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Tuscola Board of Education looks at building updates

By Kendra Hennis 
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order on January 27 at 7 p.m. The meeting began with High School students Justine Kaufman and Elena Birchenough being recognized for being selected for ILMEA All State Festival. Justine was chosen as one of twenty-four students for this year’s Jazz Choir. Elena plays flute and was chosen for one of the orchestras. Both girls have worked very hard and are deserving of this honor. They are in for a very fun day on Saturday in Charleston and the board wished them lots of luck. 

In their communications, the board received a thank you for the flowers that they sent to Dorothy Stirrett’s visitation. Dorothy was a cook at East Prairie for many years. They also received a thank you from Rhonda McCumber and Mindy Fowler. Finally, Board President Cathy Mannen thanked member Darold Spillman for volunteering to make their pie for the FFA Alumni Pie Auction. 

In his Principal’s Report, High School Principal Steve Fiscus reported to the board that from Fall 2018 to Fall 2019 there was a drop in excess tardies by twenty-one percent. He feels like things like the second semester incentive program encourages students to feel rewarded for their hard work. To reward last semester’s perfect attendance, on January 6, twenty-four students were given Jimmy John’s gift cards and there were chances for them to win cash in an assembly in front of the school. Courtney Kramer took home the grand prize $100.Principal Fiscus also reported that the indoor track season began and that spring sports are just around the corner. He noted that both basketball teams are having a good season, with the girls in the Conference tournament and the boy’s Conference tournament being held this weekend. There are a lot of Senior Night games happening soon, girl’s basketball is February 6, the Warriorettes’ will be held February 11, and Boy’s Basketball, Cheer, and Pep Band’s will be held February 16. He also wanted to congratulate Justine and Elena for ILMEA All-State Festival. Also upcoming are the FFA Alumni Pie Auction on February 8 and the Music Boosters Fundraiser on February 22. 

During her Principal’s Report, East Prairie Principal Carol Munson congratulated Spelling Bee winner Catie Gibson, as well as Braxton Moody, Jazmine West, and Pearl Taylor. She also congratulated the Eighth grade boys basketball team on their Conference championship. She noted that basketball Regionals are happening now, with Seventh grade being hosted in Tuscola. The volleyball season has also begun and Student Council hosted the winter dance. She also talked to the board about the Eighth grade career conference that they attended a couple weeks ago. She said that the day was a lot of fun, and the students really enjoyed it. 

During his Principal’s Report, North Ward Principal Jason Wallace announced that Friday is a very exciting day at North Ward. Students will be celebrating their 100th day of school, be having the student and teacher of the month ceremony, and “Hi-Five Day”. There will also be a PTO meeting held on Tuesday. He noted that he and five others will be attending a Behavior Workshop in Springfield, he is looking forward to all they learn and can bring back to help students. He is also excited that two students have been chosen for the IPA breakfast to celebrate their good citizenship. There will also be an upcoming Second Grade field trip to the Virginia Theater as well as an upcoming Hand Washing and Germ Presentation at the school. 

In his Superintendent’s Report, school Superintendent Gary Alexander began by noting that the school’s finances are in good order, the only thing that was a little high was the building expenses that was due to a some unexpected repairs. For the building facility updates, the heating system at North Ward had to be repaired last week. He announced that the teacher’s jean’s donation raised and donated $800 to the Tuscola Pass program, $800 to RISE and $230 to the SAM’s Food Pantry. The Teacher’s raise money by donating $25 to wear jeans to school on Fridays. Alexander then noted that there was a FIOA and it was filed online. Finally, Mr. Alexander thanked First State Bank for their $542.69 donation from their Warrior Card fund. When the Warrior Card is used, First State Bank makes a donation to the school. The money was used to send 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to Villa Grove for an assembly on Internet safety and for the Tuscola KIND campaign. He thanked First State Bank fro their donations, and for the community for all of their support.

The largest area of discussion of the evening was in regard to building entrance updates at all three schools. As previously mentioned, the State of Illinois is offering up to a $50,000 State Maintenance Matching Grant. With board approval, Mr. Alexander is going to apply for this grant to be used at the High School to fix nine sets of doors and doorframes as well as adding a pass-through window in the vestibule with a magnetic lock on a set of the doors. The estimated cost of this project is $110,000, with hopefully $50,000 being covered by the grant, the remaining money would be taken from the Sales Tax money. Alexander noted that the Sales Tax money can only be used for bond payments and facilities. 

At North Ward, a pass-through window will be added into the existing vestibule. This would allow people who need to drop something off but not go into the building to have the ability to do that. 

The most difficult of the three buildings is East Prairie. Mr. Alexander has worked with the construction company to come up with three options that he presented to the board. The goal is the building to become safer for students and staff and increase security and functionality. There was a lot of discussion among the board about what option they believed was best. It was important to the board that they didn’t do anything that would possibly interfere with future Industrial Arts programs at the school. Mr. Spillman also stated that he believed if we were going to do such a large project, he would like to look to the future and do an even bigger project that meets all of the schools needs.  Mrs. Mannen noted that this is just the initial discussion and that they wanted community input about the designs and functionality. The three East Prairie designs are available to view at East Prairie. This project will continue to be discussed at future meetings. 

The board also:

* Approved a $500 donation for NW lunch debt.

* Approved a $500 donation from the Victory Church of Camargo for NW Back Pack Buddy.

* Approved a $542.69 donation from First State Bank for the School District.

* Approved the minutes from the December 19 regular board meeting.

* Approved extending needed of goals from their existing Board Goals Timeline to 2022. 

* Approved the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Booster Club.

* Approved bills in the amount of $726,240.28.

* Approved the monthly Treasurer’s report.

* Approved the monthly Bookkeeper’s report.

* Approved the 2019-2020 Seniority lists.

* Approved the Application for the State Maintenance Grant.

* Approved the Health Life Safety Amendment.

* Approved the recommendation to destroy executive session recordings older than 18 months.

* Approved the recommendation to continue to seal the minutes and seal all previous executive session minutes.

* Approved the Administrative Policy and Procedures Revisions.

* Approved the Tuscola CUSD #301 Board Protocols. 

* Approved going to closed session to discuss personnel and student discipline.

* Approved the resignation from Dustin Dees as grade school teacher and district coach.

* Approved the resignation of Jean Holmes as the Student Council sponsor.

* Approved the resignation of Suzanna Rominger as the Student Council sponsor.

* Adjourned until the February 24 regular board meeting.

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