Board Briefs – February 2017

The District 58 Board of Education held its regular business meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.  View the agenda and presentation links. Topics:

Flag Salute and Presentation: Kingsley
Spotlight: Strategic Goals Action Plan Mid-Year Review
Spotlight: English-Language Arts Committee
Superintendent’s Report
Business Report
Board Committee Reports
Facilities Discussion
Other Topics/Upcoming Events

Highlights from the meeting include:


Flag Salute and Presentation: Kingsley

Kingsley Student Council Members Sofia, Tyler, Gabriella and Taran shared their school’s recent service projects. For example, they donated 40 ornaments and 80 holiday gifts for local students in need, they hosted a Thanksgiving food drive and, this week, they are leading a Valentines for Vets campaign. They also are planning a JDRF Walk to raise funds for juvenile diabetes research, a Dance Off Disease Day to support rare disease research and several other activities.

Kingsley PTA President Julie Ovalle reported that the Kingsley PTA enjoyed a busy fall, hosting a welcome back coffee event, an ice cream social, their first ever book fair, a family night and a Polar Express-themed winter fundraiser.

They also created cheery welcome back student signage and led a successful Penny Wars fundraiser to support their playground improvement effort.

Spotlight on our Schools I: Strategic Goals Action Plan Mid-Year Review

Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli, with support from District 58 administrators, shared a mid-year update on the District’s annual Strategic Goals Action Plan. The mid-year update provides the Board with a written report of the District’s progress toward its annual action plan goals, summarizing many of the spotlights and reports provided to the Board at prior meetings. This year’s report incorporated feedback from the Meet & Confer Strategic Plan Committee.  

The Board developed a district-wide Strategic Plan in 2000 and revised it in 2011 with community input. The plan identifies the District 58 mission, core beliefs and focus areas for future planning, and the Board hopes to initiate a new Strategic Planning process beginning in the summer of 2017.

District 58 leaders annually review the Strategic Plan and its progress toward each of the focus areas and goals in order to develop annual goals – or the annual Strategic Goals Action Plan – that align with it. Last summer, the District aimed to create more focused and concise annual goals that will help teachers, administrators and staff continue to fulfill the District’s mission, as well as the Strategic Plan’s vision.

Dr. Cremascoli and her team reported that the District is making expected progress or has accomplished nearly all of its goals at this mid-year point. Mid-year highlights are listed below. For a complete update, please review the Strategic Goals Action Plan Mid-Year progress report and Board presentation.

  • Teachers are participating in math professional development, led by Metro Chicago Math Initiative, to enhance their understanding of math practices and differentiation instruction skills, as well as to support teacher collaboration around implementation of the Math Blueprint and explore common assessments. This experience has yielded positive feedback.
  • The District successfully added student growth goals to its teacher evaluation process to align with the state’s requirements. “We aim to make this a meaningful process that leads to growth and improvement,” said Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis.
  • The District curriculum committees continue to make good progress toward accomplishing their goals of reviewing and refining the curriculum, instructional resources and professional development opportunities in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA), Math and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  • The Special Services Department introduced new special education protocols. Teachers and administrators reported that the new protocols are easy to follow and have increased efficiency.
  • The District launched a new website in January, and introduced new Board community engagement efforts through the new Meet & Confer Strategic Plan Committee, increased attendance at PTA meetings, and increased parent membership on Board committees.
  • The District’s student iPad fleet is 3-4 years old. The Technology Committee recommends a partial device refresh for the 2017-18 school year. The District will purchase ChromeBooks for middle school students, replacing the most outdated iPads.
  • The District’s Business Office maintained a balanced budget and continues to monitor the state for possible revenue shortfalls or education-related legislation.
  • The Buildings & Grounds Department has provided a new Facilities at a Glance booklet with high level information about the District’s buildings.

    While a detailed review will be presented in April, a more focused discussion about Lester will take place during this month’s Facilities discussion, as well as at subsequent meetings.

Spotlight on our Schools II: English-Language Arts Committee

The Downers Grove Grade School District 58 English-Language Arts (ELA) Committee shared exciting progress updates regarding new ELA resources and instruction.

