Tuscola BOE sets budget hearing for Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

Photo: Rachel Ray
New staff at Tuscola schools pictured from right to left include Hannah Church (Vocal Music HS), Jared Vanausdoll (EP Principal), Terra Waldrop (NW Secretary), Ally Irwin (EP Special Ed), Angie Romine (EP Special Ed Aide), Bryson Gibson (EP Special Ed), Kara Bosch (NW Teachers Aide), Nolan Woller (NW Physical Ed), Jennifer Nolan (HS Special Ed), Drew Sterkel (HS Physical Ed, Health, Drivers Ed), Melissa Sanders (NW Special Ed)

By Kendra Hennis 
The special meeting of the Tuscola board of education was called to order at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 24. All board members were present with members Martin Marx and Brad Ingram joining remotely. 

In the board retreat, the board was able to hear from structural engineers about the state of the high school. The inspectors noted some concerns of cracking but said that overall the building is structurally sound, and in good shape for its age. They explained some of the process in repairing the bricks and stairs that they would recommend doing. The inspectors would also like to get photo or video evidence of the problem areas to help them identify the cracks and see if they progress over time. 

Board member Bob Devlin asked if an upstairs could be created in the southwest hallway. The inspectors said they believed there could be. The inspectors said that there were different projects that needed to be completed of different levels of importance, however, nothing was that concerning to them. 

The board agreed that the best thing to do were some building upgrades and then focus on the interior. They will continue to develop a plan for this and discuss it during upcoming board meetings. 

The board retreat adjourned at 6:52 p.m.

Following, the board called their monthly August board meeting to order. 

The meeting began with public comments from Nicole Mannen, Beau Wilson, and Ivan Dozier. Mannen came to speak on behalf of the Tuscolians for Racial Justice and asked the board to consider talking about their petition at the September meeting. Wilson provided the board education on the history of the warrior mascot and the strong Native American history in Tuscola. He said that it was important that Tuscola did a better job on educating students about Native American history, and said that due to the way it was used, he had no problem with the use of current mascot imagery. Dozier said that it is important for people to understand Native American history, not destroy it. If the schools are interested, he said that he would be happy to provide educational materials and work with them as he can. 

Principals then introduced the new staff in each building to the board. Hannah Church joins East Prairie and TCHS to teach music, Jennifer Nolan for TCHS special ed, and Drew Sterkel is teaching HS physical education, health, and drivers ed. Ally Irwin joins East Prairie for special ed, Angie Romine for EP special ed aide, and Bryson Gibson as EP special aide. At North Ward, Terra Waldrop adds to the office as a secretary, Kara Bosch as a teacher’s aide, Nolan Woller for physical ed, and Melissa Sanders for NW special ed. 

East Prairie principal Jared Vanausdoll then gave his monthly report to the board. The school is reporting 290 total students with 73 choosing remote learning for the quarter. He said that the first day of school went really well. He then thanked the summer staff for all of their hard work in getting the rooms and building ready. Vanausdoll also announced that the IESA has moved the dates for middle school basketball, with girls now planning to begin in March and boys in January. 

Steve Fiscus, TCHS principal, followed in reporting to the board. Fiscus relayed that golf and cross country seasons are underway and going well, with a large increase in participation in both. The high school is reporting 61 remote learners for the quarter. Fiscus also thanked Mr. Vanausdoll and Mrs. Hornaday for their work with professional development for the staff and help in getting them acclimated better with Google classrooms. He then reported that the online freshman orientation video was posted, and that new student tours were completed last week. Fiscus said that the first day of school went well, and will just continue to get better as people get used to the changes. He thanked all the staff, parents, and the Douglas County Mask Makers for making it all possible. 

North Ward Principal Jason Wallace also reported a successful first day of school to the board. He said that it was a very hot day which made masks tricky, but that the kids were doing really well with them. North Ward is currently reporting 61 remote learners for the quarter. He sent out a thank you to the Tuscola Music Boosters for their purchase of new equipment for the music program. Wallace also discussed the new PBIS program and some of the changes from last year. 

Superintendent Gary Alexander followed, giving his report to the board. He said plainly that this year’s budget is not what he hoped it would be. He reported that there are a lot of unknowns still and that he is going to continue to go through it until the September meeting for any adjustments he can make. The school lost money from the corporate replacement tax as well as not receiving evidence based funding, bringing the revenue significantly down for the year. Alexander hopes that the budget will turn out better than anticipated, and the board will continue to discuss the budget at the September meeting. 

Alexander also reported that most of the projects at the school are currently being completed. There needs to be some weather stripping done at East Prairie as well as the installation of their new pass-through window. He said that the first day of school went well, and that it was great to have kids back in the school. “It seemed like a normal day, just wearing masks,” said Alexander. He noted that this is a fluid situation and things are changing every day but they’re going to keep rolling with it and keep doing their best. He also reported that enrollment was down to 900 from the 1000 in 2019, with students choosing homeschooling or private options their year instead. 

In their old business, the board discussed the board member election. In their special meeting on August 14, the board passed a referendum to be voted on in the November election about if the election will be held in its normal form or moved to an at-large platform for the election of a board member. The board also approves policy updates 103 and 104. 

The board then went on to approve the tentative 2020-2021 budget. By law, the budget has to be on public display for 30 days before its final approval. The board set the budget hearing to finalize the budget for September 28 at 7 p.m. before their regularly scheduled meeting, and the budget will be on display following that. 

The board also: 

* Approved a donation from Mark and Judy Furlong in the amount of $10,000 for TCHS Boys Basketball.

* Approved a donation from FFA Alumni in the amount of $500 for FFA. 

* Approved an anonymous donation in the amount of $100 for NW PBIS.

* Approved an anonymous donation in the amount of $100 for NW PBIS. 

* Approved the minutes from the July 27 regular meeting, and the August 10 and August 14 special board meetings. 

* Approved the bills in the amount of $826,094.87.

* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookkeepers reports. 

* Approved the Bridges Regional Safe School Program Alternative Education Agreement. 

* Approved the Beacons Alternative Education Agreement. 

* Approved the Health Life Safety Amendment. 

* Completed the first reading of Press Policy 105. 

* Approved moving to closed session to for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (2)(9).

* Approved the resignation of Doug Bauer as TCHS golf coach.

* Approved the personnel hirings of Toby Ring as Head TCHS golf coach.

* Approved the hiring of Claire Ring and Doug Bauer as volunteer golf coaches. 

* Approved the hiring of Chase Reedy as assistant TCHS boys basketball coach.

* Approved the hiring of Hannah Steedily as assistant TCHS girls volleyball coach. 

* Approved the hiring of Suzanne Rominger as student council sponsor. 

* Adjourned at 9:39 p.m. until the September 28 budget hearing at 7 p.m.

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