A Regular Session of the Board of Education and Closed Committee of the Whole Meeting have been scheduled for Monday, January 22. The Regular Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Committee of the Whole meeting will take place at the conclusion of the session. The meetings will take place at the District Office, 841 West End Court, Vernon Hills, IL. 60061.
District Superintendent Nick Brown provided an update on the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. He said that the project is now in the design development phase. More information will be brought to the Board at the January 22 meeting. He said the presentation to the Village of Vernon Hills went smoothly. There is initial support from the Cook Memorial Library District, Village and Park District for creating an access drive to the kindergarten school from Phillip Road, which would address traffic concerns, but details are still being worked out.
Administration is working on the 2018-2019 school calendar. The goal is to closely mirror the Vernon Hills High School and other local high school calendars so that families with children in the District and in high school can generally follow the same break/holiday schedules. The Board will take action on the calendar in January.
Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, provided a recap of a presentation by Elizabeth Hennessy from Raymond James on the District’s outstanding debt, which took place at the November 27 Board of Education meeting. He reviewed the 10-year, 15-year and 20-year options. Administration recommends the 10-year option, which has the least amount of interest and fees, and would generate $1.4 million. Funds could be put toward capital improvements and/or equipment. The topic will be discussed again in June with a possible refunding in October of 2018.
Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, and Hawthorn’s elementary school principals, Bill Fredricksen, Kathryn Waggoner, Dr. Jill Martin, Dr. James Tohme, and Dr. Victoria Kieffer, gave a presentation on student achievement at the elementary school level. Overall, Hawthorn’s elementary schools continue to outperform the state on PARCC, but LEP, IEP and low-income students continue to struggle in reading and math achievement. The principals discussed several action steps for improvement, which included:
• Focus on study of culturally responsive instructional practices, inclusion, personalized learning and goal setting
• Guaranteed Viable Curriculum—common summative and formative performance assessments
• Social Emotional Learning
• Support from the Regional Office of Education and surrounding districts
• Full day kindergarten for all
• Early Release Days for professional development
• Added technology at all grades
• Professional Learning Community development
Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP)
Board President Sonali Patil led the group in a discussion on prioritized needs and outreach. DLR Group Principal Jason Lembke was present to answer questions. Board members discussed what EFMP projects needed to be prioritized in the event the school pursues another referendum. There was general agreement that the middle schools should be a focal point, as these schools are out of space and will receive no relief from the building of the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. In terms of outreach, Board members discussed the need for more community engagement if a future referendum campaign is launched.
During the Business Meeting, the Board approved administration’s recommendation to maintain the student fees for the 2018-2019 school year at the current 2017-2018 level, with the exception of the lunch meals. Lunch meals will increase by 10 cents from $2.80 to $2.90 in accordance with guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” provision.
A Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, December 11, at 7 p.m. at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.
Elizabeth Hennessy from Raymond James provided an overview on the District’s outstanding debt. Two of the four bonds are callable in January of 2019. This includes $15,645,000 for the 2009A Series and $2,905,000 for the 2009B Series. By refunding the Series 2009A bonds, the total savings could be $1,604,250 or net present value savings of $1,391,065. By refunding the Series 2009B bonds, the total savings could be $605,520 or net present value savings of $325,664. Ms. Hennessy also provided a 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year option for additional DSEB bonds. Option I, which includes new money and refunding keeps the final maturity at 2028, which is the final maturity of the current non-referendum debt. Options II and III would result in an extension of the debt service extension base beyond the current final maturity and increase the annual payment amount by the consumer price index annually. The 10-year option would generate $1.4M, the 15-year option would generate $3.3M, and the 20-year option would generate $5.3M. All of these options in conjunction with the refunding would result in net savings.
Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Robert Collins, Principal of Middle School North, and Robert Natale, Principal of Middle School South, gave a presentation on student achievement at the middle school level. Dr. Leali said the District focuses on a whole child approach to education. She emphasized the importance of creating a school environment in which children want to come to school. Wanting to come to school plays a significant role in student achievement.
