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BOE approves $5.5 million school improvements contract

By Kendra Hennis 
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 6 p.m. with a board retreat to discuss possible improvements at the three Tuscola schools. The board heard from Omni Energy Partners about the design plans for the schools as well as the timeline for the projects. Scott Graves, a representative of Omni, stated that their current plan in the base package included remodeling of the science labs, consumer science room, and guidance counselor’s offices in the High School. Renovations of the science lab and lecture room at East Prairie, and the addition of a STEAM room at North Ward and East Prairie. The plan also includes pricing for all of the furniture needed for those rooms, new technology at all schools, HVAC upgrades, and infrared imaging of the roofs of the three schools. 

It was noted Omni plans to have all of this work completed by the beginning of the 2022 school year, and that additional projects in the scope may still be approved. The board and Superintendent Gary Alexander and board members thanked Omni for their work on the project and said that they were excited to see the project. The board retreat was adjourned at 6:53 p.m. 

Following the retreat, the board called a public hearing to order at 7 p.m. The hearing was needed to discuss the issuing of funding bonds in the amount of $15.5 million to complete the rest of construction. There was no comment at the hearing and it was adjourned at 7:02 p.m.

Following the hearing, the board moved to regular session. After accepting donations, the board approved a contract with Omni Energy Group and their base package. The board additionally approved a resolution declaring the intention to issue Funding Bonds for the purpose of paying claims against the District. 

Tuscola High School Principal Steve Fiscus then gave his report to the board. Fiscus began by thanking Equistar and LyondellBasell for their donation, noting that the spring musical would be Disney’s Descendants, and congratulated Josiah Hortin and Jackson Barrett for qualifying for the IHSA cross country State Meet. He stated that girls basketball, boys basketball, and scholastic bowl were getting started in their seasons. Fiscus also thanked all who made the Veterans Day Ceremony successful, including the FFA, community veterans, speakers, and Veterans who allowed them to celebrate them. He ended announcing some upcoming dates at the school: EP Christmas Concert at 2 p.m. on December 5, HS Christmas Concert at 5 p.m. on December 5, and Final Exams on December 14, 15, and 16. He then asked Mrs. Hanner and Mrs. Wallace to discuss the MTSS Program at the school. Wallace explained that the advisory period held every Tuesday and Thursday holds “freshman academy” , a class to help freshmen learn new things to help them at TCHS. They explained that some of the things they do are go through the handbook, talk about time management, and talk about finals; and that it has been very beneficial for students and teachers.

North Ward Principal Jason Wallace followed stating that the school’s music program will be held on December 16. Third grade will perform at 6 p.m. and fourth grade will take the stage at 7 p.m. He stated that the PTO held a meeting last week, and sent a thank you for donations from the school store and those who participated in Dine to Donate. Wallace noted that Mrs. Rennels was an excellent addition as the new school counselor, and that she has been great with the students. He then said that “house parties” were held, the second round of evaluations were completed, and that the Character Parade held on October 31 was a “huge hit.” Wallace ended thanking Joe’s for pizza day last week, and thanking the North Ward staff for all being so wonderful and helping each other.

East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll followed thanking Mr. Fiscus and all involved at the Veterans Day Program, and thanked them for allowing the East Prairie students to participate. He additionally thanked Mr. Cowsert for planning the Fall Band Festival, where area middle school bands gathered and put on a performance. Vanausoll also thanked the cafeteria workers at the school for all of their hard work. He stated that they are currently producing 50 breakfasts and 230 lunches a day for students. He followed congratulating the seventh grade girls basketball team on a great season, and for second place at regionals. He stated that the school would be hosting seventh grade girls sectionals, and eighth grade girls regionals next week. He wished the eighth grade team and the boys team good luck in the rest of their seasons. Vanausdoll thanked Mrs. Wishard for her treats for the staff last week. He then stated that volleyball would be beginning soon, and that the school would begin allowing sixth graders to practice with the team. They will only be able to play in “B games” when they are available, but it will help them gain knowledge of the sport before they begin in seventh grade. 

Superintendent Alexander followed, he echoed that the Veterans Day Program was great, and thanked all. He also thanked the students for being so attentive during the program. Alexander noted that this month’s finances are higher due to a bond payment, reminded board members that they are mandated reporters, and stated that the school report card is available. He noted that they are still waiting on some information and that the academics were not yet available. He stated that the copy lease was up and that he was putting out proposals to have at the December meeting for board members. Alexander informed the board that the SR2 information had been approved by the state, as well as $572,381 to be used for cleaning supplies, advancing academics, Chromebook cases for students, cafeteria tables, and masks. He noted that the SR3 form was going to be more difficult for funding, but that they were having the principals and teachers working on a list of curriculum that could be advanced at the schools. 

The board then discussed new mandates regarding COVID-19 at the school. Alexander said that at this time they had not received any new guidance. It was also noted that at this time that no metrics have been changed as to when a mandate has been lifted. They stated that they hoped to have better news soon and would update as they knew more. 

The board also:
* Heard public comment from John Brookins in regards to the upcoming projects at the schools. Brookins asked the board to be more transparent with the community with their plans for taxpayer money and that they would share their priority list with the public. Ingram responded that the board would work to make this all as public as possible, that the list was just finalized and would be provided, and that he and the rest of the board were happy to answer questions community members have. It was also noted that the approval can still be petitioned in the thirty day window. 

* Approved the 2021 tentative tax levy. 

* Approved a $500 donation from Equistar/LyondellBasell Co. for HS projects.

* Approved a $400 donation from Tuscola FFA Alumni for FFA National Convention meals 

* Approved the minutes from the October 25, 2021 regular meeting.

* Approved the payment of bills in the amount of $1,286,883.23.

* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookkeepers Reports. 

* Was reminded that the December board meeting had been moved to December 16. 

* Approved moving to closed session for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (1) -Personnel, 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (2)- Collective Negotiating Matters, 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (9)- Student Discipline, 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (11)- Pending Litigation.

* Adjourned until the December meeting.

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