The ELA Committee comprises about 40 teachers, administrators and staff representing all District 58 schools and positions. The committee leads the complex task of refining ELA learning to align with the Common Core Standards while still meeting the needs of all students. In the past 12 months, they made significant progress toward reaching these goals.

“The K-5 teacher team has selected two sets of publisher materials to begin piloting in March, with the 6-8 teachers soon to follow,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Matt Rich. “The committee expects to make a recommendation of the selected set of curriculum resources to the Board by October 2017.

Teachers will then receive professional development beginning in November 2017 and throughout the 2017-18 school year.”

Read the full recap of the ELA Committee spotlight.

View the ELA Committee presentation.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli shared several updates with the Board including:

School Environment Survey Results: District 58 administers school environment surveys to students, staff and parents. While the State requires that districts administer its 5Essentials survey for teachers and students in grades six through eight, the District goes beyond these required surveys to also capture feedback from students in grades three through five and from parents using its own School Environment Survey. The State’s survey results are not yet available.  However, the District has shared its School Environment Survey results with school leadership teams and the Board of Education. These survey results are published online at for the community to review. The District will share the 5Essentials results when they are available from the State.

“I thank every parent, teacher and student who took a survey this school year,” Dr. Cremascoli said. “We take survey responses very seriously, and our schools use them to guide their planning process.”

Board Committee Recruitment Update: The District received a very positive response to the Board Committee application sent to all parents last month. The Board hopes to add two parent positions to its Legislative, Policy and Financial Advisory committees. The application also asked parents to indicate their interest in joining the Education Foundation and the new Superintendent’s Community Advisory Council. The District received applications from 67 parents for various committees. Dr. Cremascoli also launched a new Superintendent’s Communications Council to increase engagement with staff. This council also received a very positive response, with 32 staff members signing up. The council will meet for the first time this Thursday.

Second Quarter Conclusion and Parent-Teacher Conferences: The second quarter has ended, and winter parent-teacher conferences have concluded. Dr. Cremascoli noted that the District had a great turnout at parent-teacher conferences. She thanked all teachers and parents who participated in this valuable opportunity.

“Conferences offer powerful opportunities for teachers and staff to connect with parents,” she said.

Curriculum Workshop: The Feb. 27 Curriculum Workshop will present updates from several curriculum committees. Dr. Cremascoli hopes to have broad representation at this meeting from both staff and community members. She requested the Board’s approval to move this workshop to an alternate location to more comfortably host a larger group of people.

Science Fair: Dr. Cremascoli is pleased to share that the District hosted another successful Science Fair with 568 students presenting 356 projects. She thanked the many volunteers who helped make the Science Fair run smoothly, including several of the building principals who help to organize the event annually.

PARCC Testing: The State’s PARCC testing will begin March 6. Principals will send school-specific testing schedules to families.

Education Foundation:  The Education Foundation’s Harlem Wizards fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 12 was a tremendous success with more than 1,400 people attending to raise money to support District 58 schools! The Foundation recently opened applications for its Distinguished Service Awards program honoring exceptional staff, as well as its Select 58 program honoring outstanding eighth graders. Dr. Cremascoli encouraged the community to consider participating in these awards programs.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten Video: To help new parents navigate the kindergarten experience, the District recently launched a three-part “Getting Ready for Kindergarten” video series, available on the District’s YouTube channel, as well as in the next issue of Communicate 58. The series focuses on the goals of kindergarten, tips to help parents prepare their child for kindergarten, and what a typical day of kindergarten looks like in District 58. Parents can view the full-length 8-minute video, or they can access the videos broken into each part.

Candidate Forums: The District 58 O’Neill and Herrick PTAs will host board candidate forums this month to introduce the six candidates for the Board of Education to the community.

O’Neill will host their forum Feb. 14 at 7:15 p.m., and Herrick will host theirs on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Note: District 58 and the PTA do not endorse any candidates.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business/Chief School Business Official David Bein shared the monthly business report with the Board:

  • The State currently owes District 58 more than $1.6 million. Bein anticipates that District 58 may end the fiscal year with an $800,000 deficit in state aid.
  • Bein presented a new financial report format to the Board and requested their input.
  • The Consumer Price Index finished 2016 at 2.1 percent. Barring legislative action changing the rate applicable to the 2017 levy, this will be the limiting rate increase this December for the 2017 levy.
  • Bein clarified some misinformation he recently heard regarding school district finances.

