Board Briefs: April 8, 2024 Regular Meeting

7 board members standing in front of brick wall

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, April 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: El Sierra

The El Sierra members led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and reported on their school programs, fundraisers and service activities. Among them were the Thanksgiving Food Drive and the “Soup”er Bowl Drive. The group also held spirit days and provided reports at monthly all-school Bobcat Celebrations. The PTA Co-presidents highlighted their events, including the Fun Run and Freaky Friday Haunted House, which they said raised significant amounts of money as well as helped build a community among parents, a goal of the PTA. 

Principal Jason Lynde talked about two programs that also helped build a community. One is the WatchDogs program, which encourages Dads, grandfathers or a male figure to get involved in the school and the School Families program, where K-6th graders are grouped into “families” to mentor, support and work on service projects. Lynde also outlined assessment results, which showed that students in all grades and all subjects are showing expected growth or higher than expected growth. The School Improvement Plan is centered on working through math word problems and increasing their independent reading at home. The school held a Reading Challenge during March to work towards the goal.

Spotlight: Education Foundation of District 58

Interim Community Relations Coordinator Faith Behr gave an update on the work of the District 58 Foundation. She noted that the Foundation has celebrated 22 Years of making a difference for students and teachers and the entire D58 staff and in that time has raised $2 million, $100,000 in the 2023 calendar year. She outlined the signature fundraisers, which also serve as friendraisers and the major programs the foundation organizes or sponsors: Select 58 which recognizes 8th graders for their school/community service and citizenship; the New Teacher Luncheon; Teacher Grants where $25,000 in grants were awarded in 2024; AuthorFest, Reading Games, Sneak Preview for incoming 7th graders coming to middle school and the staff recognition programs Distinguished Service Awards and Green Apple Awards. She said the goal is to reach 100% of students, staff and the school community.  

View the presentation

A Spotlight on our Schools: Five-Year Financial Plan

Assistant Superintendent for Business/CSBO Todd Drafall gave an update on the five-year financial plan, a model that illustrates needs and decision points and reflects programming for its 13 schools. Built into the plan is a budgeted amount for a replacement cycle for curriculum and technology and 35% for reserves as part of the Board’s fund balance policy. He said the majority of expenses in the budget are for salary and benefits with 683 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions, 422 of them certified positions. 

View the plan

Superintendent’s Report

  • Personnel
    Dr. Russell noted that later in the agenda the Board will be asked to approve a Reduction-In-Force (RIF) resolution, which occurs annually. Because the District allocates staff members based on actual student enrollment and because it does not yet have confirmed student enrollment numbers it cannot guarantee positions to all staff members. (A Spotlight presentation at the March meeting detailed the RIF process.)  The District is working diligently to confirm enrollment and staffing for next year and appreciates the efforts of families to complete their registration as soon as they are able. The District hopes to begin recalling as many teachers as possible and recommending them to be rehired as early as the May Board of Education meeting.
  • Curriculum and Instruction
    State testing is running smoothly at all schools. Any technical issues experienced were resolved quickly. Students are engaged in the process and the District is seeing fewer test refusals compared to previous years. Data from these assessments will help principals and instructional leadership teams set school improvement goals. The data from these assessments will be shared with the Board of Education when it is released in the fall. 
    The District will seek Board approval in May to renew the District’s PE waiver, which allows students K-2 to participate in PE two days a week, with additional teacher-monitored time to meet the expectation of a third day of PE. The waiver process requires a public hearing before approval, which will also occur at the May Board meeting. 
  • Technology
    April 8 was the deadline for returning families to register for the 2024-25 school year. School offices will begin contacting families to support them in completing registration. In addition, the Tech Team has been working diligently to ensure testing goes as smoothly as possible, including ensuring student devices are ready for testing and that data is correct in the assessment platform.
  • Special Services
    The Special Services Department and the parent group Building Bridges are collaborating to offer families of students with special needs the chance to explore funding options available through PUNS (Prioritization of Urgent Needs for Services) in Illinois. Discover firsthand how a local parent navigated the state system to secure funding for various services for her disabled child. Session times and locations can be found in the weekly principal and coordinator newsletters. 
  • Facilities
    While construction has started at both middle schools, the damp week slowed progress at Herrick. O’Neill is moving forward with substantial interior demolition. Phase I elementary school planning continues and Phase II elementary school design work has already begun. Construction manager Bulley & Andrews held their first middle school neighborhood meeting. Additionally, the webcam and drones are live now on the dashboards on the website. The District has recently received communications from ComEd acknowledging the District’s construction schedule and has agreed to meet virtually to coordinate information. While there are still concerns about their non-committal of a timeline, the communication has increased the District’s confidence in working with them.
  • Other
    On a personal note, Dr. Russell reported that his wife recently lost her battle with pancreatic cancer and wanted to express his gratitude to the District 58 community. “On behalf of my family, I would like to personally thank the Board, my administrative colleagues, the staff, and the entire District 58 community for their continued support. We will never forget all that you have done for us and are fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful school district and community.” 

