Board Briefs: May 2021

Board Briefs: May 2021

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, May 10, 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.

Featured School: Whittier Flag Salute and Presentation

The Whittier Student Council virtually led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, Whittier Principal Michael Krugman shared a video and presentation demonstrating how the Whittier community is living out its 2020-21 school theme of “Be a Champion.” View the Whittier video and presentation.

Spotlight: 2021-22 Enrollment and Staffing Update

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell outlined the District’s planning process for the 2021-22 school year. He said that District 58 will continue to follow all State and County COVID-19 safety protocols while maximizing instruction and minimizing educational disruptions. While District 58 awaits the State’s updated safety guidance for 2021-22, he anticipates that next school year’s instructional schedule and activities will be as close to “normal” as possible. The District intends to return to pre-pandemic school hours and resume all regular activities, clubs and sports, as well as recess. However, it is likely that masks, social distancing and some quarantine requirements will still be in place. Once the State releases clear school guidance, District 58 will promptly review it and communicate any updates.

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis reported that early 2021-22 enrollment numbers project that District 58 should be able to offer its Optional Kindergarten Enrichment and Enhancement Program at all home schools. In addition, current enrollment projections show District 58 maintaining all class size targets set by the Strategic Plan’s Resources Review Council in 2019. Those targets are:

  • Grades K-2: 80 percent of classrooms will have 24 or fewer students
  • Grades 3-8: 80 percent of classrooms will have 26 or fewer students 

While this is good news, it is still early in the enrollment process and some numbers may change. The District is carefully watching enrollment for some of its larger classes; the District has contingency staffing positions budgeted in the event these classes continue to grow and require a new section to be formed. The District is also watching Lester enrollment trends, as this school lacks additional classroom space, and other solutions will need to be considered if some class sizes continue to grow.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul reported that District 58 will focus on two instructional priorities next school year: maintaining quality student support services and providing continued curriculum development and implementation. To achieve both priorities, the District will focus on consistency across all schools and providing equitable opportunities for all students. 

View the presentation to learn more. 

Superintendent’s Report 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided several updates, including:

Curriculum and Instruction: The spring assessment window (MAP and AIMSweb) is taking place over the next three weeks. These tests give schools valuable information regarding student achievement and growth, and help staff plan for next school year. In addition, Summer School staffing is complete, and more than 450 students have registered for Summer School Sessions II, III and IV, and more than 150 students will participate in Summer School Session I. Finally, Dr. Russell, Mr. Sisul and the DuPage County Regional Office of Education’s Sharon Frys met with all building administrators this week to plan school improvements for next year. There has been a lot of positive energy from principals as they prepare to use the Cycles of Inquiry school improvement process! 

Finance: The Illinois State Board of Education awarded District 58 with a Financial Recognition rating, its highest level of school financial recognition, for the 19th consecutive year. 

Facilities: El Sierra officially opened its new playground Monday evening during a dedication ceremony. In addition, the May Board meeting included recommendations to accept bids for the new Highland playground. Both of these playgrounds are largely funded by non-District money. The El Sierra playground was mostly funded by a State grant (advocated by Rep. Anne Stava-Murray) and El Sierra PTA/Playground Committee contributions. The Highland playground will be mostly funded by a donation from the “Climb Higher at Highland” community group that fundraised for the project.

“As everyone is aware, District 58 has very limited funds to address the needs of our facilities. We are truly grateful for everyone’s assistance providing these new opportunities for our students,” Dr. Russell said.

Community Relations: It’s a busy time for District 58 Education Foundation programs! Last week, the Education Foundation awarded the 2021 Distinguished Service Award to Hillcrest DLP Teacher Laura DiPietro and Pierce Downer Custodian Jac Steele. Monday was the deadline for District 58 eighth graders to apply to the Foundation’s Select 58 service award. Finally, the Foundation invites the community to recognize an outstanding staff member with a Green Apple Award. Learn more about Green Apple Awards at

Personnel: Although District 58 cannot host its usual retiree celebrations due to the pandemic, the District is partnering with the DGEEA to celebrate this year’s retirees at school on May 21.

Technology: The Student Online Personal Protection Act goes into effect this summer. This new law requires school districts to ensure all services that collect student data meet certain requirements. District staff are aware of this new legislation, and the District has been working diligently to ensure schools are in compliance. 

