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District 289 prepares for 2013-14 school year

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 26th, 2013

MENDOTA – Mendota Elementary District 289 is busy preparing for the next school year, it was announced at the Feb. 20 Board of Education meeting. First on the calendar is Kindergarten Roundup Night set for Tuesday, March 12 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Blackstone School. All parents of incoming kindergarteners for the 2013-2014 school year are encouraged to register their child on this night.

This will be an opportunity for parents to fill out the necessary paperwork, get important information regarding the kindergarten program, take a tour of the school, and meet the staff. More information will be available on the district website, www.mendota289.org, along with downloadable forms that can be filled out in advance. “That will save parents a lot of time on registration night,” stated Stacy Kelly, Blackstone principal.

A $65 registration fee is due but not required at that time. The district is also willing to work out payment plans if necessary.

The $10 increase in registration fees was approved by the board at last Wednesday’s meeting. Although superintendent, Kristen School recommended a $20 increase, the board set new fees at $65 for grades K-5, $75 for grades 6-8, and a sport fee increase from $15 to $35 per sport, per student. School noted that the registration fee does not come close to the cost of educating a student. “I understand that every dollar is a dollar out of someone’s pocket, but we can’t pay our bills. It’s going to impact people one way or another,” she said.

Registration for students in grades 1-8 was set for July 28-29, time yet to be determined.

School nurse, Sue Fassler said starting with the 2013-2014 school year, students entering kindergarten and 6th grade will be required to have their physicals and immunizations completed by the first day of school. Incoming 8th graders will be required to have proof of Tdap. Parents are strongly encouraged to turn in paperwork with registration.

Also approved was the 2013-2014 school calendar. The first day of student attendance was set for Aug. 21 with a tentative end date of May 28, 2014. If snow days are used, it could extend to June 4, 2014.

It was announced that this is a contract negotiation year, too. Teacher contracts end Aug. 14. An initial negotiation session was set for Feb. 28.

Other important upcoming dates to note: A graduation date for this year’s 8th graders was set for May 23 at 7 p.m. at the Mendota High School. If no snow days are used, last day of school for K-7th graders will be May 29.

In other business:

Lincoln principal Vicki Johnson told the board that Lincoln’s School Improvement team had met several times. The team, consisting of five teachers, three parents, and Johnson, are using a new format, Rising Star, to document Smart Start and Smart Plan indicators in areas of leadership, professional development, alignment with curriculum, instruction, assessment, and community and family engagement.

The new format allows the Illinois State Board of Education to access the information and make recommendations on goals. The team can use those recommendations or choose their own. Rising Star is also the school organizer. Johnson can access school data to help in determining which goals to set. “It’s a continuous plan–once you meet a goal, you write another plan,” stated Johnson.

Northbrook School will go through the same process next.

“We’ve started this at the district level, already. They are different indicators, but still tied together,” added Scott Horsch, curriculum director.

Horsch then presented a Powerpoint on the Illinois State Board of Education’s increase in the grading scale for the ISAT. Students that currently meet the standards might now be classified as needing improvement, he said.

“Does this mean that our kids know less or are less capable? It just simply means that the state board is expecting more of students, and raising the level of what they want students to achieve,” stated Horsch.

ISBE’s reasoning for raising the ISAT standard scores needed is to better align the ISAT with those of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) given to 11th grade students, as well as to align it with the new Common Core standards designed to indicate college and career readiness. This is part of a transition to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment that schools will be required to administer beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.

School noted that although scores reflected will be lower, District 289 students are doing better from year to year.

Kelly confirmed that students in Blackstone have been digging deeper into math to align with the Common Core and have seen data that reflects scores that have greatly improved from the past.

Lincoln has been seeing the same advancements, stated Johnson. “Overall, Common Core is going to be good,” she said.

“We see a growth in the classroom, we just don’t have a way to measure it yet,” added Wackerlin.

In the superintendent’s report, School reiterated that the 1-cent sales tax will be on the April 9 ballot. It will read, “Shall a retailers’ occupation tax and a service occupation tax, commonly referred to as a sales tax, be imposed in LaSalle County, as a rate of 1 percent to be used exclusively for school facility purposes?”

Continuing on the topic of a need for more money, School stated that school districts should have 1-1.5 years in reserve funds. District 289 only has a half-year in reserve with funds continuing to deplete. “We are certainly not in the business of making money, but we certainly need to be able to function and operate,” said School.

The Strategic Planning Committee met Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 for their first two meetings. The team consists of 32 participants including the Board of Education, and administrative teams. “There have been some great ideas and questions generated already,” said School. The team is working on crafting a new school mission and focusing on four main areas. They will finish up their meetings on Feb. 27 and March 6.

School also stated that there are over 4,000 legislation bills that are on the table between the House and the Senate. “You don’t know what’s going to pass or not and impact us,” School said. However, she stated there were several that were pertinent to District 289. Bills include topics on redefining the ‘no tolerance’ discipline policy, bilingual education, and transportation requirements.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is set for March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the District 289 Education Center.

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