“A property tax freeze is needed because Illinois has the highest taxes!”
While Illinois has the highest reliance on property taxes, its overall tax burden is low. In fact, according to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bi-partisan, non-profit research group, Illinois is a low tax state and ranks among the states with the lowest total state and local taxes. Only Missouri has a lower tax rate in the Midwest. Locally, out of 30 DuPage County elementary school districts, District 58 has the fourth lowest tax rate.

“We can’t keep using taxes to fund our school districts!”
According to the Illinois Constitution, schools must be free and supported by public funding. All public schools are funded through taxes, although the mix of local, state and federal taxes may vary. Unfortunately, Illinois has a high reliance on property taxes, which is not an equitable way to fund schools.

“Pension reform is needed, and teacher pensions are too high.”
According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the state’s pension deficits have been caused by elected officials, not teachers. Teachers and school districts consistently make their pension contributions. For decades, and accelerated in recent years through pension holidays, the General Assembly has not fully made the State’s promised pension contributions, which caused the deficit. DuPage County teacher pensions are close to state average. In Illinois, teachers do not pay into social security, and their pensions account for this.

  • The State has introduced new legislation collectively called the “Grand Bargain,” which is a package of bills involving several topics, including education. The package includes a potentially positive change in the school funding formula in Illinois, adopting many aspects of the heavily-researched evidenced-based model approach. The package also includes a likely unconstitutional pension reform bill and a two-year property tax freeze bill. It is unclear whether these bills will pass, and the Grand Bargain is structured as an all or nothing package.

    A property tax freeze would have a significantly negative impact on District 58, as it would cap the District’s revenues, while expenditures would continue to grow.

    Bein urged the community to contact their local legislators and voice their opinions on the Grand Bargain.

Board Committee Reports

Policy Committee:

The Policy Committee met Jan. 24. They reviewed several policies, revised one policy and drafted one new policy. They placed the revised and draft policies on the February agenda for a first reading.

Policy #2010 – Administration – Superintendent of Schools: The committee reviewed the IASB PRESS (Illinois Association of School Boards – Policy Reference Education Subscription Service) model policy covering the superintendent’s job description. They updated the policy to reflect best practices.

Draft Policy #4017 – Personnel – General Personnel: Expenses: Per a new state mandate, school boards are required to have a policy regarding regulating staff reimbursements for business-related travel, meals and lodging. To comply with this new requirement, the Policy Committee drafted this policy.

The Board moved to approve for first reading both policies. They will be placed on the March agenda for final adoption.

Legislative Committee:

The Legislative Committee met Jan. 18. They discussed preliminary topics and question ideas for the upcoming March 10 Legislative Breakfast.

Financial Advisory Committee:

The Financial Advisory Committee met Jan. 23. The committee reviewed the monthly financial reports and the Facilities at a Glance booklet, discussed CPI and the 2016 audit report, and discussed the District’s capitalization threshold and recommended the Board increase the asset capitalization cutoff.

Meet & Confer Strategic Plan Committee:

The Meet & Confer Strategic Plan Committee met Jan. 12 and Feb. 2.

The committee finalized its charge, reviewed the Mid-Year Strategic Goals Action Plan, provided input on the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction position, and prioritized the committee’s next steps.

Facilities Discussion

Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli and Assistant Superintendent for Business/Chief School Business Official David Bein presented a District 58 facilities update to the Board. Building principals provided substantial input and planning for this presentation.

After a careful review of the District’s facilities, the recent demographic report and other resources, District leaders recommend the Board prioritize the immediate needs of Lester School. The Board will also continue to evaluate and plan for its long-term facility needs that are known over the next 3-7 years, and these discussions will continue at the April Board Budget Workshop.

