Board Briefs: September 2019

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. View the agenda and presentation links. Click here to access meeting video and audio. Highlights from the meeting include:

Whittier Spotlight:

The Whittier Student Council and Principal Michael Krugman shared information on Whittier’s academic and extracurricular achievements. View their presentation. The Whittier PTA also presented information on the many ways they support Whittier students, including through fun fundraiser experiences, charitable activities and extracurricular programs.

Spotlight on our Schools: 1:1 Learning Update

Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Learning Dr. James Eichmiller presented a 1:1 learning update. District 58 initiated its 1:1 learning program in 2013 after examining how 1:1 technology could enhance student learning in several key areas, including collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. In addition, by funding a districtwide 1:1 program, District 58 could ensure all students had access to a 1:1 device for learning. Prior to the program’s adoption, some schools funded increases in student devices through grants or PTA donations, causing an inequity.

Since the program’s adoption, District 58 has regularly surveyed students, parents and staff regarding the program’s value. During the program’s 2013-14 pilot yearwhich included 1/3 of District 58 students as well as highly-motivated teachers who volunteered to pilot the initiativesurvey results yielded high satisfaction, with all surveyed groups reporting high levels of student engagement, collaboration and creativity. This satisfaction decreased slightly after the program was fully implemented in 2015, with additional dips in the 2017 survey. 

The Board of Education in spring 2018 approved a reinvestment in the 1:1 learning program, with the caveat that District 58 must increase its 1:1 professional learning for staff and ensure 1:1 devices are effectively used to support learning. Last school year, the District increased its professional learning in this area. In addition, many classrooms improved their use of online classroom communication tools, such as Seesaw and Google Classroom, to directly communicate student learning artifacts with parents in real-time using a 1:1 device. 

In spring 2019, the District once again surveyed the community regarding its 1:1 program. This year, overall, survey results improved, with dramatic increases to a few key questions. For instance, 90 percent of students reported that schoolwork has been more interesting since they started using 1:1 iPads. In 2017, this number was 80 percent. District 58 used a new tool to survey teachers regarding their use of 1:1 technology in June 2019. The survey gauged teacher preparedness, professional learning goals, perceptions and more, and the results are being used to target areas needing additional support.

In fall 2019, all District 58 elementary classrooms began using the Seesaw app, and all middle school classrooms started using the Google Classroom app. The District hopes this additional measure will support continuous improvements to its 1:1 learning program.

Board members concurred that technology use is a vital part of District 58’s curriculum, and they thanked the District for its efforts to improve the 1:1 learning program. Board members also said they want the District to continue improving the integration of 1:1 technology in the classroom and evaluating the effectiveness and use of 1:1 technology.

Discussion: Facility Planning Community Engagement Third Party Consultant

Over the summer, the District 58 administration presented a draft master facility plan to the Board of Education, and agreed to hire a third party consultant to lead facility planning community engagement efforts. The District sought out and received several consultant proposals, and at the August 2019 Board meeting recommended that the Board select Paul Hanley for this job. Hanley recently provided community engagement services for nearby Community High School District 99 and is already familiar with the Downers Grove community. The Board concurred and asked District 58 to develop a contract with Hanley.

Shortly after District 58’s recommendation of Paul Hanley, Hanley’s employer, George K. Baum & Company, was sold to a different company. Hanley was offered a position with the new company; however he opted not to accept this offer. Instead, Hanley decided to start a new consulting group, which will be a subsidiary of Wight & Company, the current architect of record for District 58.

Hanley said that although he is working for a new company, his existing District 58 consulting proposal will remain unchanged, with the same costs and conditions.

This unexpected turn of events prompted District 58 to recommend the Board not approve a contract with Hanley during this Board meeting. Instead, the District asked the Board to discuss this potential conflict of interest openly and give the public an opportunity to weigh in before making a final decision. 

The Board held a lengthy conversation, noting that Hanley has a very strong record engaging communities and already intimately knows the community, since he led District 99’s facility planning community engagement in 2017-18. On the other hand, gaining the community’s trust is integral to the community engagement process, and any appearance of impropriety could be detrimental to this goal.

The Board will hold a special meeting within the next few weeks to examine in greater depth the ethical concerns that have been raised. They also intend to interview other community engagement consultants who responded to the District’s RFP over the summer. 

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided the Board with information and updates, including:

  • Curriculum and Instruction: District 58 implemented new science curriculum districtwide and a new math curriculum pilot. There were a few delays to getting curricular materials and technology devices to all students at the start of the school year. The District will create systems to ensure this does not happen again. Two professional learning Mondays have taken place, and initial feedback has been very positive. The District knows its new professional learning model is a big commitment and will closely monitor it to ensure this time is used effectively. 
  • Finance: While the newly-approved 2019-20 budget is balanced, it is also very tight. Dr. Russell cautioned that future budgets must include contingency money and additions to the fund balance.
  • Facilities: Dr. Russell thanked the Buildings and Grounds team for their excellent work preparing schools for the start of the year. He also addressed the District’s lack of air conditioning at most schools, noting that improving air quality is a major component of the District’s draft master facility plan.
  • Public Relations: Dr. Russell looks forward to partnering with key Downers Grove community organizations this school year to enhance student learning.
  • Class Size: The District has received several concerns regarding class size. While District 58’s small neighborhood school model offers many benefits, it also means that even small enrollment fluctuations can have large impacts on class size. The District will continue to monitor class sizes, listen to staff and families, provide additional support if necessary, and create long term solutions. 
  • Reports: The IMRF and Teacher and Administrative compensation reports were posted to the District 58 website, in accordance with Illinois School Code.
  • O’Neill Social Media Issue: District 58 and the Downers Grove police are investigating a social media post that vaguely stated a warning about not coming to school on Monday. All O’Neill parents and staff were notified, and police determined that this was not a credible threat. We appreciate the police and administrators who worked hard to ensure students and staff were safe.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that this is the first year District 58 was required to report expenditures by building to the State of Illinois, and this information will be included in this year’s School Report Card. Learn more.

Drafall also said that he and union representatives met with all District 58 teacher groups during Institute Day to communicate insurance and benefits information. 

Committee Reports

Board President Darren Hughes and Member Steven Olczyk reported on the Sept. 6 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed potential new investment options and potential state funding earmarked for playground improvements, noting that the District has not yet received any state funding for this initiative and is unsure of the final amount that will be allotted. The committee also reviewed the District’s per-building expenditures and its move to set health insurance rates on a calendar basis, rather than on a fiscal year basis.

President Hughes and Superintendent Dr. Russell reported on the Aug. 26 District Leadership Team meeting. This team meets quarterly to review Strategic Plan progress and hold the District accountable for reaching its goals. The team reviewed the District’s 2018-19 progress toward each Strategic Plan goal, along with the Strategic Plan-related work the District hopes to achieve in the year ahead.  

The Policy Committee, Legislative Committee and Health and Wellness Committee have not met since the last Board meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Held a public hearing on the proposed 2019-20 budget and unanimously adopted the 2019-20 District 58 budget. View budget memo.
  • Approved minutes from the Aug. 12 regular meeting and the Aug. 26 budget workshop.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Designated a 2009 GMC pickup truck, snowplow, tractor, soda machine and metal desk as surplus equipment. View memo.
  • Appointed Kirat Doshi as the delegate to the Illinois Association of School Boards Delegate Assembly at the Joint Annual Conference in November 2019.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 3:45 p.m.: Legislative Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 7 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Village Hall

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