In terms of tests, she said the District continues to outperform the state on the PARCC test. In 2017, Middle School South was at the 86th percentile and Middle School North was at the 83rd percentile for English/Language Arts and Math combined compared to public schools statewide. In addition to state tests, all students set personal goals, which are measured. Last year, 83 percent of middle school students met their goals. However, the District continues to see achievement gaps among Hispanic, low-income and Special Education students.
She spoke briefly about English Language Learners (ELL). The District traditionally transitions about 25% of ELL students out of its services. But because state standards changed, the District only transitioned 10% of ELLs out of services last year.
Both principals, Robert Natale and Robert Collins, spoke about the high rate (85 percent) of middle school students who are engaged in extracurricular activities. The “activity bus” has made it far easier for students to participate in afterschool programs. They spoke about the environments of their schools where emphasis is placed on students feeling at home.
District Superintendent Nick Brown reported on the results of a staff assessment performed by HUMANeX to help gauge the District’s climate and culture. He was pleased that the number of staff participating in the survey increased from 282 in 2015 to 433 in 2017. He was also pleased that the percentage of staff who reported they were highly satisfied and engaged in their jobs was 75.75%. The industry standard is about 65%.
Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, gave a brief report on 2018-2019 student fees. The District’s recommendation is that the student fees stay the same as last year, with the small exception of the lunch meals, which would increase by 10 cents. The small increase in the lunch fee is due to the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” provision that went into effect on July 1, 2011. The provision is part of the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide the same level of support for lunches served to those students that are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches as they are for those eligible for free lunches. This disclaimer takes the price increase off the shoulders of the district. The 2018-2019 student fees will be an action item on the December 11 agenda.
Board President Sonali Patil led a discussion about the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP), the 10-year plan to address the short and long-term needs of the District. She said that the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center will provide some temporary relief for the significant space limitations experienced by the elementary schools, but it will provide no relief for the middle schools. She asked the board members for their thoughts on the District’s next steps. The board members were in agreement that space limitations were a significant problem that needed to be addressed. There was general agreement that the space limitations at the middle schools should be prioritized. The discussion will continue at the next meeting.
The meeting began with a presentation on preschool programming by Renee Ullberg, Director of Special Services, Carol Bennett, Principal of the Lincoln Early Learning Center, and several of the school’s teachers. They provided an overview of what the Early Childhood and Preschool programming entails. They also provided a colorful visual presentation of what a typical day looks like at the Center.
Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, introduced the new Facilities Manager Michael Christensen. He will start on December 4. He replaces James Staples who is retiring after 38 years of service with the District.
Mr. Singh presented a brief summary of the 2017 Tax Levy. He said the prior year’s total extension was $49,212,457. The levy for this year is $51,722,542. The projected estimated extension is $50,965,094. After a public hearing, in which no members of the public made comments, the Board approved the 2017 Tax Levy during the Business Meeting.
The renewal of Lakeside Transportation’s contract for student busing was also discussed. It was agreed that Hawthorn will go out to bid this year since Lakeside Transportation is asking for a significant increase in payment. Hawthorn partners with districts 70 and 128 for busing. It will work collaboratively with these districts to go out for bid in mid-January.
The Board discussed placement options for the students moving into several new subdivisions, including the Residences of Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms. The District’s administration had recommended that students from the Cuneo project attend Elementary North and Middle School North, and that students from Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms attend Aspen and Middle School South. During the Business Meeting, the Board approved the administration’s recommendations.
Another topic of discussion was the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. The Board had already approved the schematic design for the building. Board members will be presenting the design to the Village of Vernon Hills on November 28. Traffic is a main concern. Superintendent Nick Brown will be meeting with library and village officials on this issue in the near future. Looking ahead, Board President Sonali Patil said the center will be able to accommodate the continuously growing kindergarten enrollment until 2025/26. Space has been allocated for an additional section to be constructed when the building runs out of space.
