Board Briefs: March 11 Regular Meeting

seven board members standing against brick wall

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, March 11, 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: Indian Trail School

The Indian Trail Student Council members led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and reported on their school programs, fundraisers and service activities. Among them are Random Acts of Kindness Days, which includes posters and activities, a lemonade stand fundraiser to help kids with cancer at Lutheran General, a focus on good attendance and the One Book, One School initiative.

Indian Trail Principal Tracey Ratner discussed PTA major fundraising initiatives such as for the new playground and activities such as the “fun lunch,” which is provided to students regardless of their ability to pay. She also outlined assessment results and school improvement plans, which she said contributed to the growth seen on test scores. In working on School Improvement Goals, she said the instructional team analyzed data by grade level and interventions for students. She said that teachers are creating small groups of students by skill level and teaching them the “science of reading” concepts. The teachers are monitoring student performance and receiving coaching from reading teachers. Another goal is to increase student attendance, which she said, has been increasing over time. For example, 96% of students were in attendance the day after winter break.

View the presentation

Spotlight on Our Schools: Referendum Construction

The update on facility construction was provided by Owner’s Representative Huffman, Keel and Forge. An Owner’s Representative was hired to oversee and advise the District throughout design and construction and represent the District’s interests throughout the project. In a high-level overview, Eric Eichler from Huffman, Keel and Forge said the project is in “good shape, the budget is in good shape, design is high functioning and very collaborative.” Specifically, he noted:

  • Middle School construction is ready for mobilization on March 23
  • Phase I elementary schools' preliminary environmental work will begin over spring break
  • Phase II elementary schools’ design development is 50% complete 
  • Phase III elementary schools will begin the design process in the first quarter of 2025
  • Site permits are being finalized from the Village of Downers Grove for stormwater at O’Neill and for trees and sidewalks at Herrick
  • Furniture planning is underway
  • Bidding for middle schools has been submitted, approved and is under budget (see bar chart in presentation)
  • Elementary Phase I Bid Group #3 and #4; this is the balance of work including electrical and drywall bids, which were approved later in the meeting
  • Elementary Phase II Bid Group #1 will be bid in June

Eichler also gave an overview of contingencies and alternates that would be considered later in the meeting agenda. He said that contingencies are, by design, built into the budget and are used to address unforeseen conditions, cost overruns, cost/design escalations and changes in scope. To date, with 73% of bids approved for middle schools and Phase I elementary schools, no owner contingencies have been used. 

Board members asked questions about the difference in budget between bids and alternates and how projected costs are determined. They also expressed hesitancy about using contingency dollars before all three phases of elementary schools are under construction. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell noted that the older elementary schools were deliberately included in Phase I to minimize any inflation that might arise. It was also noted that two of the Phase III schools don’t have interior classroom walls and often “unknowns” during construction are behind walls.

Owner Representatives said there are some minor issues; most notably Commonwealth Edison has not set a delivery date for electric transformers.

View the presentation

Staffing Preview

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Justin Sisul gave a preview of staffing plans and priorities for the 2024-25 school year. At this time of year, the District reviews staffing allocations and its programs with the goal that they align with the District’s instructional priorities and strategic planning efforts. The ongoing priorities have been to achieve consistent class size targets District-wide, maintain quality programs and support across all schools and provide ongoing professional development, all while staying within budgetary requirements. Sisul pointed out that last year, there was a lot of growth in staff, due to an increase in special education enrollment and transition of SASED positions to District positions. This year, he said, the District does not expect significant increases in full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. He also noted a much smaller retirement pool of two certified teachers and an incoming seventh-grade class that is 40 less than the current eighth-grade class moving to high school. As a result, the District “doesn’t have much wiggle room” in the flexibility of the allocation of staff, he said. At its April meeting, the Board will consider approval of Reduction in Force (RIF) in a number of staff. Once enrollment is more known, the District will hire back all or most staff. “Enrollment is critical and we hope to have good numbers by April 8,” he said. April 8 is the deadline that the District has asked families to complete registration for the 2024-25 school year. By law, the school district must adopt any resolutions for RIF no later than April 15.

View the presentation.

Treasurer’s Report and Food Service Update

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that later in the meeting the Board would be asked to approve the annual transfer of monies from the Working Cash Fund to the Education and Transportation Funds. This is the time of the year, he said, when the District is waiting for tax receipts to come in. In the last 30 days of the fiscal year, 40% of revenues are received. He also noted that the Board will also vote on Owner’s Construction Risk Insurance, which covers the District as property owners during construction. The District will obtain this for each phase of the construction, once construction values are established through bidding. 

Board approves construction, cabling and related bids
The Board approved the last of the construction bids for the two middle schools, Middle School Bid Group #3, and awarded the following:

  • $9,075,989 to 12 different trade groups for interior work and finishes at Herrick
  • $6,836,426 to 12 different trade groups for interior work and finishes at O’Neill

The Board approved a bid for electrical and drywall work for Phase I elementary schools (Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest and Whittier) for $3,146,000. Additionally, the Board approved new network cabling for clock, phone, intercom and wireless access points at Phase I elementary schools for $683,88, and $88,542 for new switches to support the new cabling. The District anticipates federal e-rate reimbursement for approximately $190,000 of this cabling and equipment cost.

In related action, the Board approved an alternate bid to replace doors in Phase I elementary schools for $362,797. The rationale is that it is more cost-effective to replace aging doors when the locks, handles, hinges and closers are already being replaced as part of construction work. The doors will also contain new glass that will be “forced entry resistant.”