Lester School has served students at capacity for several years. Lester offers three sections of classes at each grade level and has limited space for special education and intervention services. With the addition of the Optional Kindergarten Enrichment and Enhancement Program (OKEEP), the building now is stretched to provide for all general education spaces as well as the necessary special education, intervention, specials and core facility space needs. The Board most recently reviewed these space needs approximately five years ago as it considered facility needs districtwide. The Board ultimately concluded that while Lester was at its capacity, it was not over capacity, so they decided to not pursue a school addition at that time. Since that review, however, Lester has experienced several changes that have increased its demand for space, including the kindergarten program expansion and an increased need for special education and flexible intervention services. The 2016 demographer report found that Lester’s enrollment will likely remain steady in the next several years.

Dr. Cremascoli shared a variety of solutions to Lester’s space issue that have been brainstormed and researched, including a building addition, redistricting, relocating Lester programs or grades, moving sixth grade to the middle schools, adding portables and moving all special classes onto a cart. She noted that many of these solutions were not feasible, would not fully address the challenges, or were not in the best interests of students, and recommended the Board consider adding an addition to Lester, a solution the Board expressed interest in exploring.

Bein reported that an addition could cost $1.5-$2.5 million, but added that the District would need to hire an architect to complete a high-level feasibility study to better gauge potential options, costs, timelines and other possible needs. The actual cost could be higher or lower depending on the specifics of the addition design and the needs of the existing infrastructure.  For instance, Lester’s aging electrical system will likely need replacement in the coming years, but the added demands of an addition may necessitate a more immediate upgrade. If the District goes forward with an addition to Lester, they anticipate it will be completed in time for the 2018-19 school year.

The Board directed the administrative team to work with an architect to complete a high-level feasibility study, and requested an update at the March meeting. In addition, the Business Office and Buildings and Grounds team is planning to provide the Board with additional information regarding the granular long-term needs of the District as well as a review of debt obligations and funding opportunities during the April Budget Workshop.

In addition to Lester’s needs, the discussion also considered other District facility needs, including the increasing enrollment of Highland, the underutilization of Belle Aire, middle school science and FACS lab updates, the merging of the two administrative offices and unequal middle school enrollments. Although Herrick and O’Neill have different schoolwide populations, class sizes are similar across both schools. District leaders recommended that the Board hold on these facility needs and address Lester’s needs first. The Board requested more options to balance enrollment at Highland and Belle Aire schools.

The District also projected that no significant maintenance projects will be needed in the next two years. However, between 2020 and 2024, District facilities will likely require nearly $12 million in maintenance.

View the Facilities Discussion presentation.

During the meeting, the Board also:

  • Recognized all students who participated in the District 58 Science Fair.
  • Approved minutes from the Jan. 9 Regular Meeting, Jan. 11 O’Neill Building Tour/PTA Meeting, Jan. 17 Emergency Meeting and Jan. 19 Coffee with the Staff at Indian Trail.
  • Approved all items on the Consent Agenda as presented in the packet materials, including the appointment of two new principals. Effective July 1, Bridget Moore will be the principal of Highland School and Lisa Niforatos will be the principal of Fairmount School. Both principals were in attendance.
  • Approved the pilot of Benchmark Advance and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys English-Language Arts resources for select kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, for a total cost of $21,777.25.
  • Adopted the Resolution to Regular Expense Reimbursements, as required by the recently-passed Section 10 of the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act.
  • Established the District’s capitalization cutoff for accounting, recordkeeping and reporting at $5,000.
  • Adopted a resolution abating 2013 series bond levies for the tax levy years 2016 through 2023.

Upcoming events:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 3:45 pm.: Legislative Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 a.m.: BOE Coffee with the Staff at Kingsley
  • Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.: Curriculum Workshop at TBD
  • Thursday, March 2 at 7 a.m.: Meet & Confer Strategic Plan Committee Meeting at Longfellow
  • Wednesday, March 8 at 6 p.m.: PTA Presidents/Administrators Meeting at Whittier
  • Friday, March 10 at 7:30 a.m.: Legislative Breakfast at O’Neill
  • Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Longfellow

District 58 Board of Education members are: John Cooper, president; Doug Purcell, vice president; Roberta Diehl; Christopher Heppner; Sallie Lupescu; John Miller; and Elizabeth Sigale, with Dr. Kari Cremascoli, superintendent; and Pam Osika, board secretary.