Board Briefs: October 2021

board briefs october 2021

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 at O’Neill Middle School and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda to access all relevant meeting links. View the meeting video.

Featured School: Henry Puffer School Flag Salute and Presentation

The Henry Puffer Student Council led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and shared how they support their school and the greater community. View the Student Council’s presentation to learn more. PTA President Janet Sandridge presented on how the PTA partners with their school, and Principal Britta Waszak reported on Henry Puffer’s progress toward achieving the District’s strategic goals: Connecting the Community, Focusing on Learning and Securing the Future. View Principal Waszak’s Henry Puffer spotlight video to learn more.

Spotlight: Fall Data Snapshot

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul presented a fall data snapshot of the District’s recent aimsweb and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments. 

District 58 administered its fall aimsweb and MAP assessments in late August and early September, right after students returned to full in-person school for the first time since March 2020. Aimsweb is an assessment that measures student performance on specific literacy and numeracy skills. District 58 uses aimsweb data to help identify each student’s current literacy and numeracy achievement level and to determine individual supports or interventions to help each student succeed. In reviewing the data, it was observed that across the district, the number of first grade students demonstrating below-average achievement was higher than a typical year, indicating that these first graders may need additional support this school year. Sisul noted that these data were not surprising and reflect the reality of COVID-19’s impact on instruction and learning last school year. In particular, OKEEP was not offered to current first grade students, which is certainly a factor to consider when interpreting the first grade data.  

The MAP assessment was administered to all students in grades K-8. 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. MAP data showed that, in general, District 58 students continue to achieve at a very high level, despite the pandemic. From a growth perspective, the District will use the fall data as a baseline and analyze how much students have grown in their own achievement from fall to winter and then to spring.

District 58 is using federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (or ESSER) to address learning loss. The District used this funding to expand summer school offerings specifically designed for students identified as needing additional support. Sisul added 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. 

Sisul said that the District will frequently assess its interventions to ensure they are working and adjust as needed. An update will be presented at the February 2022 Board of Education meeting, after the winter aimsweb and MAP assessments are completed.

View the presentation slideshow.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates, including:

Facilities: District 58 has moved its administrative offices to the new District Office located at 2300 Warrenville Road, Suite 200NE, Downers Grove, IL 60515. All District visitors should come to the new office location and enter via the main door on the building’s west side. All phone numbers and email addresses are the same. District 58 signed a seven-year sublease with the Aramark Corporation for the new space. The sublease comes with two early-out options, in the event that a shared facility with the Village of Downers Grove comes to fruition. The new office space accommodates all District 58 administrative office staff; previously, these employees were split between the Longfellow Center and ASC. The District is renovating the existing ASC building into a maintenance and technology hub, and the Longfellow Center was recently sold for $4.155 million.

Personnel: This Board meeting includes approval of staff stipends for extracurricular activities. District 58 is aiming to provide equitable extracurricular activities at all schools. Elementary schools will have three extracurricular clubs, and middle schools will have six. These clubs are in addition to the standard intramurals, Student Council and Safety Patrol offered at every school. Due to community requests, the District is considering increasing the number of extracurriculars available, but will only do so if they can be increased equitably at all schools.

Community Relations: Recruitment: District 58 received 64 responses to its recent committee recruitment effort, and all applicants were placed in a group. While most applicants were added to their chosen committee, due to space constraints, a few applicants were recommended for a different committee that had space available. District 58 is thrilled that so many community members want to get involved and looks forward to getting these groups started!

Community Relations: Bonfield: District 58 thanks the Bonfield Express Foundation for donating $1,000 to each of its 13 schools this year. The Bonfield Express Foundation made this donation to help District 58 schools recognize students who demonstrate a love of learning, extra effort and/or good citizenship. The annual Thanksgiving Day Bonfield Express 5K has been retired; however, it will be replaced by the new Grove Express 5K, hosted by the Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58, Rotary Club and Roadrunners.

Curriculum and Instruction: This past week, District 58 received a few questions regarding a recently-published news article on Panorama, a company that provides SEL student assessments. District 58 does not have a current relationship with Panorama. However, the District has had conversations for many years around the importance of measuring our students' social-emotional competencies (which are taught directly in our schools) just as we measure math and reading, against nationally normed data.  

In 2019, District 58 piloted two SEL assessment tools - Panorama being one of them - with approximately 350 students. All families were notified directly of their child’s participation, and were given the opportunity to opt out. While Panorama had a data privacy agreement with District 58 in 2019, based on recent news, the District reached out this week and gained verbal confirmation that none of the pilot students’ data was shared outside of Panorama.

District 58’s SEL assessment work was paused due to the pandemic. The District will provide an update on the current work and goals of the SEL curricular audit committee at the Curriculum Workshop later this month. “District 58 believes there is value in understanding how well our students are learning the skills taught in SEL instruction (aligned with current state goals) just as we do in all other curricular areas; however, we are extremely aware of the need for student data privacy. Our goal is to balance these two priorities. Any future conversations regarding SEL assessments for our students would take place at the Board level,” Dr. Russell said.

