 5Essentials Survey (created by the Illinois State Board of Education) and the District 58 Parent/Guardian School Environment Survey. The survey results will be used to guide school and district improvement efforts. 
    The 5 Essentials is taken by students in grades 4-8, parents and staff. The School Environment Survey is taken by parents. Parents received a letter on Monday asking them to take the survey and notifying them that their child will take the survey during the school day. Redacted school environment survey results will be posted on the District website and 5Essentials results will be part of the 2024 District 58 Report Card from ISBE.
  • Other
    Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell also thanked families and staff for their flexibility during the weather-related school closings and e-Learning. He said the staff did a great job preparing ahead of time and executing e-Learning. He noted that it was no small feat given the complexities of school schedules. He said while the goal is to ensure that all activities are meaningful and purposeful, he realizes that it can be a significant disruption, hardship and challenge for a family, especially for young students and those with disabilities. 

    On a more positive note, Dr. Russell reported that after numerous conversations with DuPage County, the district was informed that none of its schools will serve as polling places for the March 19 Primary Election. Therefore, the planned e-Learning Day will revert to a physical in-person school day. He said he was pleased that county officials recognize why using schools presents a serious safety risk and that they are open to alternatives, but he also acknowledged that the county could designate schools as polling places again.

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Heard an update from Financial Advisory Committee Chair and Board President Darren Hughes on the Jan. 12 and Feb. 9 Financial Advisory Committee meetings. He said that a representative from the auditors Miller Cooper attended the meeting and reviewed the audit report. The committee also spent a great amount of time reviewing the financial impact of various options for the food service program. 
  • Heard a report from Legislative Committee Co-Chair Emily Hanus who reported on the Jan. 10 Legislative Committee meeting and the Feb. 2 Legislative Breakfast. The committee finalized questions, roles and the format for the Legislative Breakfast. The Feb. 2 Legislative Breakfast had record attendance and provided an opportunity for legislators and community members to have meaningful conversations regarding education. 
  • Heard a report on the Health and Wellness Committee from Board Vice President Greg Harris who reported on open enrollment and employee participation in the wellness incentive program. 
  • Approved the purchase of Landscape Structures play equipment for Whittier School for $97,374.00, the majority of which will be paid for through a state grant in combination with PTA funding and some District funding.
  • Approved two Project Authorization Agreements before the commencement of work at Herrick and O’Neill Middle Schools, which will begin over spring break.
  • Heard a report from Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell on SASED, who noted that the governing board and board of directors held its first joint meeting. He added that SASED is revamping its financials and reviewing transportation.  
  • Designated as surplus miscellaneous items so they can be sold.
  • Adopted policy updates as recommended by the Illinois Association of School Board’s PRESS Issue 113. 
  • Approved all items on the consent agenda.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, February 26, 3:45 p.m. ~ District Leadership Team Meeting ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, March 4, 7 p.m. ~ Curriculum Workshop ~ O'Neill Middle School (change of date)
  • Wednesday, March 6, 3:45 p.m. ~ Legislative Committee Meeting ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Friday, March 8, 7 a.m. ~ Financial Advisory Committee Meeting ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. ~ Regular Board Meeting ~ 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.