Tuscola BOE approves budget; discusses school repair
By Kendra Hennis
The board retreat of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 6 p.m. with board president Brad Ingram absent. The purpose of the retreat was for the board to discuss updates regarding the Omni Energy school project. Superintendent Gary Alexander explained that he, along with Bob Devlin and Jessi Young, met to narrow down the scope of how to spend the first $5 million of the school improvement project. The committee decided the money would be best used for new science and FCCLA rooms at TCHS, new electrical paneling at EP and TCHS, new outlets at the schools, a renovation to the EP science lab, a new STEAM classroom at NW, and to have all the HVAC systems assessed at the schools. Omni plans to have the estimated costs for these projects by August, but projects them to be between $3.5 and $5.3 million, leaving the school some potential room for more projects. Alexander hopes to have the contracts beginning in November, with bids completed in December for work next spring. Alexander noted that he was very excited to be moving to the next phase of this project following months of discussion on it. With no further buisness in this section, the board adjourned from the board retreat at 6:30 p.m.
The board reconvended with board president Ingram present for the Budget Hearing at 7 p.m. Alexander noted that nothing has changed with the budget since the May meeting, and that those changes included an additional $5 million in working cash funds and an excess of $2.1 million in the corporate fund. There were no questions or comments from the board or public so the hearing was adjourned at 7:04 p.m.
Moving to regular session, the board first heard public comment from Nancy Broch and Todd Black. Broch presented concern to the board over Bill 818 that has been passed in the Illinois House regarding teaching sex education. Broch said should this bill pass, she fears what it will be teaching students and said that parents should have some say in what their kids are being taught. She asked the board to consider what they would change in this curriculum if the bill were passed. Black expressed concerns to the board regarding the administrative roles for new culturally responsible experience. Black said that he has heard that this application is not working well in schools that it is currently being taught in, and asked the school board to consider what they would have the school’s approach will be if they choose to apply the teaching.
East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll followed with his report to the board. He noted that all activities had finished up at the middle school, but that the students are still busy with open gyms over the summer. Vanausdoll said that June 1 was a remote teaching day at the school, and thanked the staff who prepared lessons for the other teachers to learn more about the remote learning process. He also thanked the summer crew who completed cleaning and work at the building, and the families and administration who attended East Prairie Promotion for making it so successful.
TCHS Principal Steve Fiscus reported that June 1 was also a remote teaching day at TCHS, and thanked the staff for their hard work on that day. He noted that the summer work is currently being completed, that summer contact days are in progress, as well as some youth sports camps. Fiscus noted that graduation was very successful, thanking the administration and students for their hard work, and remarking how nice it was to be able to have a normal graduation ceremony in the gym again. He ended stating that summer sports have wrapped up with very prosperous seasons. The baseball team finished at Regionals, the softball team won Regionals, the boys track team had a solid finish at the state track meet, and the girls came home with a fourth place finish at the state meet.
North Ward Principal Jason Wallace was on vacation this meeting, so his report was presented by Mr. Alexander. He noted that the jumpstart summer school program was beginning July 12, tech camps were being held July 2-6, and that he is working on welcome back night for students on July 18. Wallace noted that pre-k and kindergarten students would have a later start date to assist teachers and parents ease in the routine, with kindergarten starting on Aug 23 and preschool on Aug 30. Wallace ended thanking the students, staff, and administration for a wonderful and successful school year, and told everyone to enjoy their summers.
Superintendent Alexander followed by reporting that the state had received a $350 million increase in evidence based funding, and hopes that some of that will go to the school, as well as an increase in sales tax revenue in Douglas and Champaign Counties. On the concerns presented during public comment, Alexander said that there are currently a large number of bills in regards to schools that are sitting on the governor’s desk. None of these bills have been signed, but the school will work on decisions to be made if they are. He noted that Jessi Young had volunteered to be the board’s EAISE board rep, and that he was on a webinar last week with ISBE discussing the school’s policies. Currently there have been no decisions made, but he hopes that they will know what the school year will look like in a couple of weeks.
The board also:
* Heard communication from Marcie Shoemaker thanking them for her plaque given to her upon her retirement from Tuscola schools. Alexander thanked Shoemaker for the note and her many years of service to Tuscola schools.
* Approved the minutes of the May 24, 2021 board retreat and regular meeting.
* Approved the bills in the amount of $1,096,589.08.
* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookkeepers reports.
* Approved closing the Class of 2021 activity fund and opening the Class of 2025 activity fund.
* Approved the 1 to 1 Policy and Procedures. These procedures are in regards to the school’s technology policy with the new Chrombooks being issued and must be signed by all students at registration.
* Approved MOU with the Tuscola Education Association.
* Approved the Athletic Officials Pay Scale.
* Approved moving the July Board of Education meeting to July 27, 2021.
* Moved to closed session for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c)(1)-Personnel, 5 ILCS 120/2 (c)(2)-Collective Negotiating Matters, and 5 ILCS 120/2 (c)(11)-Pending Litigation.
* Returned to open session and approved sealing the closed session minutes of the meeting.
* Approved the resignation of Katie Wienke as MTSS Coach at TCHS.
* Approved the resignation of Janice Fogerson as History Club Sponsor at EP.
* Approved the resignation of Kirsten Day as History Club Sponsor at EP.
* Approved the resignation of Sam Baird as TCHS Cheerleading Coach.
* Approved the resignation of Toby Ring as TCHS Golf Coach.
* Approved the resignation of Teresa Aldred as TCHS Paraprofessional.
* Approved the hiring of Wendy Wallace as Student Council Sponsor.
* Approved the hiring of Jeri Quinn as District Bookkeeper for 21-22.
* Approved the hiring of Donna Dietrich as District Treasurer for 21-22.
* Approved the hiring of Tony Fidler as Custodian Supervisor and Maintenance Control Specialist.
* Approved the hiring of Bill Ludwig as Special Ed Teacher at TCHS.
* Approved the hiring of Candace Seman as EP paraprofessional.
* Approved the non-certified salaries for 2021-22.
* Discussed the work being done on the TCHS track and parking lot.
* Adjourned until the July 27 board meeting at 7 p.m.