Board Briefs: April 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a virtual business meeting on Monday, April 13, 2020 using Zoom and a YouTube livestream. View the agenda and presentation links. Click here to access the meeting video. Highlights from the meeting include:

Spotlight on our Schools: Remote Learning
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul reviewed District 58’s remote learning experience so far, highlighting how the administrative team created the plan using Illinois State Board of Education guidance, along with staff and parent survey feedback. The presentation also reviewed District 58’s remote learning structures, student and staff expectations, efforts to ensure remote learning access to all, family communication practices, and preparations for the eventual transition back to on-site learning, among other topics. Several School Board members thanked the District for their hard work quickly creating an actionable remote learning plan.

View the presentation.

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

  • Thank you! Dr. Russell thanked the entire District 58 community for their support, feedback and guidance during this unprecedented time.

    While no one could have predicted that on-site instruction would be suspended by the Governor, I am proud of how our community has rallied together to support one another,” Dr. Russell said. “I am confident that we will come out of this pandemic stronger, more united and with a great deal of growth. During this challenging time the District will continue its essential work and meet the physical, social, emotional and academic needs of our students.”

  • Curriculum and Instruction: In addition to implementing the Remote Learning Plan, the District is also focusing on how to transition students back to on-site learning. The District is discussing which formative and summative assessments will be administered to gauge student levels so appropriate interventions can be placed. The District is also ensuring that previously approved plans, such as the new math curriculum, can be fully implemented.
  • Finance: District 58’s financial situation is very fluid at this time. It is possible that property tax payments may be delayed, which would have a very negative impact on District 58. Likewise, it is possible District 58 could receive federal stimulus funds, which would help the District. The Business Office continues to project expenses and revenues based on current known information, and will host a virtual Budget Workshop later this month to share the current budget forecast.
  • Facilities: District 58’s Citizen Task Force made significant facility planning progress in conjunction with the Board of Education. Due to COVID-19, the Citizen Task Force Board representatives asked to pause this effort until a broader conversation could be held with the School Board during this April 13 meeting.  (See Discussion: Facility Community Engagement Planning). 
  • Public Relations: District 58 receives many thoughtful questions about COVID-19 and remote learning. The District’s COVID-19 resource page provides a wealth of helpful information; Dr. Russell also created the “Remote Learning FAQs with Dr. Russell” YouTube video series to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions. District 58 hopes families find these resources helpful! Families may also contact their child’s teacher, principal or a District staff member with questions.
  • Personnel: District 58 successfully negotiated its emergency e-learning and remote learning plans with union leaders. District 58 staff stepped up in so many ways, and their hard work and dedication are truly appreciated. 
  • Technology: The Technology Department tackled several security and privacy issues to ensure students can safely access remote learning tools. In particular, the Technology Department worked hard to place appropriate security controls on the Zoom videoconferencing app and to provide teachers with training to use it safely with students. The Technology team has also worked hard to set up kindergarten iPad devices while troubleshooting a variety of Help Desk tickets to ensure all students can access technology remotely. 
  • Special Services: The District’s Remote Learning Plan helps ensure students with special needs are accounted for and that they receive the services they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. District 58 is working closely with the Illinois State Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education to ensure all student needs are met and in compliance with the law.
  • Other: Please consider following District 58 on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. On Twitter, follow the hashtags #dg58learns, #dg58pride and #ILSchoolsStepUp to see some of the incredible work our educators are achieving during this time!  

Business Report
Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that expenditures and revenues are on track. The economic impact from COVID-19 has not affected our financial situation yet, but it is possible that property tax payments may be delayed. If this occurs, the District may not be able to make payroll later this spring. District 58 hopes to receive a State update regarding property taxes soon. More budget information will be shared during the Budget Workshop on April 27.

Committee Reports
Although the Policy Committee did not formally meet, Member Jill Samonte reported on the Committee’s work to update the District 58 policy manual with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) policy manual customization service. The Committee remotely edited the first draft of the guide and hopes to meet virtually with IASB to finalize it by this summer.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the March 23 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. He was happy to share that medical claims are $307,000 lower this year than they were at this point last year; also both the District’s HSA and PPO plans are running on a surplus. It is uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the District’s self-insured plan. 

