Board Briefs: February 2021

Board Briefs: February 2021

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page later this week.

Bond Issue Notification Act (BINA) Hearing

The Board of Education held a Bond Issue Notification Act, or BINA, hearing to receive public comments on a proposal to sell $3.335 million in bonds to increase the District’s working cash fund. This money would fund critical capital projects in District 58.

One community member commented during the hearing. The Board will vote on this proposal during a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Longfellow Center.

Featured School: Pierce Downer Flag Salute and Presentation

Pierce Downer students virtually led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, Pierce Downer Principal Leland Wagner and Assistant Principal Lauri Smith presented a video that brought the school’s motto, “We are PD,” to life. Through video, school staff members and the PTA co-presidents showed their connection and commitment to the Pierce Downer community. View the Pierce Downer spotlight video.

Spotlight: Education Foundation Update

Community Relations Coordinator Megan Hewitt highlighted how the Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 has adapted to changes caused by COVID-19. The Foundation’s recognition programs moved to a virtual format, and annual fundraisers were postponed. The Teacher Grants Program and the Green Apple Awards Program both continued successfully.

Last spring, the Foundation created the COVID Family Support Fund, a mechanism that raises money from local individuals, groups and organizations. The Foundation turns these donations into grocery store gift cards and delivers them to District 58. Principals, social workers and secretaries discreetly distribute the gift cards to families struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, this fund has raised over $23,000.

This month, the Foundation launched a parent education webinar series by hosting a prominent child psychiatrist, who answered District 58 parent questions on helping children during COVID-19. The Foundation hopes to offer a monthly webinar moving forward.

View the presentation to learn more.

Spotlight: Winter Data Snapshot 

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul reviewed student data from the winter Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which grade K-8 students took last month.

District 58 looks at both student achievement and growth data. Achievement shows how a student performs on the MAP test at a single point in time. Growth measures how a student’s scores change over time, or, in other words, how much he or she grows academically.

Despite the uniqueness of this school year, Sisul reported that student achievement levels were very high. However, student growth was average, and, in some cases, below average.

Sisul said that school teams analyze student, classroom, grade and school MAP assessment data during building-level data meetings to tailor instruction, interventions, acceleration and resources to ensure each student is successful. Teams will continue to take all of this year’s unique factors into consideration when making informed instructional decisions. To better support students and staff, the District will identify third trimester essential standards that focus on the most critical instructional areas and provide targeted summer school programming.

School Board members discussed the data presented, and they asked the District to develop resources to help parents and guardians better understand their child’s assessment data, so they can support their child at home. The Board expressed concerns with potential achievement gaps created by the pandemic and urged the District to continue to evaluate how best to support every individual student. The District will continue this conversation at the upcoming District Leadership Team meeting on Feb. 22, as well as at the Curriculum Workshop on March 22.

View the winter data snapshot presentation for more information.

Superintendent Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum and Instruction: District 58 will hold a Special Meeting/Instructional Workshop on Feb. 22 to discuss the District’s learning model and ways the District can safely increase the student day for both in-person and live remote instruction. 

Finance: Congratulations to Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall on being named to the Illinois Association of Chief School Business Officials’ Board of Directors! “This is a very big honor and we are very happy for Todd,” said Dr. Russell. “We are also excited that District 58 will have a seat at the table as important financial conversations take place throughout Illinois.”

Facilities: Herrick, O’Neill, Fairmount, Lester and Whittier have all experienced prolonged school heating issues this winter. While the heat currently works at all schools, its infrastructure is outdated and frequently causes problems. Proper heating systems will be a critical component of the District’s Master Facility Plan moving forward.

Public Relations: The DuPage County Health Department directed Community High School District 99 to partner with its feeder districts, including District 58, and create a COVID-19 staff vaccination consortium. The District 99 Consortium completed all tasks required to vaccinate its staff, and it scheduled a staff vaccination clinic for Feb. 20. This date is tentative, as the consortium relies on the Health Department to fill vaccine orders, and vaccines are in short supply. “We will continue to advocate for our staff members and hope that the supply will increase soon,” Dr. Russell said.

Personnel: District 58 is interviewing candidates for the Lester School principal position and hopes to make a recommendation to the Board at the March 8 meeting.

Technology: The Technology Department is preparing to administer state tests, including the IAR, DLM, ACCESS and Illinois Science Assessment. This department is also preparing to launch parent-teacher conference registration, which opens next week. 