The Board discussed next steps regarding the Educational Facilities Master Plan. President Patil said that while the previous referendum failed, the need is still there. The kindergarten center will provide some temporary relief to the elementary schools, but no relief to the middle schools. She said the EFMP survey results indicated that some of the reasons the previous referendum failed were because community members believed the asking price was too high and that separate STEM centers were unnecessary. The next date to put a referendum on the ballot is March 2018. The deadline to submit the referendum question is January 2, 2018. Board members agreed that those dates did not allow enough time to educate the public about the District’s plans. The Board agreed that the November 2018 election would be a better time to put a referendum on the ballot than March 2018.
November 15 marks the ninth statewide observance of School Board Member Day in Illinois. This is an opportunity for Hawthorn 73 and the community to thank school board members for their commitment in providing a local government voice for your education decisions.
School board members do more than just attend meetings, they devote a significant amount of their own personal time to Hawthorn 73. The leadership exemplified by board members directly impacts the school district, students and parents, but it touches the lives of nearly every resident in one way or another.
A Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, November 13, at 7 p.m. at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.
Dr. James Tohme, Principal of the School of Dual Language, and a group of students gave an interactive presentation called “Learning the Dual Way” at the October 23 Board of Education meeting. Students gave an example of a lesson taught in Spanish and received enthusiastic applause.
The presentation was followed by a discussion about the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. Representatives from DLR Group, LAMP Incorporated, and Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, responded to board members’ questions about the design. The discussion included the flexibility of the design, potential cost savings in the design development phase and student teacher ratios. The building is designed with 18 classroom spaces and four maker spaces that can be used as classrooms to accommodate future growth. The design allows for lower than 25:1 ratios using 16 classrooms using the last three years’ average of kindergarten enrollment. The studio spaces are classroom spaces used for art and activity spaces for kindergarteners until enrollment grows to the level where those spaces are needed for general education classrooms. The representatives explained that the building featured several rooms that could easily be used as classrooms allowing for growth and possible lower student teacher ratios should the board decide to make that investment in additional teachers. The design, which had been created with the input and support of kindergarten teachers, meets the board guidance of:
- Teacher ratios below 25:1
- The ability to be a two-story building
- Not to worry about the wetland on the site
- Space for additions in the future if needed
- Make the building as flexible as possible for future use
- Dedicated space for small group instruction
- Sufficient outdoor play/facility area
- Discussion of traditional vs pre-fab construction
These guidelines were provided at the June 12, 2017 school board meeting before the design phase began. The board also discussed reviewing research on student teacher ratios.
Additionally, the representatives said there is room for another section of classrooms to be added to address population challenges in years to come. The Board approved (5 to 2) the schematic design for the new school.
Superintendent Nick Brown discussed placement options for the students moving into several new subdivisions, including the Residences of Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms. Mr. Brown reiterated his earlier recommendation that the students from the Cuneo project attend Elementary North and Middle School North. He explained that both Middle School North and Middle School South are full and lack space, but Middle School North can use space at John Powers. He recommended that students of Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms attend Aspen and Middle School South. The board asked to see how these placements would affect demographics at the schools before they vote on this issue.
Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, gave a presentation on the proposed 2017 Tax Levy, which must be filed with the county by the fourth Tuesday of December. The levy for 2017 proposes a 4.95% increase, equal to a request of $2,074,124 over the 2017 extension. The total levy request for 2017 is $43,976,241, with a probable estimated extension of $43,123,571. While the district is asking for this amount, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) limits the increase in property tax extension to 5% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. The 2016 CPI was 2.1%. The levy calculations are based on the consumer price index, new construction, levy adjustment and equalized assessed valuation. The levy is an action item to be voted on at the 11/13 board meeting.
Mr. Singh also spoke about the renewal of Lakeside Transportation’s contract. He said that the bus company’s proposal asks for an estimated $333,000 increase over last year. Mr. Singh said that he would meet with the school districts Hawthorn partners with for bus service to obtain their feedback and then come back to the board.
The discussion on the Educational Facilities Master Plan survey was tabled due to lack of time. The board will hold a special meeting to address the survey.
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