Board Briefs: May 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a virtual business meeting on Monday, May 11, 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: Preliminary Staffing Update
As guided by the Strategic Plan, District 58 is developing solutions to more consistently and equitably allocate its resources. This school year, District 58 implemented the following class size targets:

  • Preschool: 15-18 students per class
  • Grades K-2: 80 percent of classrooms will have 24 or fewer students
  • Grades 3-8: 80 percent of classrooms will have 26 or fewer students

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis explained that class sizes can vary due to District 58’s small neighborhood school model and individual student needs. If the enrollment in a particular class exceeds the target, the school communicates its decision-making rationale. If a grade K-2 classroom reaches 28 students or a grade 3-8 classroom reaches 29 students, the school and district teams identify next steps and necessary actions to ensure all student needs can be met. 

Dr. Yudzentis also reviewed tentative enrollment projections for the 2020-21 school year. Although it is still early in the registration process, she believes District 58 as a whole is on track to meet class size targets for the 2020-21 school year. Hillcrest School is expected to need one fewer classroom in the fall, due to its current large three-section sixth grade class moving up to middle school. As a result, one full-time teacher can be moved from Hillcrest to Highland. In addition, District 58 has budgeted two contingency positions for instances in which a grade level’s enrollment grows higher than expected and requires the creation of a new section.

This year, District 58’s administrative team worked with different stakeholder groups to restructure its instructional models to more efficiently and effectively provide quality instruction and support for students across all District 58 schools. For example, the District will restructure its intervention services to more strategically use certified staff to provide targeted interventions. The District will also focus on ensuring its math acceleration program is more consistent across all schools; next year sixth graders in the math acceleration program will take the seventh grade math course at the middle school, taught by middle school math teachers. 

View the preliminary staffing update 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. He also thanked the School Board for creating a Staff Appreciation Week video last week.

Plans for August 2020: Dr. Russell shared that District 58 currently does not know whether schools will reopen this August. His team is preparing for three possible scenarios: in-person learning, remote learning, and a hybrid of the two.“All DuPage County superintendents are meeting weekly with one another, the DuPage County Regional Office Superintendent Dr. Darlene Ruscitti, and the DuPage County Health Department to discuss current plans,” Dr. Russell said. “Plans will continue to evolve over the summer, and we are grateful for the staff and parent feedback received to help shape this process. The unknown makes this very stressful for all involved and we will continue to keep families in the loop.”

Curriculum and Instruction: Dr. Russell encouraged families to take the most recent Family Remote Learning Survey to help the District continue to improve its remote learning plans and to help gauge interest in its tentative summer school plans.

Finance: The District’s financial situation continues to be very fluid. DuPage County passed an ordinance that allows taxpayers to delay June payments if they meet the established criteria. District 58 is heavily dependent on this tax for the majority of its revenue. While the District stands ready to issue tax anticipation warrants in the event the worst case scenario plays out, Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall does not believe this will be necessary. However, the District does anticipate a loss in revenue that will hopefully be made up in September when final payments are due.

Facilities: Drafall and Director of Buildings and Grounds Kevin Barto continue to prioritize essential District 58 facility projects in the absence of referendum funds. Drafall is also examining different funding sources, including emergency revenue sources in the event such funds are needed. Regarding the District’s Citizen Task Force and facility planning work, Dr. Russell continues to recommend that this important work be paused given the current economic uncertainty. This means that placing a question on the November ballot is essentially ruled out at this time.

End-of-Year: District 58’s schedule may look different during the final week of school, as schedules will shift to accommodate virtual school end-of-year traditions and celebrations, as well as the coordination of student belonging pickup and drop-off. Families will receive more information about student belonging pickup and drop-off within the next week, and individual school end-of-year plans will be shared by principals next week.

Remote Learning FAQs: District 58’s Remote Learning Plan offers first-through-sixth graders at least three Zoom lessons per week (one social-emotional learning focused, two academic focused). Middle school students participate in at least one Zoom lesson per subject area per week, plus one social-emotional learning lesson.

Dr. Russell said that some stakeholders have asked him why the District doesn’t require more Zoom video instruction, and how District 58’s Zoom usage compares to other school districts, while others have commented that the District’s Zoom usage is too high.

To address these concerns, Dr. Russell reached out to several districts throughout DuPage County, and it is clear that District 58 requires more videoconferencing than other comparable districts.

“I would like to thank our teachers for the amount of video conferencing they are doing as we are clearly leading the pack with remote learning,” Dr. Russell said.

