Board Briefs: October 2019

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. View the agenda and presentation links. Click here to access meeting video and audio (to be posted soon). Highlights from the meeting include:

Henry Puffer Spotlight:

The Henry Puffer Student Council shared some of the service projects and activities they’ve led this past year, including a pajama day that raised $430 to support the local nonprofit Noah’s Hope and an end-of-year walk to raise awareness for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. View their presentation.

Principal Britta Waszak presented a visual tour of Henry Puffer School, focusing on their excellent academics and community/parent engagement opportunities. View the Henry Puffer visual tour. 

Puffer-Hefty PTA Co-Presidents Kristin Noonan and Kelly Matusiak shared that the PTA has given back more than $50,000 to Henry Puffer School over the past three years. Much of this money was donated through their “wish list” program. Each spring, the PTA asks teachers and parents to submit innovative enrichment resources they would like for their school, and the PTA funds as many as possible.

Lauren Singdahlsen and Michelle Morgan, co-chairs of the nonprofit Everybody Plays at Puffer, presented on their community’s efforts to fundraise for a new playground. They have raised $166,000 so far, with $70,000 of that total coming from a Timken Foundation grant that Everybody Plays at Puffer earned this summer. Everybody Plays at Puffer, in partnership with District 58, plans to host a “design day” soon, where Henry Puffer students and staff can contribute ideas for how they envision their future playground. Everybody Plays at Puffer is working with District 58 to plan a summer 2020 playground installation. 

Spotlight on our Schools: Tax Levy Process

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Chief School Business Official Todd Drafall gave an overview on the District’s tax levy process. The tax levy is how school districts, including District 58, annually request the funding they receive from property taxes. However, due to the tax cap law (officially called the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law or PTELL), District 58 may only request a funding increase equal to the consumer price index (which is currently at 1.9%), plus the taxes associated with any new construction. 

While District 58’s revenues are tax-capped, its expenses are not and can increase at a much higher rate, which creates budget challenges that the District must carefully address.

Further, when PTELL was passed in DuPage County in 1991, it froze each school district’s non-referendum bonding authority. This means that school districts can only issue non-referendum debt equal to its pre-PTELL levels, which grows by inflation annually. District 58 has historically been very conservative in the debt it accumulates, so its pre-PTELL debt levels were very low. Currently, District 58 can only levy $1.4 million in debt, which limits its ability to fund large and necessary projects. 

Drafall noted that District 58 has the lowest property tax rate among all DuPage County large elementary school districts. Fortunately, District 58 also has a large property tax base; more than $24 million in new property was added in 2018. This number is particularly impressive considering that Downers Grove is landlocked and has very scarce open land. Most of this new property came from redeveloping land previously occupied by a different structure. 

View the tax levy presentation.

Superintendent’s Report

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

  • Curriculum and Instruction: The spring 2019 Illinois Assessment of Readiness results will be released publicly on Oct. 30. District 58 is very proud of its 13 schools. Each has a stellar reputation for meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of all learners.
  • Finance: The Health and Wellness Committee will present at the next Board meeting regarding the progress the team has made with educational initiatives, cost saving measures and wellness programs.
  • Facilities: The District is excited about the possibility of securing a community engagement consultant so the work produced by the Facilities team last year can be reviewed and prioritized by the community.
  • Public Relations: All schools are now sending out a weekly newsletter from the building principal. This consistent form of communication is essential to ensure that parents get information from the building leaders in a timely and consistent fashion.
  • Personnel: October is Principal Appreciation Month. Dr. Russell thanked District 58’s principals for their hard work. To show everyone’s appreciation for the work that building leaders do, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a proclamation, which Board President Darren Hughes read aloud.
  • Technology: The District’s Seesaw initiative has been very successful! Having a consistent tool that all elementary teachers can use to communicate aligns with the Strategic Plan. 
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences: Thank you to our staff and families for a great round of parent teacher conferences. 
  • PTAs: District 58’s PTAs do a wonderful job enhancing the District’s curriculum. Thank you, PTA leaders and members, for your support!
  • Fundraising: Over the past several months, numerous groups have hosted fundraisers. For example, Dr. Russell thanked the groups at Highland School and Henry Puffer School for inviting him to their playground fundraising events.
  • Oktoberfest: Thank you to the Education Foundation of District 58 for another successful Oktoberfest. Dr. Russell thanked all of the volunteers for their hard work and dedication. Without volunteers, none of this would be possible.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that the District’s year-to-date expenditures and revenues are on budget.