Student Services: Grove Children’s Preschool is now accepting tuition applications for the 2021-22 school year. First priority registration is due on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Learn more and apply at

Other: There is no school on Monday, Feb. 15 for Presidents Day, and no school for students on Friday, Feb. 26 for the DuPage County Teacher Institute Day. 

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that revenues are on track and expenditures are slightly lower than expected, due to the District’s increased efforts to control expenses.

Credit Ratings

Drafall reported that District 58 received credit ratings from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s last week. This is the first time Standard and Poor’s rated District 58. District 58 retained its AA1 rating from Moody’s, and received a AA rating from Standard and Poor’s. These ratings are the second and third highest ratings, respectively, that each credit agency awards.

The District received very favorable comments from both rating agencies on its progress and efforts to control costs during the COVID pandemic. Standard and Poor’s specifically noted that school districts in Illinois with higher ratings similar to that of District 58 have a much higher fund balance. District 58 currently has plans to increase its fund balance policy to 35% of expenditures from its current 31%. View the BoardDocs agenda for credit rating links.

Longfellow Center Update

During the Board’s Dec. 7 Budget Workshop, District administrators recommended that the District sell the Longfellow property and pledge $1.5 million in proceeds for critical capital project work required during the summer of 2022. 

District 58’s Longfellow Center is a 93-year-old building that currently houses District 58’s Curriculum, Technology and Buildings & Grounds departments. The building is costly to maintain, and is not large enough to accommodate the District’s administrative team -- half the administration is housed at the Administrative Service Center (ASC) on 63rd Street, a 10-minute drive away. Longfellow is also located on 3.3 acres in a desirable residential neighborhood. The District believes the highest and best use of the Longfellow Center property is as developed into similar residential homes. Not only would the sale of the Longfellow property generate needed funds for the District, if developed into housing, it could also generate approximately $62,000 annually in new local property tax revenues.

After considering many options, the administration recommends that District 58 secure a new leased space for all central administration; retrofit the ASC for use as a District 58 maintenance warehouse; and sell the Longfellow Center. The District believes this is the most fiscally responsible and feasible option. The District will aim to achieve the above steps by the end of the calendar year, and will continually update the School Board, the Financial Advisory Committee, and the greater District 58 community on its progress.

View the Longfellow Center presentation, (also presented to the Financial Advisory Committee). 

View the related Longfellow Center memo for more information.

Committee Reports

Member Tracy Weiner reported on the Jan. 19 Policy Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the draft District 58 administrative procedure manual and the process for editing and adopting it.

Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 Legislative Committee meetings, which both focused on the upcoming Feb. 19 Legislative Forum. This forum invites local legislators and community members to converse on educational matters. The Jan. 27 meeting prepared questions for the forum, and the Feb. 3 focused on the forum’s format. This year’s event will take place virtually.

President Darren Hughes and Member Steve Olczyk reported on the Feb. 5 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. District 58 has a plan to increase its fund balance policy from 31% to 35%. The committee discussed how many neighboring districts have fund balances of 50%. Once District 58 hits its 35% goal, a new goal of 40% may be considered. The committee also discussed potential Longfellow options, the District’s Financial Plan development, bond rating reports and the year-to-date financial report. 

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Jan. 16 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. Although claims increased in December, overall 2020 ended with a $1.3 million surplus in the PPO plan and a $279,000 surplus in the HSA plan. The committee is still considering different employee wellness program options and will bring a recommendation to the Board for approval.

The Board’s District Leadership Team did not have a report.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Reviewed the draft 2021-22 school calendar. The Board is expected to vote on the calendar during the March 8 Board meeting. View memo.
  • Discussed the District’s 2022-26 Financial Plan, which is currently in development.
  • Received two public comments from community members opposed to the District’s Longfellow Center recommendations.
  • Approved minutes from the Jan. 11 Regular Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Adopted a resolution transferring $9 million from the working cash fund to the education fund. This money will be paid back to the working cash fund after the District receives its early levy year 2020 taxes. View memo.
  • Designated the following items as surplus equipment: Delta scroll saw, Rigid 300 pipe threading machine and accessories, Thomas compressor, Craftsman sander, Ryobi planer/jointer, pneumatic floor machine, Pacific floor machine and a Smartboard 680. These items will be placed on a public auction site and sold to the highest bidder.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at the ASC and Zoom
  • Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.: Special Board Meeting at Longfellow and District 58 YouTube

District 58 Board of Education members are: Darren Hughes, president; Gregory Harris, vice president; Kirat Doshi, Emily Hanus, Steven Olczyk, Jill Samonte and Tracy Weiner, with Dr. Kevin Russell, superintendent; and Melissa Jerves, board secretary.