Board Briefs: March 4 Curriculum Workshop and Special Meeting

Seven board members standing against brick wall

The District 58 Board of Education held a Special Meeting and Curriculum Workshop on Monday, March 4, 2024 at O’Neill Middle School. View the agenda. Watch the meeting video.

Curriculum Workshop

State’s Literacy Plan

The Board heard an update on the work of Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) Comprehensive Literacy Plan, which requires schools to use evidence-based literacy instruction. Curriculum Coordinator Christine Priester highlighted the seven components of literacy in the 200-page document and the state’s next steps. She said District 58 is already working to align its practices to the science of reading and is investing in cohort training of resource teachers, reading specialists and interventionists. Additionally, the District has piloted new English Language Arts materials for grades K-8 that parallel the ISBE plan. They are outlined below and will be recommended to the Board for adoption at its meeting April 8.

English Language Arts piloted resources

Four teachers, Diana Springer (first grade teacher, Highland), Megan DuPass (reading specialist, El Sierra), Kristina Cardinal (third grade teacher, Belle Aire), and Robyn Panico (eighth grade teacher, O’Neill) presented and reflected on their views about curricular resources that they piloted for English Language Arts (ELA). “Piloting new resources is not an easy task; there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” said Priester. In all, 25 K-2 teachers piloted two different resources; 47 K-5 teachers piloted one new resource and 27 grade 6-8 teachers piloted two new resources. The resources were recommended after a review and analysis of student achievement data, curriculum review and feedback through surveys of pilot teachers.

The following resources will be recommended to the Board in April.

  • UFLI Foundations (Grades K-2)
    There were visual and auditory drills, spelling, multi-sensory skills that all built on past skills. The growth that was seen was “amazing,” said Diana Springer.
  • Benchmark 2022 (Grades K-5)
    Knowledge builds throughout the text and students use the same terms in ELA as in science. Students also preview vocabulary, are introduced to small group lessons and more multicultural stories. 
  • CommonLit 360 (Grades 6-8)
    The resource is very rigorous, flexible but intentionally designed with thematic units. The curriculum has rich texts aligned to the non-fiction standards. For example, one unit was about a trial and a play that had students very engaged.

The financial cost of the new resource is $830,000 for K-5 Benchmark, which includes physical materials and online access for six years; $100,000 for K-2 UFLI, which includes all physical materials and $69,000 for grade 6-8 CommonLit 360 for online access, which can be downloaded and printed. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart said that remaining ESSER funds can be used to fund a portion of the adoption. And, while the overall cost is among the highest for curricular resources, students spend the most amount of time in ELA class. Recommended next steps after Board approval are training teachers in the new materials at May and August Institute Days and during Professional Learning Mondays. The materials are currently on public display at the District Office and the Downers Grove Public Library.

View the presentation.

Mini-workshops were also held on the following topic areas where board members and the public could learn the status of the programs, examples of what students are learning and ask questions:

Dual Language Program

“They’re listening, they’re speaking, they’re reading, they’re writing in two languages,” said Karina DeLeon, Dual Language teacher. Lessons aren’t replicated in a second language, rather there’s always a “bridge” lesson to the other language, which shows parallels to the second language; and “extensions,” which might teach, for example, vocabulary in Spanish, based on what was taught in an English lesson earlier. “The light bulbs are always going off for students,” she said.

Schoolwide Writing Curriculum 

“The excitement my students have for writing is like night and day,” said Alyssa Reinholtz, Fairmount fourth-grade teacher, of the curriculum instituted this year. Students learn about what hooks a reader, work with partners, edit their writing pieces, share their writing, reflect on it, then celebrate it, she said. 

View the presentation

Committee Updates

The Board also heard updates on several curriculum committees:

  • Gifted Committee: The group is continuing its work and to date has evaluated different models, reviewed SEL and gifted standards, developed professional learning around differentiation for all staff and now is reviewing how to roll out the plan for 2024-25. Next year, the recommendation will be for 4th grade to remain in their building for 30-40 minutes daily of embedded gifted programming. The 5th-8th grade programming will remain the same as it is currently, with plans to adjust programming in the future. Any changes in entrance criteria would be paused in order to properly assess the proposed changes. The measure will go to the Board for consideration at its April Board meeting. 
  • MTSS Committee: The committee is continuing to analyze student data, attendance and developing systems and structures to support administrators and all staff for multi-tiers of support. 
  • Dual Language: The program is gaining awareness in the community and is continuing to grow. Currently, the program has started the MTSS Tier I process and is determining factors to support students. The program is also reaching out and involving families in the program.

As part of the Special Meeting portion of the agenda, the Board approved several action items:

Outdoor Education

​​The Board approved an Outdoor Education fee for 6th graders at Lorado Taft later this spring. The day trip extends the science curriculum with hands-on, real-life experiences and team-building activities at the Northern Illinois University satellite campus. Because of the pandemic, Outdoor Ed experiences were not held in 2020 and 2021, and in 2022 and 2023, Outdoor Ed was a one-day experience held at Morton Arboretum and Camp Manitoqua, respectively. The cost of Lorado Taft will be $50, down from last year’s cost of $80. Lorado Taft will tentatively be scheduled for the following year, pending survey results. After 6th graders move to the middle schools, the Outdoor Education trip will become a 5th-grade culminating activity when students are the highest grade level in the elementary school.

View the report

Construction Updates

Referendum alternatives

The Board discussed construction alternatives and additions to the original plan with the rationale that it is more cost-effective to do some additional work now when other work is underway. Among those is the network wiring project at the Phase I elementary schools. The wiring in District 58 schools is more than 25 years old and beyond industry standards. The projected cost is $1.67 million to wire all portions of the 11 elementary buildings inclusive of intercom systems, phones and wireless access. The original cost was to wire only renovated spaces and for cabling for the intercom systems.

Another alternative proposed is to replace doors in the elementary schools at a cost of $750,000. Already, handles, hinges and closers will be replaced to be ADA compliant and changing doors now will avoid paying additional labor costs later. The Board will consider Phase I costs of $348,603 at its meeting March 11.

Additionally, some updates will need to be made to all 11 elementary schools to meet equipment needs and health codes in order to serve hot lunches at the elementary schools. The cost is $750,000.

Finally, additional furniture is proposed for existing areas that aren’t being substantially altered. Cost is to be determined. 

The anticipated cost of these alternatives is $2.33 million. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell said that the District is slightly below budget currently ($193,000) in all referendum construction spending, has spent 68 percent of its budget and has not dipped into its contingency budget. “This is the biggest commitment that taxpayers have ever made and I don’t take that lightly,” he said. The matter will be considered at the Board’s March 11 meeting. 

View the presentation

Action Items

In its construction consent agenda, the Board approved:

  • Elementary Phase I Bid Group #3 for $23,138,797 for the summer 2024 work on Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest and Whittier Schools. The work includes creating secure entryways, adding HVAC and replacing outdated mechanical, plumbing and electrical, roofing and state-mandated repairs.
  • A contract with Henricksen to broker furniture and design services.
  • A bid for $153,705 for furniture for the new O’Neill Middle School Library from Henricksen.

Upcoming Events

  • Regular Board Meeting - Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. - 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.