Board Briefs: June 10, 2024 Regular Meeting

Seven board members standing in front of brick wall

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Meeting on Monday, June 10, 2024, at Downers Grove Village Hall. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page when available from the village.

Spotlight on our Schools: Strategic Plan Year One Update

The Board heard a recap of Year One of the Strategic Plan, which was launched in the fall of 2023. Leaders of each of the five goals outlined the year’s work and upcoming planning. Here are some highlights of the work:

Focusing on Learning: Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Liz Ehrhart

  • Established a structure and protocols on how assessment data is used to determine any changes in instructional strategies, reteaching or other needs for students and school improvement processes
  • Implemented consistent District-wide expectations for student behavior
  • Rolled out training for K-5 staff on how to use new SEL curriculum, called Zones of Regulation, which helps students in managing, defining and understanding their emotions and behavior as well as the emotions and behaviors of others
  • Established an attendance committee and a framework for how to improve student attendance

Connecting the Community: Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Learning Dr. James Eichmiller

  • Formed a new council called Connections and Communications
  • Collaborated with key staff and community groups to analyze and prioritize authentic family partnerships using a framework 
  • Identified barriers to communications and involvement in the schools, which included reliable transportation and language barriers

Securing the Future: Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall

  • Awarded 73% of construction bids for the building projects and are currently overseeing the projects
  • Approved a five-year plan that meets board policy regarding transferring of monies
  • Created a plan to bid Phase II construction projects earlier to reduce costs
  • Developed a structure to create a formal capital policy

Building for Success: (Implementing the new PreK-5 and 6-8 grade models) Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Jessica Stewart

  • Initiated an elementary building utilization study 
  • Established a timeline for subcommittee work and a reporting structure 
  • Reviewed evidence-based effective middle school models 
  • Surveyed staff about building implementation

Cultivating Talent  (Maximizing the Potential of Students, Staff, and Families) – Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Staff Development Justin Sisul  

  • Reformed a prior council to review the staffing plan to ensure an equitable experience for all students
  • Conducted a parent survey on extracurricular activities
  • Planned some staff recruiting protocols to help ensure diversity

As part of the presentation, Strategic Plan Consultant Dr. Robert Madonia gave a recap of how the Strategic Plan and related action plans were developed using a committee of 100+ community and staff members over two days. “The plan has a lot of depth and a lot of meat …and the beauty of it was there was a lot of stakeholder engagement,” he said. “This is a celebratory time to show that District 58 has a culture of continuous improvement,” he said.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell said the five development teams are fine-tuning their priorities for 2024-25. The action plans and updates will be shared at the Board’s Curriculum Workshop in October.

View the presentation

Spotlight on our Schools: Spring Data Snapshot

The second Spotlight looked at student data, school environment survey and communications survey results. View the presentation.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Liz Ehrhart presented a high-level overview of Spring 2024 student assessment data from the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) for all grades and AIMSWeb for grades K-1. Trend data continues to show expected student growth at all grade levels and all schools. 

Ehrhart also gave an overview of the District’s two ambitious Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and noted that we will determine success in meeting those goals after reviewing all of our state assessment data in connection to our benchmark data. This information will be available in the Fall of 2024. 

KPI #1 – Academic Proficiency
Metric:  Percentage of students meeting or exceeding state proficiency benchmark
Benchmark: State 75th percentile for Reading; State 85th percentile for Math

KPI #2 – Academic Growth
Metric: Percentage of students demonstrating expected or higher-than-expected growth
Benchmark: 85%

Board members had questions about how the KPIs and test scores are used to determine progress. Building administrators review data for their building and building-level Instructional Leadership Teams review the same data as part of the school improvement planning process. As a part of that review, teams identify an area of focus/improvement. Additionally, individual students continue to be identified for specific, targeted support; progress is monitored for those students on a regular basis.

View the assessment data presentation

As part of the spring data report, Interim Community Relations Coordinator Faith Behr shared results from the 2023-24 School Environment Survey. The survey is conducted every winter asking parents their thoughts on teaching and learning, staff, school environment, safety and other topics.  

Ms. Behr indicated that results showed impressive gains in 17 out of 19 questions from the 2022 survey. The highest responses combining “usually” and “always” on the following questions were:

  • 96.6% – “If my child is injured or not feeling well, an adult at school helps him/her” 
  • 94.4% – “My child is cared for by the adults at this school” 
  • 94% – “Adults at this school believe that my child can be a success” 
  • 92.7% – “My child’s teacher is welcoming and interested in what I have to say” 
  • 92.1% – “My child’s school welcomes parents to school events and activities”

The largest increase was 3.6% on two questions combining “usually” and “always”:

  • “My child feels comfortable talking to adults in the school about problems he/she may be having.” (3.6% > in “usually” and “always.”) 
  • “My child’s teacher(s) communicates with me about my child’s progress.” (3.6% > in “usually” and “always.”)

