MENDOTA - A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of the Dec. 19 Mendota District 289 Board of Education meeting for the 26 children and adult victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec 14.
In light of the Newtown tragedy, the administrators have been vigilant with checking safety measures in their own buildings and making sure that staff is well prepared with the district's crisis plans. This was followed up by a crisis meeting with the Mendota Police Department. They went through their crisis plans, particularly relating them to the events that took place in Connecticut. They looked at what procedures they currently have in place and what they could do differently. "I felt very much supported by the police and fire departments," stated Kristen School, District 289 superintendent. This is an annual meeting the district has with the police department, but with the recent events, there was an urgency placed in reviewing the current plans.
As usual, School announced the amount the government owes the district. The federal government owes $355,008. By Dec. 31, the state will owe the district $539,327.
On the topic of money, School addressed the board regarding the 1 percent sales tax referendum that was on the ballot at the November election. "Even though this failed, the number of 'yes' votes was far greater than any other county's first attempt at this," she said.
She posed the question to the board to consider whether they would want to add it to the ballot at the April election. "I have received feedback that pretty much every district that was in support of this referendum previously is either talking about it or has made a commitment to put it on the ballot again," she said.
She urged the board to consider it before next month's board meeting. She also reiterated that the 1 percent sales tax would benefit the district about $500,000 every year.
"Different election times bring out different results," she commented.
The board also approved the tax levy that was presented last month. The average property owner will see their tax bill go up $6.
Although some Title II grant money was put aside for an NIU workshop for teachers to earn their ESL accreditation, not enough teachers were interested. School hopes to offer this option again, with better results.
Rick Klein and Ken Olson of the Horton Group were also at the board meeting. They presented some health reform insights to the board members. The district will surely see increases in their health care plans. "We have a rich plan that we cannot afford," said School.
The district's van is the most pressing maintenance concern right now. The 16-year-old van is in need of several major repairs estimated at $3,000. "We are looking at what our needs really are," School told the board of education. School will gather information to present to the board whether repair or replacing with a new or used vehicle is the best option. The district uses the van to transport meals between the schools along with other daily uses.
"Money was originally in the budget - estimating that van repairs were going to be needed, however when the budget did not balance, the money was taken back out. The need has become more urgent than what we thought," added School.
The district held its first of four Parent Advisory meetings on Dec. 17. The committee is composed of parents, teachers, and administrators. It serves as a method for generating ideas and feedback from parents about the district's ELL (English Language Learners) services for second language learners. ACCESS testing for the ELL students will take place between Jan. 14-Feb. 14. This is an annual mandated assessment to measure English literacy proficiency for the district's ELL students.
Scott Horsch, District 289 curriculum director also announced that Lincoln School has partnered with Sylvan Learning in Peru to provide an after school tutoring program. The program will be held at Lincoln School beginning in January and will be facilitated by the district's teachers.
At Northbrook Middle School, the 8th grade students traveled to the Mendota High School on Dec. 4 to take the EXPLORE assessment. The results will used for guidance in placement in next year's classes. During the testing, 8th grade math and reading teachers, Lauren Howe and Elizabeth Gleim had the opportunity to observe and speak with teachers in regards to the 9th grade CORE curriculum and instructional expectations, which they both found beneficial, stated Beth Wackerlin, NMS principal. Assessment results will be returned to the students in January.
After the new year, all kindergarten and first grade students will be given the winter Aims Web reading benchmark assessment. Individual student graphs will go home with students after all the data is compiled. Lincoln School students will do testing, as well.
Students in District 289 are currently on winter break and will return to school on Monday, Jan. 7.