Board approves middle school lunch RFP

As had been in planning for months, the Board directed the superintendent and staff to issue a Request for Proposal to seek bids for 2024-25 for Herrick and O’Neill Middle School lunch programs. As it is currently, it will be under the format of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The District will then work with the selected vendor to continue with the purchase option for elementary cold box lunches for next year, similar to the current pilot program. Then next year, the District will develop a bid for a full hot lunch program for the elementary schools, pending Board approval. 

View the report

Board approves agreement that provides library card for every D58 student

The Board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Downers Grove Public Library that will provide a library card to every District 58 student whether or not they live in Downers Grove. Some District 58 students live in unincorporated Downers Grove as well as other municipalities such as Woodridge, Westmont and Oak Brook. Specifically, the intergovernmental agreement allows the District to share Student Identification Numbers with the Library. During the District 58 registration process, parents are asked if they would like to opt into the program. Data will not be shared with the library and cards will not be created for students without parental consent.

View the report

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates including:

  • Curriculum and Instruction
    Certified staff attended several high-quality professional learning opportunities at the March 1 Institute Day. Dr. Russell thanked the DuPage County Regional Office of Education, SASED and District 58 staff for providing these sessions.
    He also noted that the District is in state assessment season. In March, 5th and 8th grade students will take the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA). In April, students in grades 3-8 will take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR). Teachers will ensure that students are familiar with the IAR online platform and question structures in preparation for the test. While the state assessment is only one data point of academic achievement and growth, it is the one by which our schools are measured and compared to others in the state. Dr. Russell said he appreciated the partnership of all of our families and the positive, can-do approach that families and students take toward the assessment.
  • Finance
    Dr. Russell noted that later on the agenda is the bid for food service for the middle schools under the National School Lunch Program. The District will bid out the program again the following year after the opening of the new middle school kitchens. Pending Board approval, this would also include all elementary schools for a hot lunch program beginning in the fall of 2025. This recommendation comes after several months of discussions and review of information by the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC). 
    Additionally, on the agenda is an annual transfer of funds from the District's Working Cash Fund to the Education and Transportation Funds. The Working Cash Fund is the internal bank for the District, and when needed, funds are transferred to funds most in need. The Working Cash Fund is repaid after tax receipts come in. 
  • Technology
    Registration for the 2024-2025 school year opened in late February and is off to a great start. As of March 11, 154 new students have registered and about 90% are Kindergarteners. Additionally, 838 returning students have registered. We will continue to work with families to reach our goal of having all families complete the process by mid-April. 
  • Personnel
    Related to registration, we are beginning work on staffing decisions for the 2024-25 school year. The District works diligently to balance class size targets and student support needs with the realistic constraints of our budget each year.
  • Special Services
    Recently, our elementary teaching staff in grades K-4 participated in a day-long workshop to learn more about the Zones of Regulation. The program presents lessons and learning activities designed to help students gain skills in self-regulation or self-management. In addition, students will gain a vocabulary of emotional terms, skills in reading other people’s facial expressions, perspective about how others see and react to their behavior, insight into events that trigger their behavior, calming and alerting strategies, and problem-solving skills. More information will be shared with families in the weeks ahead.
  • Public Relations
    The Education Foundation was a successful sponsor of the Reading Games and now is gearing up for a busy spring. Applications will soon close for the 2024 Select 58 Eighth Grade Recognition program. In addition, the Foundation has launched its annual Distinguished Service Award application honoring exceptional staff. Applications are due March 29 and we look forward to recognizing staff at a celebration on May 15.
    A special thank you and congratulations to our entire music department for this year’s Festival of Music. This concert features combined performances of the Herrick and O’Neill choirs, orchestras, and bands. This year’s event took place on Feb. 26 at DGS in front of a packed house in the new auditorium. 
  • Other
    Spring Break is March 25-29. Students and staff will return on Monday, April 1. Dr. Russell wished the Board, staff and families a relaxing break with family and friends. 

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Heard from Legislative Committee Co-Chair Melissa Ellis who reported on the March 6 Legislative Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the results of the Legislative Breakfast survey and noted positive attendee responses, record attendance and slight changes for the coming year. There was no new legislation discussed. 
  • Heard from District Leadership Team Chair Kirat Doshi who reported on Strategic Plan Goal 1 focusing on the framework for ECRA reports and mental health training; Goal 2 focusing on best practices around school-community-family relationships and a book study called “On the Same Team;” Goal 4 focusing on middle school models and schedules; Goal 5 focusing on evaluating opportunities for students. He said Goal 3 reports were substantially covered in the owner’s representative spotlight.
  • Heard a report from Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell on SASED, who noted that new executive director Kim Dryier is excited to start and that the organization is working to forecast expenses and work on a transportation agreement. 
  • Approved the transfer of monies as it does annually at this time of year from the District’s Working Cash Fund to the Education and Transportation Funds. This is a loan that will be paid back when the District receives its early tax levy.
  • Designated as surplus miscellaneous items so they can be sold.
  • Approved Builder’s Risk insurance coverage, an additional level of insurance to cover the District for any construction-related items for a cost of $158,162. 
  • Approved all items on the consent agenda.

    Upcoming Events
  • Friday, April 5, 7 a.m. ~ Financial Advisory Committee ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, April 8, 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.