The Technology Department is also preparing to collect student devices at the end of the year. Over the summer, staff will ensure that all devices are ready for student learning in August. Students enrolled in Summer School will have access to devices during their program.

Special Services: District 58 has hired staff for six Extended School Year classrooms. The District still seeks instructional assistants and a speech and language pathologist to serve the Extended School Year program this summer. Learn more at

Business Report and Resolution to Authorize the Longfellow Center Sale

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that District 58 is on budget and expects to receive stimulus federal money next month. Drafall noted that District 58 had several finance-related recommendations for action on the agenda. He described each recommendation in detail to the Board. 

Drafall then shared that District 58 is at its low-cash point of the year. Due to remote learning, the District did not use transportation during the first month of the school year, which helped its cash flow this spring. However, typically in May, District 58 relies on receiving early property tax payments in order to make payroll, and should the payments ever arrive late, the District would not have the cash on hand to pay its employees. Last month, the School Board approved a Financial Plan, and this month, the Board is approving a revised fund balance policy. Both of these measures should help prevent the District from running into cash-flow issues in future school years, as well as help the District build up its capital project fund.

Drafall said that the Board would be asked to approve a resolution authorizing the sale of the Longfellow Center property during this Board meeting. He explained how the District’s new financial plan, revised fund balance policy and the proposed Longfellow Center sale are all connected through the District’s Strategic Plan work. He provided a brief history, as outlined below.

District 58 developed a community-driven Strategic Plan in 2018, which identified “Securing the Future” as one of three major goal areas. The “Securing the Future” goal gives clear action steps to address the District’s facility and finance needs. 

Guided by this goal, District 58 formed a Facility Planning Council, hosted community facility visioning sessions, and developed a Master Facility Plan. The District presented the completed plan to the Board in August 2019. It identified $245 million in District 58 capital needs, of which $115 million supported critical maintenance. During the Board’s August 2019 Budget Workshop, Drafall recommended District 58 create a fund balance policy to manage its low cash flow periods and build up reserves that can prevent the need for short-term borrowing.

In fall 2019, the District formed a representative Citizen Task Force, which met several times to review the Master Facility Plan, prioritize the District’s most urgent needs, and plan for public engagement in preparation of a referendum bond measure, which was originally anticipated for the November 2020 election. 

Meanwhile, the Village of Downers Grove approached District 58 in February 2020 regarding a potential shared office partnership opportunity. District 58 was interested in this opportunity, as the Strategic Plan and Master Facility Plan both called on District 58 to find a long-term solution to its administrative center needs. District 58’s administration is split between two facilities -- Longfellow and the Administrative Service Center. The Longfellow Center’s maintenance had been long-deferred and would soon require significant capital investment. Further, Longfellow does not meet the District’s administrative needs and lacks the space to be turned into a school. District 58 began to analyze the costs of different administrative center solutions (status quo, partnering with the Village, selling and purchasing, selling and leasing, etc.) to determine the most fiscally responsible solution. 

When the pandemic struck, District 58 paused its facility planning and delayed referendum plans. The Village also indefinitely paused its shared administrative space exploration. In the fall, the District began developing a multi-year financial plan, as called for in the Strategic Plan, to guide the District’s future budgeting process. Lacking referendum proceeds, District 58 identified alternative funding sources for the most critical projects. This winter, District 58 issued $3.335 million in bonds to fund summer 2021 capital projects. This bond issuance exhausted the District’s bonding capacity, limiting the District’s ability to borrow additional funds for other critical projects. 

District 58 revisited the administrative center options it developed in winter 2020 and discussed options internally and with several stakeholder groups, including the Financial Advisory Committee, Superintendent's Community Advisory Council and a small work group dedicated to studying Longfellow. District 58 determined that selling Longfellow would provide an estimated $3.8 million, all of which would fund critical capital projects for summer 2022. If the District pursues and passes a bond measure in the March 2022 election, District 58 would be able to use referendum money for future facility work beyond 2022. Drafall noted that if the District chose to retain Longfellow, not only would it lose out on an estimated $3.8 million in sale proceeds, the District would also be required to sink $2-3 million into Longfellow for maintenance. Together, District 58 would lose out on an estimated $6 million it could have otherwise invested into its schools. 

Following these discussions, the District recommended that the Board sell the Longfellow property, secure a leased office space for administration, and renovate the ASC for warehouse storage and maintenance use.