Treasurer’s Report 

Assistant Superintendent for Business/CSBO Todd Drafall shared that later on in the agenda the Board will be asked to consider approval of two transportation contracts. The District works with neighboring Districts, 68 and 99, to tier its regular bus schedules to keep costs down, though costs continue to rise due to factors beyond the District’s control. He also noted that the electric rate contract expires in June and the District is operating on a month-to-month contract, which is currently significantly less than paying by year. 

Financial Advisory Committee Report and Elementary Food Service

Financial Advisory Committee Chair and Board President Darren Hughes reported on the April 5 meeting. The committee discussed several topics, including the five-year financial report, transportation costs and food service. He noted the steep rise in transportation costs and the dilemma regarding food service and using additional contingency funds for the program prior to substantial completion of Phase I and Phase II work in the summers of 2004 and 2005. A food service design consultant indicated that grease traps would be legally required, increasing costs $25,000 per school. Hughes asked board members their thoughts on pausing work on the elementary hot lunch program for one year so the District could have a firmer understanding of what contingency funds would be needed and available. Members discussed some options, but on the whole, agreed that they were concerned about dipping further into contingency funds while the overall referendum project wasn’t that far along into construction. At the same time, while members said they were concerned about delays in offering hot lunch, they felt it was prudent to taxpayers to wait before considering adoption of the food service program.  

In the meantime, administrators said that the District could continue to offer and perhaps tweak the current elementary lunch program for the 2025-26 year. 

View the Elementary Food Service Memo

English Language Arts Curriculum Resources Approved

The Board approved the adoption of new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum and ELA resources: 

  • Benchmark 2022 (Grades K-5) for $828,070 for six years
  • UFLI Foundations (Grades K-2) for $11,062 plus materials from Wilson Language for $106,253
  • CommonLit 360 (Grades 6-8) for $69,000 for six years

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart said that the ELA committee spent two years incorporating perspectives from classroom teachers, specialists, students and administrators as well as conducting research and studying the Illinois Comprehensive Literacy Plan before recommending this curriculum. She said that the committee used a very detailed scope and sequence to ensure all teachers who piloted the materials had similar experiences and ample time to review and implement the resources. Training will be provided at the May 30 and August Institute Days.

View the memo

Changes in gifted education

The Board approved a recommendation that will keep 4th graders in their home school for gifted education beginning with the 2024-25 year. The Gifted Education program delivery model will provide gifted instruction to identified 4th-grade students at their own school five days a week with the intention to replicate the delivery model for identified 5th-grade students the following school year. At this time, the recommendation will not change the eligibility criteria or identification process but that will be studied in the future. Next year, 5th and 6th graders will continue to receive gifted instruction at Henry Puffer one day per week as they do currently.

The recommendation comes after considerable study by the Gifted Committee including a review of different program models, pedagogies, differentiation and other things. The program will be fully assessed after roll-out.

During the meeting, the Board also

  • Heard a monthly report on SASED. SASED is currently working on its enrollment numbers and will be communicating those numbers and billing costs with its member districts. 
  • Approved the five-year Financial Plan. 
  • Approved a recommendation for a one-year contract extension of 6.8% with First Student for student transportation for the 2024-25 school year. 
  • Approved a recommendation to approve a one-year contract extension of 6% with Sunrise for special education transportation.
  • As it does yearly, approved a resolution to honorably dismiss some full and part-time teachers until student enrollment numbers are known. The District hopes that most can be hired back; School code requires that notice be given to affected teachers no later than April 15. “We do not take anything like this lightly,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell. “We will do everything possible to make sure student registration gets done so when we come back to the Board in May, we’ll be hiring teachers back.” 
  • Approved a recommendation to grant authority to the assistant superintendent of business to executive a new electricity agreement with the ability to convert to a fixed energy rate.
  • Approved the purchase of furniture for Phase I elementary schools (Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest, and Whittier) for a total of $125,006. The selections involved in-person and virtual design meetings with building personnel. 
  • Approved the award of referendum material testing services to ECS Midwest Inc. of Buffalo Grove for $170,890.
  • Approved the recommendation for expanding rubber safety surfacing on the playground at Highland Elementary School for $122,177. The cost will be offset by fundraising by the Highland PTA and a state grant. The District’s portion of the work will be $16,000.
  • Approved all items on the consent agenda.

Upcoming Meetings

  • Tuesday, April 16, 7 a.m. ~ Policy Committee ~ O'Neill Middle School
  • Monday, May 13, 7 p.m. ~ Regular Board Meeting ~ Village Hall

To view all Board meeting topics, view the agenda.

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.