Board Briefs: March 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, March 9, 2020. View the agenda and presentation links. Click here to access meeting video and audio (to be posted soon). Highlights from the meeting include:

Board Approval: Revised 2020-21 School Calendar

The District 58 School Board unanimously approved the final 2020-21 school calendar, which includes the addition of a weekly 2 p.m. Monday dismissal to continue the District’s Professional Learning Program. This program started in fall 2019 and gives staff 1.5 hours of dedicated weekly professional learning time. Last month, District 58 presented a professional learning update to the School Board. This update described the structure of the Professional Learning Program and included detailed survey data and feedback that teachers, staff and parents provided. This update helped inform the Board’s decision to approve the program’s continuation. View the 2020-21 calendar.

Board Approval: Facility Planning Community Engagement

The District’s Citizen Task Force met March 2 to more deeply discuss potential facility opportunities for District 58. The District 58 School Board held a special meeting on March 5 to review the Task Force’s recommendations and plan next steps. The School Board approved the mailing of a community engagement letter to all registered voters to educate them on the District’s facility needs, provide three potential facility improvement opportunities, and invite them to community engagement sessions to learn more. During the March 10 meeting, the Board approved this draft letter and attachment for mailing.

Spotlight on Our Schools: Social-Emotional Learning Curricular Audit Update

The Illinois State Board of Education requires school districts to incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) standards into instruction. The State’s SEL standards include benchmarks that describe which SEL skills students should know and achieve at different age groups. 

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul shared that District 58 implemented the Second Step SEL curriculum districtwide in fall 2013. Last school year, District 58 formed the Social-Emotional Learning Curricular Audit Committee, which comprises about 30 District 58 teachers, social workers, counselors and administrators. They conducted a five-year review of the District’s SEL curriculum, and found that while Second Step fully aligns with the State’s SEL standards, without data, it is impossible to accurately assess its effectiveness. Committee members recommended pursuing a student SEL assessment to appropriately evaluate the curriculum’s effectiveness.

“Just as AIMSWeb and MAP testing provide information about students’ application of math and reading skills aligned with state standards, SEL assessments help us measure students’ skills and competencies aligned with the SEL learning standards,” Sisul said.

Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Jessica Stewart said that an SEL assessment not only measures how well a school district has implemented its SEL curriculum, but also determines areas where the district can improve. She added that students can use the data to reflect on their strengths and opportunities for growth.

“This assessment gives students the opportunity to self-reflect on their own skills,” Stewart said. “However, it is not a mental health assessment, nor is it intended to identify or diagnose any type of mental or emotional condition.”

During spring 2019 and fall 2019, teachers on the SEL Curricular Audit Committee piloted the Panorama and DESSA SEL assessments in their classrooms. They provided advance parent notification, and the assessment took about 30 minutes for students to complete.

Reflecting on their pilot experiences, the SEL Curricular Audit Committee recommends District 58 implement the Panorama SEL assessment tool for the 2020-21 school year.

Many School Board members acknowledged the importance of  providing and assessing social-emotional learning instruction. However, some members expressed concerns with how the assessment results could potentially be used and asked the administration to provide more detailed information in this area. The Board will continue to discuss SEL assessments at the April Board meeting and potentially vote on its implementation in May.

View the SEL Curricular Audit Committee Update presentation.

Herrick Flag Salute and Presentation

The Herrick Student Council, Assistant Principal Stephanie Dornan, and PTA Co-President Ann Cummins highlighted some of their school’s recent achievements with the Board. 

The Student Council organizes a variety of activities to help build school spirit and give back to the community. For example, they recently held a canned food collection competition among homebases, and all donations supported PADS. Ms. Cummins shared that the Herrick PTA sponsors student activities, such as an Etiquette Class, and parent education nights, such as the recent showing of “Screenagers.” 

Mrs. Dornan shared a video that highlighted Herrick’s spirit and reported on the school’s strategic goal progress. Herrick’s winter 2020 math and reading MAP growth scores were at the 78th and 80th percentiles, respectively. Both of these scores exceed the District’s goals for the 2019-20 school year. Mrs. Dornan also shared that the Professional Learning Program has given staff opportunities to collaboratively review MAP data to drive instructional decision-making, as well as time to focus on Herrick’s staff goal of establishing more inclusive practices to make all students feel welcome.

View Herrick’s presentation.   

Superintendent’s Report

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

  • Thank you! Dr. Russell thanked the Herrick students, staff, administration and PTA for their presentation.
  • Curriculum and Instruction: The District provided professional development on the new math curriculum resources to all teachers who teach math during the Feb. 28 County Institute Day. Staff will have more math training opportunities before students return next fall. After spring break, students in grades 3-8 will take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, and students in grades 5 and 8 will take the Illinois Science Assessment. Assessment results typically are published on Oct. 31.
  • Finance: The District is working on business contract renewals and will continue to partner with neighboring districts to reduce costs and streamline services. For example, District 58 partners with District 99 and District 68 for busing and with District 99 for workers’ compensation, property and casualty insurance.
  • Facilities: District 58’s Citizen Task Force met March 2 to discuss District 58’s facility opportunities and made several recommendations to the Board. During a special meeting on March 5, the School Board decided to launch a community engagement effort and survey the community regarding their support on the following District 58 needs, which total approximately $179 million:
    • Enhanced security and secured school vestibules
    • Grade level reconfiguration — moving to a grade 6-8 middle school concept
    • Eight years of maintenance, as defined in the draft Master Facility Plan
    • School bathroom remodeling
    • Adding air conditioning and overhauling the current HVAC systems

After the community engagement process concludes, the Task Force will meet in June to review all data and make a final recommendation. The Board will decide this summer whether a referendum should be placed on the ballot. Visit the Facility Planning page to learn more.