He added that while District 58 is doing more than many other districts, its Remote Learning Plan is still imperfect and will continue to evolve and improve for as long as remote learning is required. Dr. Russell recognized that there is both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the plan. He thanked the community for completing the recent remote learning surveys, as this feedback has directly influenced the District’s planning. Should remote learning continue in the fall, Dr. Russell assured the Board that staff and families would have the opportunity to contribute to the plan so we can all move forward together.

Business Report
Drafall reported that expenditures and revenues are on track, with some savings realized through the reduction of transportation expenses. At this point, he does not anticipate that the District will need to borrow money to make it through the end of this school year.

District 58 collaborated with District 68 and District 99 to form a food cooperative that provides free meals to any in-district child ages 0-18. This federally-funded program has been very well-received by the community, and many District staff have helped run the program. District 58 hopes to continue this program through the summer. 

Drafall also shared that medical claims through March are lower than expected, and a full report will be shared by the Health and Wellness Committee later in the meeting. In addition, the Board will be asked to approve the purchase of stop-loss insurance. This insurance provides District 58 with large medical claim protection. 

Committee Reports
Member Jill Samonte reported on the Policy Committee’s work to update the District 58 policy manual with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) policy manual customization service. The Committee will meet virtually this week to conduct a final review of the policy draft and will submit it to IASB to create the final draft. The Policy Committee hopes to bring the entire manual to the School Board in June for a first reading.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the April 23 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. He said that District 58’s medical claims are running a $824,000 surplus for the current fiscal year, which will end June 30. Although it is uncertain how COVID-19 will affect the District’s medical claims in the long run, Harris said that a decrease in elective procedures and emergency room visits have decreased the amount of recent claims. He also said that the Health and Wellness Committee will meet later this month to consider prescription management program and wellness program recommendations for Board review in June. Harris closed his report by thanking the Health and Wellness Committee for their work this past year. Thanks to this committee, District 58 has realized significant medical-related savings over the past 12-18 months.

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

Discussion: Online Summer Learning Opportunities
District 58 annually offers Summer School and Extended School Year programs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, District 58 will be unable to offer these programs in their traditional format.

District 58’s Extended School Year program serves students who are eligible through their IEP, or individualized education plan. This summer, District 58 will maintain its 20-day Extended School Year instructional model virtually, following the Illinois State Board of Education’s remote learning instructional time for students. Eligible students will receive more information about this opportunity.

District 58 also hopes to offer a virtual Summer School learning experience for any interested District 58 student. The District’s recent family survey is still open and asks questions to gauge family interest in such a program. As of the May 11 Board meeting, 147 families are “definitely interested” and 206 families are “likely interested” in participating. District 58 considered several virtual summer learning options and recommends the Acellus Learning System Platform, a self-paced math and reading program that would be available from June 8-July 31. The lessons are Common Core-aligned and will start at the midpoint of the student’s current grade. District staff would monitor student progress. The lessons are mostly independent and require little to no parent assistance. The Acellus program tuition will be based on student interest — the more students who enroll, the lower the cost. With Board approval, District 58 hopes to launch virtual Summer School registration on Friday, May 15. 

School Board members thanked the District administration for seeking family input and considering different solutions before recommending this option. Later in the meeting, they approved a licensing agreement between District 58 and Acellus Learning System to support this virtual Summer School experience. 

View the online summer learning opportunities presentation.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the April 13 Regular Meeting and April 27 Special Meeting/Tentative Budget Workshop.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Adopted an intergovernmental data-sharing agreement with Community High School District 99.  Both school districts will use the 5Labs platform to more efficiently share and access student data with each other. No new student data will be shared between districts; rather, this agreement will help each district to have regular access to this data, instead of requiring District staff to request different pieces of data at different intervals. View the memo.
  • Accepted a proposal from Aetna for stop-loss insurance coverage at a cost of $950,340 for the 2020-21 plan year. This insurance will limit the District’s liability to large medical claims. View the memo.
  • Approved a master agreement with Wight & Company for architectural services. View the memo.
  • Approved the purchase of 350 13-inch MacBook Airs for $272,650 from Apple. These new faculty devices will replace existing seven-year-old devices. View the memo.
  • Designated 386 MacBook Airs, purchased between 2012 and 2014, as surplus equipment. View memo.
  • Received one comment from Katie Hurckes, a District 58 teacher and parent. She thanked the District 58 administration for their support during remote learning, but asked them to focus  resources and time on filling the achievement gaps caused by remote learning.

Upcoming Events

  • Wednesday, May 13 at 8 a.m.: Policy Committee Meeting (virtual)
  • Monday, May 18 at 3:45 p.m.: District Leadership Team Meeting (virtual)
  • Monday, June 8 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting (likely virtual)

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.