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Tuscola BOE listens to new LIFT Program presentation

By Kendra Hennis 
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 7 p.m. with all members present. 

The meeting began with a presentation from McClain Schaefer on the new LIFT (Leaders Innovating for Tomorrow) Program coming to Mattoon in Fall 2022 that Tuscola students are invited to participate in. LIFT will be located in the former Consolidated Communications Building at 121 S. 17th Street. LIFT is designed to be “a place where students will gain life-ready skills in the area of leadership and career-specific certificates, accreditations, and college credits” and will hopefully eventually serve as a “regional technology and innovation center.” Schaefer explained that the facility hoped to provide students to become successful and that it was developed with local workforce development programs. LIFT will have six floors full of programs including childcare, technology, HVAC/Green Energy, construction trades, a Leadership Institute, and a fully-functional rooftop restaurant run by students. He said that things are on track for a fall open with courses determined, staff mostly hired, funds approved, and remodel beginning. He noted that he has been working with the schools and presenting to school boards with the plans to present to students soon and enroll them by February. Schaefer explained that “the programs are not looking to replace what the school already has, just supplement it and increase opportunities.” The board thanked him for coming to the meeting to explain the program and noted that they would have specifics to discuss at future meetings such as costs, transportation, and requirements for students.

The board then approved the consent agenda, and moved to principals’ reports. East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll began with a shout out to Mr. Cowsert and Ms. Church for the wonderful Christmas program. He said that it was great and that he was happy to be able to offer it for students this year. He then thanked the substitute teachers for their great group work over the semester. Vanausdoll also thanked all who helped with hosting the eighth grade girls sectionals and seventh and eight grade regionals, and noted that the school would be hosting boys basketball conference and regional tournaments as well. He stated that the EP Spelling Bee will be held on January 18, with regionals to be held on January 26 at Yoder’s. Vanausdoll ended by thanking the Jets and Woman’s Club members for coming in and singing Christmas Carols during lunch, noting it was one of the most fun school lunches he’s had. 

TCHS Principal Steve Fiscus followed, beginning by thanking McClain for presenting to the board, and noting that it was going to be a great opportunity for students. He then thanked the substitute teachers for being so helpful this semester. He congratulated Mrs. Christy Hoel for maintaining her National Board of Certification, and echoed thank you’s to Ms. Church and Mr. Cowsert for the great Christmas concert. Fiscus thanked ADM and Austin Apgar for their donation to TCHS FFA. He recognized first semester Breakfast Club recipients for all of their hard work, and thanked the teachers and school board members for their assistance with the last home Scholastic Bowl meet. He then congratulated early graduates and wished them good luck in their future. Fiscus ended by noting that the Scholastic Bowl conference will be held on January 9 and that the school is hosting girls basketball Conference tournaments and sectionals. 

North Ward Principal Jason Wallace was attending the Christmas Concerts, so his report was read by Superintendent Gary Alexander. He thanked the PTO for the staff lunch, noted that the PBIS quarterly celebrations were completed at the school, and thanked the staff at North Ward for being so great this semester. 

Superintendent Alexander then reported to the board that the sales tax and corporate money were on track for the year. He noted that he had attached the Risk Management Plan in their packet for them to read over and approve in January. Alexander announced that the jeans charity at the school had raised $1,690 this year that would later be donated, and thanked the staff for their efforts. He noted that the maintenance grant had been approved with hopes to use the money for electrical upgrades at the high school, and that the leaking at North Ward had been fixed and new caulking that will be fixed this summer. 

The board also:
* Approved the donation of an ag plot in the amount of $14,669.43 from ADM and Austin Apgar for the FFA.

* Approved the 2021 Tax Levy. Alexander explained that the levy was the same as that presented in November. 

* Approved the minutes from the November 22 board retreat, hearing, and regular meeting.

* Approved the payment of bills. 

* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookkeepers Report. 

* Approved the transfer of $5,000 from Working Cash to the Capital Project Fund. 

* Approved and congratulated the early graduates for December 2021, which includes: Kristen Burden, Caleb Kerner, Nicholas Lanter, Abigail Petty, Carlie Seip, Cory Smith, Madison White, and Reagan Wyrich.

* Heard the first reading of the Administrative Policy and Procedures Revision 108.

* Approved a contract with Watts for district copiers. 

* Approved moving to closed session at 8:05 p.m. 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) (9)-Student Discipline. 

* Approved the resignations of paraprofessional Shannon Bishop and Ashley Todd.

* Approved the hiring of Stephen Massey as paraprofessional at East Prairie. 

* Adjourned until the December Board of Education meeting.

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