  • Public Relations: District 58 remains in close contact with the DuPage County Health Department, Illinois Department of Public Health, DuPage County Regional Office of Education and Illinois State Board of Education regarding COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, updates. View the District’s COVID-19 webpage for resources.
  • Personnel: District 58 has selected a candidate for the Indian Trail principal position, which the Board will approve later this meeting. The candidate will replace current Principal Robin Bruebach, who will retire this year after 16 years of dedicated service. Thank you, Mrs. Bruebach! The District has also begun its search for the next principal of Pierce Downer School and may be ready to recommend a candidate during the April Board meeting.
  • Technology: The Technology Department is preparing for the upcoming State testing. Additionally, all teachers were invited to take a technology device survey regarding the upcoming replacement of staff technology. The Technology Committee will review the survey results later this week.
  • Special Services: Dr. Russell and Board Member Emily Hanus attended the Feb. 19 Building Bridges meeting. This PTA group helps families of children with special needs build bridges between themselves and the school community. The evening provided guests an opportunity to learn more about the various special programs the District offers.
  • Other: Spring break will take place March 30-April 3.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall shared that expenditures and revenues are as expected. He noted that the medical reserve fund received more deposits than distributions last month, which has helped improve this fund’s financial position.

Drafall also noted that the Board will be asked to approve a 2019 property tax abatement resolution for Rexnord, a local manufacturing business. This stems from a 2017 agreement that District 58 and District 99 signed with Rexnord. Through this agreement, Rexnord agreed to expand its Downers Grove facility in exchange for the opportunity to phase in new property tax payments over 10 years via a tax abatement.

Committee Reports

Member Jill Samonte reported on the Feb. 18 Policy Committee meeting. The Policy Committee is updating the District 58 policy manual with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) policy manual customization service. The Committee is thoroughly editing the first draft of the guide, with the goal of finalizing it by spring break and requesting the Board’s official approval in June.

Member Kirat Doshi reported on the Feb. 26 Legislative Committee meeting. The Committee reviewed the Feb. 7 Legislative Breakfast and developed a survey to gather guest feedback. The Committee will review this feedback and use it to inform next year’s event. 

President Darren Hughes reported on the March 6 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The committee reviewed the District’s draft fund balance policy. Once a sufficient fund balance is achieved, the District can transfer some money from the sinking fund to the capital fund, in order to grow that fund for emergency building repairs. They reviewed 2019-20 expenditures and noted that if trends continue, the fiscal year will end in a better position than originally expected. The preliminary 2020-21 budget proposes an increase of 5.5 staff members, with two of these staff members being placeholders to account for unexpected staffing needs. Finally, the committee discussed the impact of TIF districts that will expire in the upcoming years, as well as a potential Village and Police partnership to construct a shared administration center.

President Darren Hughes reported on the Feb. 24 District Leadership Team meeting. He noted that the District is progressing on all three strategic goals. The Strategic Plan dashboard has been updated to reflect these updates.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the Feb. 27 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. The committee is working with CHC Wellbeing to create a staff wellness plan to encourage healthy habits among staff. They are exploring maximizing prescription coupon use to reduce the amount of money the District pays toward prescription medication.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the Feb. 3 Special Meeting, Feb. 10 Regular Meeting, Feb. 11 O’Neill Board Tour and PTA Meeting, Feb. 18 Fairmount Board Tour and PTA Meeting, Feb. 24 Curriculum Workshop and March 3 Herrick Board Tour and PTA Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda, including the hiring of Ms. Mariana Nicasio as the next principal of Indian Trail School.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing a 2019 property tax abatement for the Rexnord facility. See the Business Report for background information. View the memo.
  • Adopted a resolution to honorably dismiss 33 teachers. Annually, positions are reduced pending enrollment and staffing plans for the upcoming year. As in years’ past, as soon as District 58 opens its 2020-21 enrollment process and can verify its enrollment needs for next school year, the District will call back these important employees. The Board also adopted resolutions to dismiss a part-time teacher and a full-time teacher for reasons other than reduction in force. 
  • Awarded a bid for miscellaneous painting at 13 schools to Wright and Sons for $26,200. View the award letter.
  • Awarded the bid for the sale of a 2009 GMC Sierra truck to Matt Bando for $4,001. View the award letter.
  • Awarded a bid for playground renovations at Henry Puffer and Lester schools to the Kenneth Company for a total cost of $233,355. This bid will cover site work associated with renovating both schools’ playgrounds, as well as the installation of equipment at Lester. At a future meeting, the Board will approve the purchase of playground equipment. Non-profit groups at Henry Puffer and Lester fundraised the bulk of both playgrounds’ expenses and will formally request the Board to accept their donations at a future Board meeting; the District’s total anticipated contribution toward both playground projects is $72,542. View the award letter.
  • Received public comments from one parent and one community member regarding concerns with the District’s use of social-emotional learning assessments.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m.: Board Tour and PTA Meeting at Pierce Downer
  • Monday, April 13 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at Downers Grove Village Hall

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