Board Briefs: June 2020

The District 58 Board of Education held a virtual business meeting on Monday, June 8, 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:

Discussion: 1:1 iPads for Kindergarteners
Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Learning Dr. James Eichmiller and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul led a Board discussion regarding 1:1 iPads for kindergarteners. 

District 58 provides students in grades 1-8 with a 1:1 device to enhance learning. Kindergarteners use shared iPads at school, at a 2:1 ratio, and do not bring these devices home. This presented challenges during this spring’s remote learning, and District 58 worked with kindergarten families to issue iPads to families who did not have this technology at home. 

For the 2020-21 school year, District 58 recommends a shift from 2:1 iPads to 1:1 iPads at the kindergarten level. If remote learning continues, all kindergarteners would have a device to use at home. If on-site instruction resumes, students would not have to share devices, which may better align with public health guidance. In addition, kindergarten teachers have reported instructional minutes lost due to the logistical challenges of sharing devices, and most support a 1:1 model.

Sisul said that with a 1:1 model, the District would continue to monitor kindergarten screen usage, and devices would remain at school after students transition to on-site instruction. This purchase would cost about $60,000, and can be funded through a combination of grants, a District rebate and a reduction in existing Internet service provider costs. 

School Board members were supportive of 1:1 iPads for kindergarten students, with members sharing that 1:1 iPads will be important should remote learning continue, while also improving efficiency during onsite learning. Some members expressed concern about an increase in screen time, but Sisul and Dr. Eichmiller reassured them that 1:1 iPads would not change the District’s instructional approach at the kindergarten level. 

The District will prepare a purchase proposal for additional iPads for the July 13 Board of Education meeting. 

View the 1:1 iPads in District 58 Kindergarten Classrooms presentation.

Discussion: 2020-21 Enrollment Update

District 58’s class sizes vary from year-to-year, due to the District’s small neighborhood school model and individual student needs. Through the Strategic Plan, District 58 created class size targets in 2019 to help keep class sizes manageable. 

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Jayne Yudzentis provided the School Board with updated enrollment projections for the 2020-21 school year. Currently, District 58 is meeting its 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

However, there are a few individual classrooms whose tentative enrollments exceed the targets. As shared in last month’s Board enrollment update, when 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 possible actions to ensure all student needs can be met. Dr. Yudzentis presented potential solutions to large class sizes for the School Board to consider:

  • Give new families the option to transfer their new student to a nearby District 58 school with lower enrollment.
  • Cap classes at 29 and administratively transfer new students to a nearby District 58 school with lower enrollment.
  • Split the class into two sections, dependent on space, budget and timing. 
  • Allow the class to reach 30 students and develop a plan for providing additional supports for the classroom.
  • Consider other options

School Board members engaged in a lengthy and thoughtful conversation regarding these options, acknowledging that none fully solved the issue. They noted that the District’s facility planning process, which was paused due to the pandemic, aimed to address some of these issues. While facility planning is paused, they questioned whether they should consider other options, such as a school boundary review for subsequent school years. Some Board members said that while small class sizes are a priority, the District must be cautious with its spending during this economic uncertainty. Other Board members suggested that a classroom cap of 29 may benefit the majority of students, while other Board members questioned whether it was fair to require a new family to enroll their child at a different District 58 school from their home school.

No decisions have been made, and the School Board will continue to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each option and will discuss it at the July business meeting. They requested updated enrollment information prior to the July meeting to help guide this process.

View the 2020-21 Enrollment Update presentation.

Superintendent’s Report

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

  • Current Events: Dr. Russell thanked the entire District 58 community for their perseverance during this unprecedented time when our country is facing both a global pandemic and the evils of racism. 

“We are here to support and listen to our African-American students and students of color,” Dr. Russell said. “The District will also continue its work on equity as this is a crucial component of ending injustice. We stand committed to providing, supporting and nurturing an environment that is fully inclusive regardless of race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation or income. There is a great deal of work to be done in this area and we do not have all of the answers. However, we will continue to listen and provide opportunities for everyone to be heard and respected. Never doubt that a committed group of people can change the world for the better.”

