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Tuscola BOE discusses schools upcoming projects

By Kendra Hennis
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education began with a Board Retreat that was called to order at 6 p.m. with all members present. 

The board retreat allowed for the board to meet with representatives from Omni Energy Partners, the contractors for the upcoming school project. They said that they had a lot of enthusiasm about the project and that they want to “work with (them) to drive a plan to enhance your educational environment, while updating the infrastructure to support athletics and auxiliary and engage the students in all aspects as they attend the school.”

Omni noted that they were still in the process of gathering feedback from the board, administration, and community about the project. They were able to meet with principals via Zoom last week to discuss their goals in each school. They also noted that they would like to discuss the project with students, resource staff, and the community to get their input on the vision developed by the district. Board president Cathy Mannen and member Brad Ingram noted their importance on the planning for this project to meet their needs. Ingram noted that “whatever happens here will be seen by all and set the tone for the upcoming generation.”

The board retreat adjourned at 7 p.m. and the board moved to regular session at 7:06 p.m.

Following approval of the consent agenda, East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll began his report to the board. He congratulated sixth grader Evan Veril who finished in seventh place at the Regional Spelling Bee, Varsity scholastic bowl on their 4-0 season thus far, and boys basketball and volleyball teams on very successful seasons. He noted that IAR testing would begin on Tuesday at the school. Vanausdoll then said that the girls basketball as well as track seasons were beginning soon, and that spectator guidelines were available reflecting the increase in guidelines. 

North Ward Principal Jason Wallace then began his report saying that kindergarten and Pre-K screenings were successfully completed last week, IAR testing was planned for the end of April, and that window perks had been installed in the front and gym entrances. Wallace said that while the entrances were kind of a sight, they were an important addition in keeping students safe. He ended saying a good job to all in their hard work and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that it was everyone who made it possible for them to stay open. 

Steve Fiscus, Tuscola High School Principal, then announced that they were planning on May 26-28 for finals and the SAT on April 13. He also noted that basketball at the high school was wrapping up, with girls awards night held Sunday, and that football and volleyball had competed in their opening games. Fiscus said that homecoming week festivities were kicked off at the high school, with dress up days all week, Powderpuff on Wednesday night, Friday night football against Clinton, and Coronation on Saturday. He noted that the state’s guidance had been lifted and that the public would now be welcome at these events, but that social-distancing guidelines were still in place. He announced that mobile ticket sales were being utilized successfully for home games. This allows for spectators to purchase their tickets in advance and it makes for safer ticket-taking at games. He noted that while there have been a lot of updates to guidance and planning, it has been really beneficial for students in activities to be able to be involved. He ended encouraging all eligible to get vaccinated, and keep wearing their masks.

Superintendent Gary Alexander then gave his report to the board. He noted that the district’s financial expenses this month were high due to the expenses of Chromebooks, but that it will be reimbursed by the state. He said that they needed to continue to monitor their expenses, and hope that the school’s revenue will go up. Alexander also noted that the Early College Financial Model showed that TCHS students involved in the dual-credit programs through the school save 29 percent compared to other Parkland College students. 

He then said that the school had received two FOIA requests in regards to who had submitted performance contract requests and been chosen for the bid that he responded to. He additionally told the board that he hopes that the governor will increase school funding. On a happier note, he did say that the school is set to recieve $572,381 in federal government money that they hoped to use for cleaning supplies and to replace technology in the schools.

Alexander exclaimed that April 6 is a big day at the school. In the morning, high school students will be having Social Emotional Learning Conferences with three guest speakers joining them. He ended noting that with the election on April 6, there will be a new board soon. He thanked the board for all of their hard work and dedication over the last year, saying they were a great group to serve with. The board will hold two meetings in April, at the beginning of the month with the current board, and later in the month with the new board. 

The board also:
* Heard a thank-you from the family of David Lohr for the school’s donation at his passing.

* Approved donations in honor of Mr. Eiben for the NW Special Ed Program from Jon and Cindi Surma, $30; McLemore’s, $100; Rudy and Mary Kalmar, $40; Mary Melton, Susan Brooks family and Amy Hales family, $100; Class of 1980, $40; TNB Bank, $25; FSB, $100; Busey Bank, $100; Becky Harned, $25; Alison Bowen, $10; and an anonymous $25 donation. 

* Approved a $250 donation from Frank and Marlene Lincoln for Social Skills.

* Approved a $500 donation from Ken and Judy Landeck for FFA.

* Approved a $300 donation from Kiwanis for and a $100 donation from the Brad and Tammy Bennett Family for Help A Child. 

* Approved a $100 donation from the Brad and Tammy Bennett family for the Warrior Store. 

* Heard the first reading of the 2021-22 District Handbook that will be voted on in the April board meeting.

* Approved a resolution regarding the Teacher’s Retirement System for the State of Illinois Supplemental Savings Plan. 

* Approved the amended 2020-21 calendar with the updated week off at the beginning of the semester and snow day.

* Approved the 2021-22 Calendar. 

* Approved setting East Prairie Promotion for May 29 in the mid-afternoon. 

* Began discussion of the transportation increase with Gould Bus Service for 21-22. The topic was tabled until the April meeting for additional information.

* Moved to closed session for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (1)-personnel, 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (9)-student discipline and/or 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (11)-pending litigation. 

* Approved the resignation of Cassie Hardwick as paraprofessional.

* Approved the retirement of Marcia Shoemaker’s retirement as Library Aide.

* Approved the hiring of Josh Shelmadine as assistant baseball coach.

* Approved the hiring of Doug Foltz as JH track volunteer.

* Adjourned at 8:26 p.m. until the April board meeting.

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