By Kendra Hennis
The monthly meeting of the Villa Grove Board of Education was called to order on Monday, November 15 at 6 p.m. Member Carisa Jones was absent.
Following approval of the consent agenda, the board approved the 2021 property tax levy (payable 2022) in the amount of 4.77 percent. Superintendent Carol Munson explained that the assessors are projecting an increase in EAV of 3.3692 percent. She believes this is due to the increase in sales tax funding and the higher housing market. Munson noted that once approved it would be on public display for 30 days.
In her Superintendent’s Report, Munson then explained that the school’s yearly audit had been completed and that they are waiting on written notice for presentation. She noted that they did not report any concerns during the audit.
She then discussed the Future Green Energy Consortium, which is a joint initiative to provide members with renewable electric solutions at no out-of-pocket costs. They say that their ultimate goal is to “ensure every district in the state has access to clean renewable energy at the lowest rates in their history.” Munson commented that she has been working with a representative to see if Villa Grove would qualify for this, as well as what their best options would be.
Munson then reported to the board that Heritage has cancelled all of the junior high games will Villa Grove for the season. She explained that the school was directed by the board because they “felt the students were disrespectful at the LPC volleyball tournament” when Heritage was playing Cumberland. According to High School Principal Sara Jones, half of the students cheered with Cumberland students during the game. She noted that they were unable to cancel games with the high school because they are in the same conference. Jones stated that she was unaware of the claims and said that she had not even received a call from Heritage. Jones said that she feels this is a long-standing rivalry and that it is sad that it has gotten to this point, noting that she hopes the relationship improves in the future. It was stated that due to the late notice that the games would be unable to be rescheduled.
Elementary Principal Bobby Beck followed with his report to the board. First congratulating November Students of the Month; Harper Reynolds (kindergarten), Jaxon Carlson (first grade), Jace Koeberlein (second grade), Reece Vandeventer (third grade), Roniley Wilkerson (fourth grade), John Morrow (fifth grade), and Lily Wyant (sixth grade). He reported that attendance for October parent teacher conferences was average. Beck then stated that the school’s Veteran’s Day Assembly last Thursday was a very moving, amazing program, and thanked the staff, teachers, and Mrs. Howard for all of their work. He said that he loved that the program was student-centered and able to celebrate so many veterans. They noted that there were a total of 263 and a half hours of service by those attended.
Jones joined in the thank-you’s during her report, thanking all for their involvement with the Veteran’s Day Assembly. She also thanked Mrs. Shable and the junior high student council for the junior high dance, as well as the staff for attending and chaperoning. Jones also sent thank-you’s to Mrs. Parr and the FFA for allowing her to attend the National Convention with them, all of their teachers for work with parent teacher conferences, and Mrs. Parr for teaching the staff about PERA and giving information. She also thanked Mrs. Acton and the fall coaches for the Fall Sports Banquet, as well as the boosters and the coaches for hosting Meet the Player Night last week. She then congratulated Regan Blanton for being named the November Student of the Month. She announced that CWAT was collecting donations at the school until the end of the year and that LPC choir and band concerts went well. She noted that at the LPC Principals’ meeting, they discussed adding Sullivan for all sports and Nakomis for football into the conference for the 23-24 year. Jones added that they are working on a full-time Spanish teacher for the spring semester. She ended noting upcoming dates at the school included: Early Dismissal on November 17, No School for Thanksgiving Break November 24-26, Winterfest in the HS December 6-10, JH/HS Christmas Concert on December 9, ROE Inspection on December 14, Finals December 16 and 17, and No School December 20 through January 3.
The board also heard public comment from multiple concerned residents in regards to the mask mandate as well as concerns of a vaccine mandate for students. The residents claimed that the board’s previously stated reasoning of mask enforcement was invalid due to the court cases currently against the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois High School Association. It was noted that if they wanted to take legal action, there were options for them to pursue. They asked that the board consider changing the policy to masks optional for students and staff. Concerns were also addressed of possible vaccine mandates for students. It was noted that the board could not address the concerns due to it not being an agenda item, but Board President Jim Clark assured residents that no talk of a vaccine mandate for students had even been discussed among the board.
The board also:
* Approved the minutes from the October 18 board meeting.
* Approved the closed session minutes from the October 18 board meeting.
* Authorized the payment of bills.
* Approved the monthly treasurer’s report.
* Approved resolution for tax abatement for G.O./Alternative Revenue Source, Series 2019A. Munson explained that this is done yearly and is one of the bonds for the new construction. The school has pledged money for the project from the bond so it does not go to taxpayers.
* Approved a resolution to participate in TRS Supplemental Savings Plan, 457(b) Munson noted that this program is new from TRS in offering supplemental savings and that it must be provided to employees in the TRS system.
* Discussed a possible increase for substitute teacher daily pay rate. It was stated that the current daily substitute rate in Villa Grove is $96, and that many schools in the area have had to increase in order to get substitutes. Beck stated that the school was lucky to have retired teachers and education students that helped fill the gaps, but that they were still often needing subs. The idea of bringing on a full-time substitute was discussed. It was also mentioned that the daily wage of $96 factors out to $12 an hour, which is a lower rate than many jobs with less requirements. It was decided that the administrators would assess the school’s need and then present options at the December meeting.
* Set High School Graduation for May 29, Baccalaureate for May 22, and Eighth Grade Promotion for May 26.
* Approved moving to closed session at 6:52 p.m. to discuss the employment, compensation, resignation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity.
* Adjourned until the December BOE meeting.