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

Discussion: Facility Community Engagement Planning
District 58 is in the midst of a comprehensive facility planning effort to ensure safe, modernized and effective learning environments for all students. Through this effort, District 58 has worked with its staff, architect, public engagement consultant and the broader community–including a 40-member Citizen Task Force–to identify its greatest facility needs. 

Using feedback from the Citizen Task Force, the District 58 School Board recommended last month that District 58 launch a community engagement effort to educate all residents about District 58’s facility needs, as well as three potential facility improvement opportunities under consideration. Ultimately, these community engagement sessions would have helped the School Board decide whether to add a referendum question to the November 2020 ballot.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the community, the School Board revisited this recommendation. They discussed alternative facility planning and community engagement plans with Paul Hanley, the District’s public engagement planning consultant. They agreed that it is important to temporarily pause the District’s facility planning work during the pandemic, with the goal of resuming it when circumstances improve. While it is still possible that a referendum question may be added to the November 2020 ballot, it is also possible that this measure may be deferred to the March 2021 or April 2022 elections. 

View District 58’s facility planning webpage.

Approvals: El Sierra, Henry Puffer and Lester Playgrounds
The School Board approved several recommendations for action involving new playgrounds at El Sierra, Henry Puffer and Lester schools.

El Sierra: Earlier this year, the State of Illinois allocated funding to support playground improvements at several District 58 schools. El Sierra was the first District 58 school (and only, to date) to receive this funding. Thanks to funding contributed from the State and from the El Sierra PTA, the District 58 School Board formally awarded a playground renovation bid to K&D Landscape and a Landscape Structure playground equipment purchase from NuToys Leisure Products through the Sourcewell purchasing cooperative. Read memo.

Henry Puffer: The nonprofit group Everybody Plays at Puffer generously fundraised and donated funding to District 58 for the purpose of constructing a new playground. They also organized volunteers to help install the playground. At last month’s School Board meeting, the Board approved a bid to the Kenneth Company for Henry Puffer playground sitework. At this Board meeting, the Board approved the Everybody Plays at Puffer donation agreement and gift. Read the donation memo. They also approved the purchase of Landscape Structures playground equipment and Surface America safety surfacing from NuToys Leisure Products through the Sourcewell purchasing cooperative for the Henry Puffer playground. Read the purchase memo.

Lester: The nonprofit group Lester Community Playground generously fundraised and donated funding to District 58 for the purpose of constructing new playgrounds at the school. At last month’s School Board meeting, the Board approved a bid to the Kenneth Company for Lester playground sitework. At this Board meeting, the Board approved the Lester Community Playground’s donation agreement and gift. Read the donation memo. They also approved the purchase of BCI Burke playground equipment from Play Illinois Inc and the purchase of synthetic turf and installation from Perfect Turf through the OMNIA Partners purchasing cooperative for the Lester playgrounds. Read the purchase memo.

Although playground construction is expected to take place during summer 2020, it is possible that it may be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussion: Wight & Company Agreement
The School Board reviewed a proposed master agreement with the architect firm, Wight & Company, which establishes how business will continue to be conducted between District 58 and Wight & Company. Wight & Company has been District 58’s architect since 2011 and has served on a project-basis. It is important, however, that the District have a master agreement with its architect in place as the District continues to move forward with implementing a master facility plan, and much larger projects are possible. Architect master agreements are established through a standard AIA architect contract. The District used its attorneys to review and negotiate the terms of the contract. Both have worked together previously at other school districts. View memo. View exhibit A: fee structure. View exhibit B: hourly rate structure. The Board is expected to vote on this agreement during their May 2020 regular business meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Adopted Policy 1150 (2:230) – TR: Temporary Rules for Public Participation at School Board Meetings during the COVID-19 Emergency. View memo.
  • Approved minutes from the March 5 Special Meeting and the March 9 Regular Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda, including tenure for 19 certified staff members, and 2020-2021 salary increases for registered nurses and non-union educational support and technology staff.
  • Adopted a resolution to honorably dismiss 18 educational support personnel. Annually, positions are reduced pending enrollment and staffing plans for the upcoming year. As in years’ past, after 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 a resolution to similarly dismiss seven part-time educational support personnel. 
  • Approved a one-year contract extension of 5.75% with First Student for student transportation for 2020-21. View memo.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.: Virtual Tentative Budget Workshop

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.