She noted that results were markedly higher than the national norm. For example, in the Gallup Poll, satisfaction with the quality of education students receive dropped to 42% while dissatisfaction had increased to 55%. 

Two questions in the survey were open-ended. In the question, “What is one thing the school and/or District 58 does well,” many parents cited communications. Other positive themes were a “positive school climate,” “caring and supportive environment,” “exemplary teachers,” “events/clubs/activities” and “principals.” On the open-ended question, “What is one thing that could be improved?”, other themes arose. Parents noted a need for more consistent communication among teachers, a need to teach more about “bullying” and “kindness” and continually prioritize upgrading the facilities. The results are also used to guide school and District improvement efforts. The District did not conduct a communications survey last year due to the launching of a new Strategic Plan and its survey. This year there were more responses than usual because the survey included questions on extracurricular opportunities. The survey results indicated a return to pre-pandemic level of satisfaction with communication. For example, in response to the statement “I am satisfied with the District’s overall communication efforts” 81% of respondents indicated “agree” or “strongly agree,” an 8-point gain over two years ago but within 1-point difference in 2020.

View the School Environment Survey presentation (Beginning on slide 18).

Spotlight: Construction Contingency

The Board heard a report on unsuitable soil conditions at Herrick that required the use of contingency funds to mitigate. Eric Eichler from Huffman Keel Forge gave an update, noting how earlier soil boring samples showed some evidence of poor conditions but did not indicate the extent of the problem. The base and subsequent rain made the soil structurally unsound and he said it wouldn’t hold up the stormwater retention system. An additional $417,000 was spent to remove the poor soil and add stone and geotextile; it is recommended to use the monies from the owner’s contingency fund. 

Board approves administrative appointment

The Board of Education approved the appointment of Dr. Steve Perkins to serve as the new Herrick principal beginning July 1. 

After multiple rounds of interviews that included two Herrick parents and five Herrick staff members as well as building and district administrators, three strong finalist candidates and two semi-finalists were identified before Dr. Perkins emerged as the top candidate.

Dr. Perkins is currently an associate principal in Arlington Heights District 25 and an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Public Policy. He has been described as a strong, compassionate and knowledgeable instructional leader who values and seeks out positive relationships among all members of the school community. He has been an associate principal at District 25’s South Middle School, a 6-8th grade school, which has an enrollment of 900 students. He serves as the lead in all administrative matters for one grade level, including coaching/mentoring staff, implementing initiatives, evaluating and hiring staff, running operations and logistics of the building and managing master schedules.  Read more here.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

  • Personnel
    Dr. Russell said the District is well-positioned to start the year with the hiring of very high-quality teachers. He noted that the District is making good progress on hiring for teacher positions and a number of recommendations for approval are on the agenda tonight. Additional hirings have been verbally confirmed and will be on future agendas. Openings still remain for a number of instructional assistant positions, which the District is heavily recruiting for and interviewing. He noted that working as an instructional assistant can be a wonderful opportunity for those who would like a schedule that closely aligns with the school calendar and school day and encouraged those interested to look at the website.

The meeting agenda included a recommendation to ratify a three-year contract with the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association (DGEEA), the teacher’s association representing 559 certified staff members. He noted the interest-based bargaining process and said the process was rooted in mutual respect, listening and collaboration. He said District 58 has tremendous respect for its teachers and thanked the negotiating teams and former DGEEA presidents Craig Young and Kathy Mahay.

  • Curriculum and Instruction
    District 58 welcomed nearly 120 students to its first session of Summer School, which began June 10. Session I is designed for students who may benefit from additional opportunities to master some of the learning standards in the grade that they have just completed. This is an ESSER or federal grant program and will run until June 21. Session II begins June 24.
  • Finance
    The District received its second distribution of property taxes on Friday, June 7, receiving $22.8 million or roughly 30% of the tax levy. The District, as part of their food service bid process, held a mandatory meeting last Friday afternoon for any firm interested in submitting a proposal. There were three firms responding, including the current contractor. 
  • Technology
    The technology department’s work has centered around moving student devices out of Phase I elementary schools that are under construction this summer (Henry Puffer, Highland, Hillcrest and Whittier) and setting up technology needed for those schools and the middle schools that have relocated temporarily. 
  • Special Services
    The District welcomed approximately 40 staff members and over 100 students to its Extended School Year (ESY) special education summer program, which is hosted at Indian Trail for four weeks. Additionally, 25 other students are receiving specialized instruction within SASED’s ESY program or at a therapeutic day school.  
  • Facilities
    Construction at the middle schools and Phase I elementary schools is going strong and he encouraged residents to check on the dashboards to see the middle school work. He also thanked the Buildings & Grounds team, staff and volunteer parents at all six of the schools under construction for their hard work in packing and moving materials out of the buildings. 
  • Education Foundation
    Dr. Russell noted that 41 Green Apple awards were presented to staff members this spring. The Education Foundation of District 58 sponsors the Green Apple program where individuals can honor a staff member by donating to the Foundation. A list of winners has been posted on the website and has and will be highlighted on our social media channels. 

