Board Briefs: November 2021

boe board briefs november 2021

The District 58 Board of Education held a Regular Business Meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 at Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. All presentations and related documents are available on the agenda. Please click here to view the agenda. The meeting video will be posted on the District 58 YouTube page later this week.

Featured School: Highland School Flag Salute and Presentation

The Highland Student Council led the Board and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and highlighted some of the spirit days and service projects they are leading at school. Principal Zac Craft discussed Highland’s school improvement planning process, recent curriculum implementations, and the new school playground, among other topics. PTA Co-President Amanda Wiley shared some of the PTA’s recent fundraisers and events, including, most recently, the PTA-supported classroom Halloween parties. 

View Mr. Craft’s Highland spotlight video to learn more.

Public Hearing: Truth-in-Taxation Tax Levy

District 58 held a truth-in-taxation tax levy public hearing and received no public comments. Later in the meeting, the Board voted unanimously to adopt the 2021 Certificate of Levy in the amount of $62.61 million, which is a 5.15% increase from 2020.

The tax levy is how school districts annually request the funding they receive from property taxes. Due to a tax cap law, District 58 may only request a funding increase equal to the consumer price index (which is currently at 1.4%), plus the taxes associated with any new construction. School districts that levy for an amount that is a greater than 5% increase over the previous year’s levy are required to hold a public hearing. District 58 anticipates receiving a significant increase in new construction property taxes this year due to the downtown Downers Grove TIF expiring, and anticipates that the CPI combined with the increase in new construction taxes may exceed 5%. 

A TIF, or tax increment financing, is a public financing method that incentivizes economic development by calculating the increase in property taxes resulting from new or redevelopment and diverting that revenue to instead subsidize the project. Downers Grove created a TIF for downtown Downers Grove businesses 23 years ago, and it expires this year. The year a TIF expires, the entire TIF district is added as new property for the tax cap calculation. In other words, District 58 will now be able to capture the taxes associated with all of the new growth and new property from downtown Downers Grove businesses from the last 23 years.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Russell provided several updates, including:

  • School Board Member Appreciation Day: In recognition of School Board Member Appreciation Day on Monday, Nov. 15, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell thanked the School Board members for their commitment and time.
  • COVID-19 Updates: Children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. At this time, the vaccine is not mandatory, and the Illinois Department of Public Health has not indicated if they plan to make it mandatory in the future. The Illinois State Board of Education recently amended its consequences for school districts that choose not to comply with mask mandates in order to make the process more uniform between public and private schools. However, the same Executive Order requiring masks in schools remains in place, and school districts must still comply with the mask mandate. Dr. Russell has asked different levels of government if a timeline exists for when mitigation strategies will end. He was told that no decisions have been made at this time.
  • Technology: District 58 moved to its new office space last month and is converting the Administrative Service Center on 63rd Street into a maintenance warehouse and technology server hub. Technology staff are reconfiguring equipment to prepare for this shift. The District also relocated two technology technicians to work out of the middle schools going forward. This model will allow District 58 to provide a higher level of service by having a technician on both the north and south sides of town.
  • Facilities: A heating supply pipe in a Pierce Downer classroom is leaking and requires an immediate emergency repair. The class was temporarily relocated to a different room, workers are scheduled to repair the leak this week, and families/staff were informed. The pipe is inside the ceiling and is surrounded by older insulation containing asbestos. The District is working with its industrial hygiene consultant, Forensic Analytical, and the IDPH to properly abate the insulation.
  • New Staff: The District 58 administrative team provides structured ongoing support, a mentorship program, observation opportunities, and two meetings for new staff throughout the year. The District continues to be impressed with the hard work and dedication of its new employees.
  • Substitutes: District 58 continues to recruit new substitute teachers and instructional assistants; however, there continues to be several unfilled positions each day. Last year, the substitute teacher pay rate increased to $140/day, and this month, the instructional assistant pay rate will increase to $90/day.
  • Education Foundation: The Education Foundation recently awarded 22 grants worth nearly $12,000 to District 58 teachers and staff. Each of the grants will directly support student learning. One way community members can support the Education Foundation is by participating in the new Grove Express 5K on Thanksgiving. This community event replaces the Bonfield Express 5K, and proceeds will be split among the District 58 Education Foundation, the Downers Grove Rotary Club, and the Roadrunners Soccer Club. Learn more and sign up at
  • Illinois School Report Card: Due to pandemic-related delays, the State is releasing its 2021 Illinois School Report Card in three phases. The first release occurred two weeks ago and contains District 58 demographic data. District 58 anticipates receiving the bulk of its report card data in April 2022, when assessment data will come out. District 58 will spotlight the report card data after the April 2022 release.
  • Grade Level Meetings: Over the past two weeks, District 58 conducted half-day meetings with each K-6 grade level team. “While it is true that these meetings take teachers out of the classroom for half a day and require an investment of our Title II funds in substitute costs, the power of these three and a half hours to increase teacher efficacy and promote strong instructional practices in our district cannot be overstated. The feedback from these meetings was overwhelmingly positive, as was the energy in the room each day,” said Dr. Russell.
  • Thank You: Dr. Russell thanked Highland School for their presentation and wished the entire District 58 community a Happy Thanksgiving.

