By Kendra Hennis
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 26 with all members present.
Following approval of the board’s old business, the board certified election results, declared winners, and Board President Cathy Mannen administered the Oath of Office to new board members Jessi Young, Levi Miller, and Wade Wilcox. School Superintendent Gary Alexander also took the time to thank departing board members Martin Marx, Rick Quinn, and Cathy Mannen for their hard work and service to the board. Alexander noted that they have a lot to be proud of, including providing more secure entrances at each school, facility improvements, and laying the foundation for the upcoming school project. Departing board members then thanked Mr. Alexander, fellow board members, and the community for their support and allowing them to serve the community. They also noted how proud they were of the school, administration, and students for their hard work in staying open this year, and looked forward to seeing what the new board does.
The board also:
* Approved the 2021-2022 District Handbook.
* Approved additional work for the Track Project.
* Approved a transportation extension with Gould Bus Service for 21-21.
* Approved Stipulation of Value regarding Tuscola Realty LLC.
* Approved the minutes from the March 22, 2021 board retreat.
* Adjourned at 7:27 p.m.
The reorganization portion of the meeting with members of the new board was called to order at 7:48 p.m. with all members present. Following the appointment of a pro-term president and secretary, the board elected Brad Ingram as the new school board president, Bob Devlin as vice president, and Darold Spillman secretary. They also set upcoming meeting dates at the same 7 p.m. time on the last Monday of the month. The board then discussed that there is still a vacant seat on the board and made a plan to get it filled. Interested applicants in the Township 8 Range 16 (north of US Route 36 in Tuscola) can pick up forms from the office and return them by May 14 at 3 p.m. The board will then interview applicants before the May 24 meeting. With no further business in this section, the board adjourned the reorganization section at 8:03 p.m.
The regular session of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 8:04 p.m., beginning with an update with Omni Energy on the school project. Scott from Omni reported that they have been collecting feedback from students and staff at the school to help prioritize their needs as well. He noted that they are beginning their floor plans to discuss projects and potential designs, as well as working on the five-year construction plan for the school. They will return to the May board meeting with more information and progress updates.
Following, East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll began his monthly report to the board. He noted that junior high basketball had come to a close, with the seventh grade girls going undefeated in conference and the eighth grade girls with only one loss. Vanausdoll then congratulated Lia Patterson, Kate Foltz, and Belle Notaro for all breaking school records, and an outstanding track season thus far. He noted that the school is hosting sectionals on May 7 and 8 as well as an area’s best tournament in May with the best eight students from area schools. He thanked students and staff for all their hard work with IAR and Science Testing, and noted that the school had just finished midterms for the fourth quarter. He ended by saying that promotion will be held on May 29 at 11 a.m. at the high school and Honor’s Day will be held May 28. Events will have a limited capacity but will also be streamed on the school’s Facebook page.
Steve Fiscus, TCHS Principal, then gave his report. He began by congratulating Hannah Hornaday and Hans Goodmann for being chosen as the Illinois Principals Association Award winners as well as the CIC Award Winners. Fiscus then noted that SAT testing was completed at the school on May 13, and that students and staff were well fed thanks to the help of the Jimmy John’s food truck. He congratulated students who competed in the ICTM virtual math contest, noting that they had 13 students participate who all received first or second place, and many who would have qualified for state in a normal year. He noted that the volleyball and football seasons have come to an end, and that baseball, track and softball have all begun at the school. Fiscus ended reporting some upcoming dates at the school; the spring musical beginning April 27-May 1, band and choir spring concerts on May 2, prom on Saturday, May 8 with coronation beginning at 7 p.m., Rotary Luncheon for Top 10 seniors on May 4, Rotary Luncheon for 4.0 underclassmen on May 11, Honor’s Day on May 24 at 10 a.m., and Graduation on May 29 at 7 p.m. Fiscus noted that graduation will be held in the gym, in-person, with limited spectators, and to keep an eye out on social media for updates.
North Ward Principal Jason Wallace began his report to the board by congratulating IPA winners Mia Vitale and Beau Whitson. He then noted that the school is planning their end of the year celebration with park days and a PE field day at North Ward. Wallace then gave a shout out to Omni Energy and Mr. Eric for their hard work at the school. He reported that jump-start summer school will be held for four weeks from July to August as well as a tech program for two weeks during that time. Wallace ended by thanking everyone for their hard work at Tuscola schools. He said that Tuscola schools are doing a great job despite a stressful year, and still providing students with a good education.
Superintendent Alexander began his report noting that the schools had a $19,000 natural gas bill this month due to the increase in natural gas and the outings in Texas. He is going to look into the contract for more information, but reported that this is the first time the schools have received a bill at this size. Also on the finances side, he reported that the school saw an 11 percent increase in revenue, received $63,000 in Sales Tax Revenue, and received an unexpected $82,000 in the Visual Equity Fund. These changes did lead to a slight change in the budget, so Alexander will amend it and have it to present at the May meeting.
He then notified the board that ISBE guidelines were just released for next year and that a medical note would now be required for remote learners. These could be obtained for students in immediate households who live with a high-risk family member. He also noted that while they do not know the guidelines for next year, they have begun the discussion for the upcoming school year with hopes to stay ahead of the unknowns. Alexander noted that he hopes to return to a regular five-day schedule for next school year. He ended thanking Mrs. LaReau and Mayor Kleiss for their help with the National Honors Society induction, saying it was a nice way to honor students.
The board closed with Alexander’s final welcome to new board members. He encouraged questions and conversation with the board members, and noted that he would like to set up meetings with them to sit down and be able to complete introductions. He additionally noted that there was also an open seat on the EAISE board if any board members were interested.
The board also:
* Approved a $100 donation from Jessi and James Young for the NW Growth Mindset Garden.
* Approved anonymous $100 and $300 donations for the NW Growth Mindset Garden.
* Approved a $50 donation from Jaci Manzella for NW Special Ed in honor of Mr. Eiben.
* Approved bills in the amount of $894,035.56.
* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookeeper’s reports,
* Approved June 1 as a Remote Learning Planning Day for teachers to discuss improvements to remote learning for the upcoming school year. Students last day to attend will be May 28 and teachers last day will be June 2.
* Approved an agreement with Aramark regarding the minimum wage increase.
* Approved the 2021-2022 Lunch Fees.
* Approved the job description for Custodian Supervisor/Grounds and Facilities Director. Alexander suggested adding the position to alleviate some of the work for the current maintenance staff at the schools. He noted that they currently spend a lot of time maintaining the grounds, so the addition of this position alleviates this along with taking some pressure off the principals from needing to supervise the maintenance employees.
* Approved IHSA membership for the 2021-22 school year in the amount of $$875.
* Approved IESA membership for the 2021-22 school year in the amount of $630.
* Approved moving to closed session for the purposes defined in ILCS 120/2 (c) (1)-personnel, 120/2 (c) (9)-student discipline, and 120/2 (c) (11)-pending litigation.
* Approved the resignation of Angie Romine as East Prairie Paraprofessional.
* Approved the hiring of Josiah Lemay as a volunteer track coach.
* Approved the hiring of Cortney Hall as a Paraprofessional at TCHS.
* Adjourned at 10:13 p.m. until the May 24 board meeting at 7 p.m.