Treasurer’s Report 

In the report, Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported payments for insurance programs are due at this time of year and most show increases with one exception – the stop-loss insurance for self-insurance. He noted that later in the agenda, the Board will be asked to approve the insurance as well as an extension of the wellness incentive for staff.

Committee Reports 

Board President and Chair of the Financial Advisory Committee Darren Hughes gave a report on the committee meeting. He noted an extended agenda where members discussed myriad topics such as the treasurer bond, insurance costs, wellness incentive, capital report and the bid process for elementary lunches. He said that much of the meeting was spent discussing the year-end report and the cash balance, which is always low this time of year but is significantly lower than in past years. It is due in part to the elimination of the tuition-based OKEEP kindergarten program and a reduction in corporate personal property replacement tax (CPPRT). The committee will conduct a forensic audit of the year to have a better understanding of why. 

Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Board of Education approved a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ association, formally called the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association (DGEEA). The current agreement expires on August 19, 2024. 

The teachers’ union ratified the contract on June 4. The new contract increases the base salary for teachers by an average of 2.85% over three years, with additional raises realized by some teachers based upon their advancement on the salary schedule (commonly called “step” increases), which will average 4.5% in the first year. 

“I’m very proud of the contract we’ve negotiated and believe it is both a fair and generous offer for our teachers and also protects our taxpayers,” said Board President Darren Hughes. “It also meets the parameters of the five-year financial plan and positions the District to continue to add to its fund balances,” he said. 

The contract is for three years, which allows the District to be more comfortable in forecasting the consumer price index (CPI) and anticipating growth in revenue. In 2018, the Board adopted a four-year contract and a two-year addendum in 2022.

Board Vice President Greg Harris, who served as the Board’s representative on the negotiating team, commented that despite tough conversations and long hours of negotiations, “there was levity in the room and collaboration and all the things that make me proud to be a board member in District 58.” “Everyone was committed to get a final great outcome and help the District be in a really great place.”

Read the joint statement

Dr. Russell honored

Just prior to the meeting, four area school superintendents surprised District 58 Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell by presenting him with his award from the Illinois Association of School Administrators. Dr. Russell could not attend the DuPage celebration in March honoring his award as DuPage Superintendent of Distinction so the four school leaders, as well as members of his family, brought the celebration to him. “Kevin is always willing to collaborate, brainstorm and build relationships to meet the needs of students,” said District 99 Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele, who was joined by Mark Cross of Cass District 63, Dr. Katie McCluskey of Bensenville District 2 and Dr. Matt Rich of Winfield District 34. “These are superintendents who other superintendents see as “difference makers” in the communities they serve,” Thiele said.

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Approved policy changes as recommended by Illinois Association of School Board’s PRESS Issue 14
  • Approved the Consolidated District Plan, a routine state requirement to apply for state and federal grants
  • Approved the renewal of Workers’ Compensation, Property/Casualty/Liability Insurance for $656,027
  • Approved Stop-Loss Insurance for Self-Funded Health Insurance for $1,534,280
  • Approved the Employee Wellness Program, which offers some tweaks compared to last year's program
  • Approved a resolution appointing Todd Drafall as school treasurer and a second resolution approving a surety bond for the treasurer
  • Approved Professional Learning Mondays for school year 2024-25
  • Awarded the General Supplies Bid for the 2024-25 school year to Runco
  • Awarded the Art Supplies Bid for the 2024-25 school year to School Specialty 
  • Approved a resolution of nomination for District 99 board member Sherrell Fuller to the Downers Grove Plan Commission
  • Approved the lease of three classrooms to SASED for the 2024-25 school year with a total fee of $69,000
  • Approved the purchase of new classroom shelving at Herrick for $77,862 

To view all Board meeting topics, view the agenda.

Upcoming Events

  • July 8, 2024, 7 p.m. Regular Board Meeting, location TBD

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.