Drafall also said that the Board will be asked to approve a couple of recommendations from his team later in the meeting. First, the District negotiated an agreement with Community Christian Church for reciprocal services and use of property for Board approval. Community Christian is the church that recently moved into the church facility across the street from Highland School. Second, the District is recommending the Board adopt a resolution that will allow District 58 to deposit funds with the Illinois Trust and use them for investment purposes. This move is expected to improve the District’s current rate of return on investments.

Finally, Drafall shared that the Health and Wellness Committee has made tremendous progress this past year and will present a formal Board update at the regular November meeting.

Committee Reports

Board Member Jill Samonte reported on the Sept. 17 and Oct. 15 Policy Committee meetings. They recommend updates to two policies. The Board approved the first reading of the policies and will place them on the November agenda for final approval. 

The committee also recommended District 58 purchase the Illinois Association of School Boards’ (IASB) policy manual customization service and PRESS Policy Development and Maintenance Service. This model policy guide is used by many school districts across Illinois, including Community High School District 99. The policy service provides timely updates for boards to consider adopting when new legislation is passed, and it offers users a search function to easily look up policy information. The Board showed support for aligning the District’s policy manual with the PRESS policy guide. District 58 will work with IASB to create a contract and bring it to the Board next month.

Board Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Oct. 9 Legislative Committee meeting. The committee reviewed and considered proposal recommendations set forth by IASB in the 2019 Resolutions Committee Report. The IASB membership will vote on these recommendations during the Joint Annual Conference in November. Doshi is the District 58 delegate.

Board Member Greg Harris reported on the Sept. 19 and Oct. 9 Health and Wellness Committee meetings. This committee comprises representatives from all three unions, administrators and one Board member. Harris said the group had very healthy and frank conversations regarding the District’s health insurance plans and rates. The committee recommended the Board increase insurance rates by 6.4% for all plans except the high deductible plan. This recommendation was endorsed by the assistant superintendent of business, as well as Group Alternatives, the District’s insurance benefits consultant. The Board intends to make future insurance rate adjustments based on the performance of each individual plan. The committee also decided to launch an active employee education effort on health insurance. Later this fall, the committee will provide all staff with in-person information sessions, during regular work hours, to directly educate them on their health insurance options.

The Financial Advisory Committee and the District Leadership Team have not met since the last Board meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the Sept. 9 regular meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Approved an increase to the health insurance rate for three of its employee health insurance plans. Learn more. View the addendum.
  • Adopted a resolution that permits District 58 to join Illinois Trust, pending legal review. This move will allow District 58 to deposit funds with the trust and use them for investment purposes. Learn more. View the resolution.
  • Approved Paul Hanley with Beyond Your Base to provide third-party facility planning community engagement services for District 58. Learn more. View the proposal. View the contract. View the attorney’s memo
  • Approved an agreement with Community Christian Church for reciprocal services and use of property. Learn more. View the agreement.
  • Received one comment from the president of the DGCMA (the custodial and maintenance union), who publicly thanked the Board and administration for their collaborative partnership through the Health and Wellness Committee. 

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, Oct. 28 at 6:15 p.m.: Staff Meet and Greet with the Board at Whittier
  • Monday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.: Board Curriculum Workshop at Whittier
  • Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 a.m.: Financial Advisory Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Monday, Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m.: Community Coffee with the Board at Downers Grove Village Hall
  • Monday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Downers Grove 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.