Later in the meeting, several Board members explained why they would vote to support the sale of Longfellow. Board members emphasized the importance of following District 58’s mission and investing funds in services that directly benefit children; maintaining Longfellow does not meet this need. Other Board members stressed the importance of being fiscally responsible and preparing District 58 to be fiscally sound into the future. 

After discussion, the School Board voted unanimously to approve the resolution to sell Longfellow to the highest qualified bidder, at a minimum sale price of $3.8 million. View the Longfellow sale memo. They also voted, 6-1, to accept a Wight & Co. professional services proposal to allocate 9.25% of final construction costs for Administrative Service Center modifications. View memo. The lone “nay” vote went to new Member Melissa Ellis, who said she needed additional time to fully analyze the proposal before formally casting her support.

Committee Reports

President Darren Hughes reported on the May 7 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee discussed the findings from the Longfellow Center study groups (2021 group and the 2018 group). The committee also discussed the District’s stop loss insurance cost increases and ASC retrofit plans.

Vice President Gregory Hughes reported on the May 6 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. The committee discussed how the District’s stop loss insurance premiums are increasing, due to an increase in large claims across the District. On the positive side, District 58’s medical expenditures are $400,000 under budget; this surplus is likely due to the dip in medical claims during the COVID-19 closures last year. In addition, District 58’s medical prescription plan is projected to cost $7.8 million. Thirteen years ago, the District spent $7 million per year, and costs have only risen 10% over 13 years.

The Board’s Policy Committee, Legislative Committee and District Leadership Team did not meet.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

View the meeting agenda to locate associated PDF documents to the below items. 

  • Listened to a combined 12 in-person and remote public comments. Eleven comments were regarding the Longfellow sale, and one comment was regarding the District’s recommendation to approve a contract with Systemic Educational Equity, LLC to conduct an Equity Audit.
  • Approved minutes from the May 3 Special Meeting/Reorganization of the Board.
  • Approved the consent agenda, which included the appointment of Dr. David Norman to the Herrick Middle School principal position, starting July 1.
  • Approved a recommendation to amend the 2020-21 budget, put the amended budget on display for 30 days, and establish the date for a budget hearing on June 14. The District sold $3.335 million in bonds this winter in order to pay for critical summer 2021 capital projects. This bond sale was not planned in the original 2020-21 budget, and the budget must be amended to reflect this funding, along with additional federal stimulus revenues.
  • Approved the renewal contract for food service management with Aramark for the 2021-22 school year. 
  • Approved the donation agreement between the community group, Climb Higher at Highland, and District 58. Through this agreement, Climb Higher at Highland will donate $150,000 to District 58 to be used to construct an accessible playground at Highland School during summer 2021. 
  • Approved the purchase of Landscape Structures playground equipment from NuToys Leisure Products through the Sourcewell purchasing cooperative for the Highland playground for a cost of $73,348. 
  • Awarded the Highland playground renovations bid to George’s Landscaping for a total cost of $98,500. 
  • Authorized the administration to enter a room rental agreement with SASED for the 2021-22 school year. 
  • Completed a second reading of Policy 4:20 - Fund Balances and moved to adopt revisions to this policy. The policy directs District 58 to seek to maintain a year-end fund balance to current-year expense ratio of no less than 35%.
  • Designated a Meilink large safe, laminator and computer cart as surplus equipment and recommended the items be placed on a public auction site. 
  • Approved the Consolidated District Plan application to be submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education for the 2021-22 school year. 
  • Approved a contract with Systemic Educational Equity, LLC to conduct an Equity Audit of District 58 in the 2021-22 school year in the amount of $37,500. Before the vote, Board members asked Dr. Russell and Mr. Sisul to provide additional information regarding this contract. They shared that this audit will continue the District’s ongoing work to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students. Public engagement is a component of the audit, and the District looks forward to receiving input from families and staff. The audit will be entirely funded through federal Title II funds. 
  • Approved contracts (contract 1 and contract 2) with Happiness Advantage to provide staff with professional learning on July 29-30 and Aug. 24 for a total of $38,000. This expenditure will also be entirely paid for through Title II funds. 

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, May 17 at 3:45 p.m.: District Leadership Team at Location TBD
  • Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Downers Grove Village Hall/Zoom

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.