By Kendra Hennis
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 7 p.m. on April 27. Board members met in social distancing format excluding Mr. Marx who joined in via Zoom.
The board was joined by district bookkeeper Jerri Quinn who wanted to give her input to the board about the fourth and fifth option of the East Prairie entrance remodel presented to them at the earlier meeting this May. Mrs. Quinn expressed her dissatisfaction with both options saying it is “breathtakingly clear that you have no interest in our opinions and no respect for the East Prairie office and the staff that works there.” Quinn believes these options leave the staff with limited space for things like storage, personnel issues and privacy issues.
The board received communications from a North Ward student thanking the staff at the Warrior Store for all of their help and said to stay safe and keep helping, we love you all.
The board also received communication from the SAM food pantry thanking them for their $230 donation to the pantry.
In her principal’s report, East Prairie principal Carol Munson gave her remote learning update to the board. She noted that 90 percent of students were currently completing their assignments with roughly 80 percent completing online and 10 percent turning packets in. She also informed them that the teachers are making contact weekly, with most holding meeting hours or office hours and that there are paraprofessionals working with the special education teachers to ensure that those students are getting everything that they need. Munson also thanked the teachers and families for all that they’re doing right now.
In his principal’s report, high school principal Steve Fiscus gave his remote learning update to the board. He reported that they are currently experiencing 76 to 81 percent completion. He noted that he has been joining in on as many Google classrooms as he can and that it’s great to see the student’s faces again. Fiscus also wanted to thank parents, students, teachers, and families for everything right now. Fiscus then told the board that the IHSA had canceled all spring sports and announced that Tuscola would not be participating in any summer programs. Currently, summer contact days have been suspended, but he noted that this may be updated as there are changes to the shelter-in-place order. Finally, he announced that the high school will be holding honors day on May 15. The ceremony will be held virtually with Mr. Fiscus and Mr. Bozarth announcing the awards. School awards will also be given that day. The ceremonies will be live streamed on the school‘s Facebook page.
In his principal’s report, North Ward principal Jason Wallace began by thanking North Ward secretary Mrs. Rusk for all that she’s done for the school. She and her family are moving to Tennessee following the school year. He reported to the board that 92 to 95 percent of remote learning is being completed online. He sent a thank you to Mrs. Hanner for her help with contacting families, to the teachers for all of their hard work, and to Mrs. Martin for her help with handing out packets to students. Wallace firmly stands behind the motto of communication, creativity, and collaboration and he said that it has been great to see people working very hard to embrace these mottos and sent a thank you to everyone.
In his superintendent’s report Tuscola superintendent Gary Alexander presented to the board that the district’s finances are on track but is unsure if the school will receive all of the payments for this year considering the current circumstances. Alexander says he is more worried about the 2021-2022 school year and hopes that he will have a better idea about that soon. Under building facility updates, Alexander reported to the board that the two new water heaters have been installed at the high school. Alexander then noted that roughly 25 percent of students are taking advantage of the free breakfast and lunch program through the school. He hopes this number will increase but is thankful for families using the service. Alexander also reported to the board that he has been meeting with the school’s principals to get a plan in place for the fall and following school year.
The board then continued the discussion about the entrance updates at East Prairie middle school. Board president Cathy Mannen began by talking to the board about their goals and what their original hopes of doing to the entrance were. She noted that this was not an easy decision for anyone and said, “we all want to do what’s best for the students, staff, and community,” and said that, “regardless of what we decide on, we will make the entrance more secure.”
Mr. Spillman then made a motion to approve option five presented at the May 7 board meeting. This also includes the changes of moving a bathroom to at the vestibule and adding a door to the main office. There was some discussion about this option with the problems addressed by Mrs. Quinn presented. Mr. Spillman said that he acknowledged that the plan does not address anything aside from security. He hopes that the board can come together to address issues and come up with a long-term plan. With board members Spillman, Young, Marx, and Mannen voting in favor, the motion passes.
The board then moved to the 2020-2021 District handbook. Mr. Marx had some concerns in regards to the formatting of the handbook. He said that it needed to be updated and that it was very confusing and in need of clarification. He will work with Mrs. Munson on those changes, and the board approved the wording of the handbook.
Mr. Alexander then presented the summer work projects to the board. Most of these projects have already been approved, but include the addition of the North Ward window, the high school passway, redoing three more rooms at East Prairie, four rooms at the high school, the North Ward basketball baskets, and the North Ward intercom system. The board approved all of the summer work projects.
The board then began to discuss possible action for the facilities planning process. Board president Mannen proposed to the board that starting at the May meeting they begin meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. to come up with capital projects so they can be ready to have them approved by February 2021. She noted that these meetings will be open and will operate more as work sessions. She encouraged all board members to find a buddy and take the time to talk to the administrators at all three schools and do a walk-through of the building with them to find problems that they would like to address.
Following the closed session portion of the meeting, the board returned and approved the resignation of East Prairie principal Carol Munson. Munson took a job to be the Villa Grove district superintendent. On her resignation, Tuscola superintendent Gary Alexander said, “her leadership in the building is going to be hard to replace. I’ve been working with her since July and she is a good leader. Villa Grove is getting an outstanding leader, and I told them when they called. That someone that was going to replace her here was going to have to tie up their boot strings and do a good job. I think she does a good job, and she’ll do a good job at Villa Grove, and hopefully, we can find somebody who will step in those shoes. And you can always hope make the place a little better, so that’s what we’re hoping, but they’re going to have a tough job.“
The board also:
* Approved a donation from Mike and Adrienne Ferrell in the amount of $300 for the Drama Department.
* Approved a donation from Cast Iron Pub in the amount of $250 for the Drama Department.
* Approved a donation from the Coles County Barbershop Harmony Ceremony in the amount of $250 for the Chorus Program.
* Approved a donation from EP Students in the amount of $500 for EP Students.
* Approved a donation from Kiwanis in the amount of $250 for Social Skills.
* Approved a donation from Kiwanis in the amount of $322.80 for HS English.
* Approved the minutes from the April 8 regular board meeting.
* Approved the payment of bills in the amount of $789,604.91.
* Approved the monthly Treasurer’s report.
* Approved the monthly Bookkeeper’s report.
* Approved moving the May School Board meeting to May 27, 2020.
* Approved a $.10 increase in school lunch fees for 2020-2021.
* Approved the Consolidated District Plan.
* Approved moving to closed session to discuss personnel and student discipline.
* Approved the hiring of Hannah Church as the Chorus Teacher.
* Approved the hiring of Terra Waldrop as NW Secretary.
* Adjourned until the May 27 board meeting at 7 p.m.