Technology: The PowerSchool outage that affected parent-teacher conference registration is unacceptable. While this was a failure of vendor-operated infrastructure and technology, the District is responsible for ensuring that our vendors can meet our standards. Considering that we have had two consecutive outages when large numbers of families were attempting to access PowerSchool simultaneously, it is clear that PowerSchool has not been able to meet our standards. Last school year, District 58 successfully used the PowerSchool portal for three districtwide registration events, and the District has invested significant time and resources into this tool. The District is working with PowerSchool to determine what went wrong during the two recent outages. If a resolution cannot be reached, the District will seek alternative tools and solutions.

Business Report 

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that District 58 is beginning to receive its expected revenues, and expenses are running slightly lower than budgeted. This is because District 58 has not received some transportation bills yet. Once these bills are received, the District will promptly pay them. Drafall also explained how District 58 is using its ESSER funds and shared that District 58 is beginning to plan for fiscal year 2023. The District intends to bring a tax levy recommendation to the Board in November. There are two factors that drive the tax levy recommendation: the consumer price index (CPI) and new property. CPI for 2022 is 1.4%. District 58 will not have its new property numbers until next March; however, it will be substantial because the Downtown Downers Grove TIF will end. This means that for the first time in 23 years, District 58 will receive property taxes from all businesses located in downtown Downers Grove. This will add approximately $60 million in new property to the District, which will amount to a significant property tax revenue increase.

Drafall pointed out that from 2006-2020, $1 billion in new property was built within District 58 boundaries. Approximately 83% of new property was residential, primarily in the form of teardowns/new builds. This level of growth demonstrates that District 58 is a desirable location for community reinvestment.

Committee Reports 

Member Emily Hanus reported on the Sept. 22 Legislative Committee meeting. She said that the committee discussed the upcoming Illinois Association of School Boards Delegate Assembly, the District 58 Legislative Breakfast and state legislative updates. The committee also discussed the new homeless shelter that may open within District 58 boundaries and ways the District can seek legislative support to ensure a smooth transition for the families and children who may be moving to this shelter.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Sept. 30 Health & Wellness Committee meeting. The committee noted that August 2021 produced a very large number of medical claims; however, this was to be expected as many staff members choose to address medical needs during their summer vacations. If trends continue, the committee anticipates that District 58’s medical claims will either break even or have a small deficit by the end of the calendar year. Harris shared that the Business Office is recommending an 8% insurance rate increase for the District’s Universal PPO, Reduced PPO and High Deductible insurance plans, and no increase for the District’s HSA plan. If the District did not increase rates, it would cause an estimated $800,000 deficit. Harris noted that even with an 8% rate increase, the District still anticipates a $200,000 deficit, but said that the District can absorb this deficit because the District finished the 2020 calendar year with a large surplus in its medical fund.

Discussion: Timing of a Public Information Program

District 58 developed a Master Facility Plan that identified the District’s facility needs in 2018-19. The District formed a representative Citizen Task Force in fall 2019 to prioritize these needs, organize community engagement, and potentially pursue a bond referendum. After a few productive meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, pausing the group’s efforts and delaying referendum discussions. 

Superintendent Dr. Russell reported that the Citizen Task Force regrouped in July 2021. After a thoughtful discussion, the task force recommended that District 58 seek the Board of Education’s support for launching a public information program to inform the community of the District’s facility needs and to gauge the public’s support of a potential referendum measure during either the June 2022 or November 2022 elections. Dr. Russell also shared public engagement timelines going toward both election dates. While there are pros and cons to both the June and November election options, ultimately, the task force and the District’s community engagement consultant both recommended potentially pursuing the November 2022 election option.

Board members discussed the options, noting that a November election would give the District more time to give community tours of the District’s aging facilities and it would occur at a traditional election time. They noted that the June election is the first of its kind; typically primaries are held in March. Plus, June is a time when many voters might be on summer vacation and might not be as likely to vote. The Board also pointed out that they appreciated the research and conversations that the Citizen Task Force completed prior to recommending a November election.

Later in the meeting, the Board unanimously voted to pursue a public information program timeline that could result in the District pursuing a November 2022 referendum.

View the presentation.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the Sept. 13 Regular Board Meeting and Sept. 27 Special Board Meeting. 
  • Approved all items presented in the Consent Agenda.
  • Approved 2022 employee insurance rates.
  • Approved District 58’s application for a School Maintenance Project Grant. This is a dollar-for-dollar state matching grant program. 
  • Designated computer carts, push blower, rolling cabinet, desks, refrigerator and file cabinet as surplus equipment. 
  • Approved revisions to policies 1:10, 1:20, 1:30, 2:10, 2:30, 2:130, 3:30, 5:10, 6:100, 6:145, 6:160, 6:170, 6:235, 6:255, 6:260, 7:200, 7:220, 7:230, 7:280 and 8:90. 

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.: Special Board Meeting/Board Self-Evaluation Workshop at O’Neill
  • Monday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.: Curriculum Workshop at O’Neill

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.