  • Curriculum and Instruction: Dr. Russell said that the Governor’s Office and the Illinois State Board of Education recently provided Illinois school districts with new summer and fall instructional guidance. District 58, like many other districts, has already enacted virtual summer learning plans, and it is unlikely these plans will change. This month, the Remote Learning Task Force will evaluate the new guidelines for fall instruction to determine learning plans for the fall.

“There appears to be some movement on allowing our schools to open in the fall, but districts will need further clarification from ISBE,” Dr. Russell said. “We all want schools to reopen for onsite instruction as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Dr. Russell also encouraged families to view the District’s new video series, “Behind the Scenes of Remote Learning,” to get a peek at what remote learning looks like from the teacher perspective.

  • Special Services: Dr. Russell said that later in the meeting, the administration will recommend a candidate for the special programs coordinator position to serve the District’s DLP and RISE programs. Later this month, the District plans to hire another special programs coordinator to support the District’s BEST program.
  • Finance: The District received June tax receipts on time and anticipates receiving a normal return of September receipts. Therefore, tax anticipation warrants will not be needed. 
  • Facilities: Summer facility projects will soon begin. This summer’s work includes the Lester and Henry Puffer playground projects, Highland gym flooring replacement, miscellaneous school painting and landscaping, and an annual deep cleaning of every school. 

Our custodial and maintenance staff do an excellent job working in our schools in tough conditions throughout the summer to prepare the buildings for the next school year,” Dr. Russell said.

  • Personnel: District 58 remains committed to making equity a major component of our work. Staff training in this area is essential to making District 58 a more inclusive place. To date, administrators and middle school teachers have been trained in this area by the DuPage County Regional Office of Education. Next year, the District plans on training all staff, and the Board of Education will receive an overview of this work at a future workshop. District 58 had hoped to complete this training by the end of this school year, but the remaining training sessions were canceled due to COVID-19. While this work is ongoing and there is much work to be done in this area, the District has made progress. 

“It is important to note that District 58, like many districts, has struggled in this area in the past,” Dr. Russell said. “I am proud of staff for recognizing the importance of making positive change in this area so all students feel like they are represented and respected.”

  • Technology: The Technology Department will soon begin using a new technology help desk and inventory system called Incident IQ. District 58 hopes this new system will offer efficiencies and a smoother user experience.
  • Public Relations: District 58 makes quarterly Strategic Plan progress reports to the District Leadership Team to keep accountable and show its commitment to the plan’s success. District 58’s Strategic Plan dashboard highlights this progress in an easy-to-access format. Review the latest updates at https://dg58.org/vision-58-strategic-plan-dashboard/.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that, despite some delays, the Business Office received most June property tax receipts and will be able to avoid issuing tax anticipation warrants. He also noted that as the fiscal year comes to an end, the Business Office has prepared several Board recommendations for action for later in the meeting. 

Committee Reports

Member Jill Samonte reported that the Policy Committee worked with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) to align the District 58 policy manual with IASB’s policy manual customization service. The Board conducted and approved a first reading of the policy manual, and it will be brought back to the Board in July for a second reading and final approval. After the manual is approved, the District will similarly bring forth supplemental administrative regulations for Board approval.

Dr. Russell noted that the new manual follows IASB’s recommended policies, is more comprehensive, and contains a searchable database. In addition, it will align with District 99’s policy manual.

President Darren Hughes reported on the May 18 District Leadership Team meeting. The team received a progress update on the District’s strategic goals: Focusing on Learning, Connecting the Community, and Securing the Future. Despite the pandemic, most strategic goals remain on track, with the exception of the District’s facility planning process, which is temporarily paused. Spring 2020 key performance indicators cannot be updated since students could not take standardized tests this spring. View all updates on the District’s Strategic Plan dashboard.

Vice President Gregory Harris reported on the May 28 Health and Wellness Committee meeting. He said that District 58’s medical claims are running a $860,000 surplus for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The committee also recommends District 58 continue partnering with Group Alternatives for benefits consulting, update the District’s prescription program and increase the employee wellness incentive. He noted these recommendations for action will be brought to the Board later in the meeting. 

The Legislative Committee and Financial Advisory Committee have not met since the last Board meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

Upcoming Events

  • Friday, June 12 at 7 a.m.: Financial Advisory Committee Meeting (virtual)
  • Monday, July 13 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting (possibly 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.