Business Report 

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that District 58’s revenues continue to be higher than usual for a couple of reasons. First, DuPage County changed its property tax distribution cycle, and a payment that typically would have been applied to last fiscal year was instead paid to District 58 this fiscal year, artificially inflating the District 2021-22 revenues. Second, transportation bills have been delayed this year. Due to the bus driver shortage, bus company office staff have been driving routes, leaving little time to process bills. The District is just beginning to receive transportation bills and will promptly pay them.

Committee Reports 

Member Emily Hanus reported on the Oct. 27 Legislative Committee meeting.  The committee discussed proposed resolutions submitted by school districts across the state in the 2021 Resolutions Committee Report. Each year, the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) membership votes on these recommendations during the Delegate Assembly in November. Hanus is the District 58 delegate. After the vote, IASB will advocate for the approved resolutions at the state and federal levels. 

The Legislative Committee made recommendations on how Hanus should vote on behalf of District 58. These recommendations were shared with the Board, who then publicly discussed them during the Nov. 8 meeting. During the consent agenda later in the meeting, Members Greg Harris and Kirat Doshi requested a separate vote regarding two of the proposals; the separate vote reversed the Legislative Committee’s recommendation on proposal 5 regarding remote-virtual school board open meetings and rendered a tie on proposal 23 regarding amending a belief statement. Member Hanus will abstain from voting on proposal 23 at the Delegate Assembly. The Board approved all other proposed resolutions in line with the Legislative Committee.

President Darren Hughes reported on the Nov. 5 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the tax levy, discussed employee insurance rates, reviewed the year-to-date financial report and discussed the delayed transportation bills.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Nov. 4 Health & Wellness Committee meeting. District 58 currently has a $170,000 medical fund deficit, but this deficit should narrow by the end of the calendar year. The District finished last year with a large surplus, which should offset any deficit in 2021. The committee discussed the District’s employee wellness program, noting a dip in this year’s participation.

Discussion: Defining Student Success and Strategic Planning

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul presented on two Strategic Plan-related areas of recent focus: developing a Portrait of a Graduate and preparing next steps for the District’s key performance indicators, or KPIs. 

As called for in the Strategic Plan, the Curriculum Council recently developed seven draft descriptors that would define District 58’s “Portrait of a Graduate,” and, by extension, student success:

  1. Demonstrates proficiency in grade level standards and academic skills in order to successfully transition to high school. 
  2. Demonstrates annual growth relative to academic skills and grade level standards. 
  3. Demonstrates the social emotional competencies to foster a healthy perspective of self and the ability to maintain positive relationships. 
  4. Demonstrates effective communication skills (oral, written and listening) in order to express original thoughts and ideas.
  5. Possesses a driving curiosity that leads to the application of critical thinking skills to develop solutions to complex problems. 
  6. Collaborates effectively with others in the classroom and community, demonstrating awareness and respect of multiple perspectives and viewpoints. 
  7. Demonstrates passion, grit, resilience and confidence to become lifelong learners, leaders, and contributors to their community.

Board members supported this work and asked Sisul and the District Leadership Team to consider incorporating checkpoints within the Portrait of a Graduate to measure grade level goals throughout a student’s District 58 education. Board members also encouraged high school alignment and career path exposure as part of this process. Sisul shared that District 99 has been an active participant on the District 58 Curriculum Council.

District 58 developed KPIs to measure its student academic progress in the 2018 Strategic Plan. These KPIs expired this year, and some of the primary data points -- chiefly 2020 and 2021 Illinois Assessment of Readiness data -- are unavailable due to the pandemic. Sisul shared that District 58 will develop new KPIs aligned with each Portrait of a Graduate success descriptor. Specifically, the District will measure student proficiency and growth for each of the descriptors. ECRA, the education strategic planning firm that helped District 58 develop its 2018 Strategic Plan, will support this initiative. 

Superintendent Dr. Russell provided a brief history of District 58’s current Strategic Plan, which was originally intended to be a four-year plan expiring in 2022. The pandemic delayed several strategic goals. Dr. Russell recommended that the Strategic Plan be extended by two years to allow time to complete the original plan with fidelity and to implement and review the new KPIs. The Board supported this recommendation.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Received one public comment from a parent who expressed gratitude to several District 58 staff members.
  • Approved minutes from the Oct. 13 Regular Meeting, Oct. 20 Special Meeting and Oct. 25 Curriculum Workshop.
  • Approved the personnel report and financial reports.
  • Approved the 2021 American Education Week resolution.
  • Designated 14 printers as surplus equipment.
  • Revised the 2021-22 Board of Education meeting calendar.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, Nov. 15 at 3:45 p.m.: District Leadership Team Meeting at Longfellow
  • Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting at Longfellow
  • Monday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at O’Neill
  • Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at Longfellow

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.