Graduation Honors Remain At Lincolnwood

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The valedictorian and salutatorian honors aren’t going anywhere at Lincolnwood High School for now, but discussion regarding accolades at graduation may result in some changes to weighted classes in Raymond.

After hearing from students in favor of and against moving to a Latin honor system instead of the valedictorian and salutatorian honors, the Panhandle School Board made the decision to keep the current system during their meeting on Monday evening, Dec. 14.

Superintendent Aaron Hopper was quick to commend the students who made the presentations last month, saying that the discussion was a robust, but civil conversation with mutual respect for opposing views.

Hopper said that it was his recommendation to keep the valedictorian and salutatorian honors and that he believed Lincolnwood was doing a good job at being inclusive during graduation.

Currently, according to Hopper, in addition to the valedictorian and salutatorian honors, students who are in National Honor Society are given white stoles and students with a 4.25 grade point average or higher receive gold honor chords. 

Hopper said that most schools that use the Latin system set the threshold for its highest honor at a grade point average of 4.5 or higher. This would bring the number of “honor grads” (those who received gold chords) down from 13 to nine in 2020, and would honor an average of three fewer students per year from 2015 to 2019.

Hopper said that he did think that there was merit to re-evaluating the school’s weighted classes, specifically some of the dual credit classes the district now offers.

Lincolnwood Principal Ken Schuster agreed with Hopper, saying that due to staff and curriculum changes, there could be some classes that could be designated as weighted. 

Board member Gabe Pope asked if the weighted courses had been re-evaluated recently. Hopper said that they had been the same since he came to the district, with board member and former teacher Linda Brown saying that she believed they had not changed in 20 to 25 years.

Brown also said that she believed the courses were weighted at the time based on the rigor of the courses and that dual credit courses should be weighted as they are more on par with college courses.

Board member Dana Pitchford asked if there was any board policy to determine what classes are weighted and asked if this is something that needs to be looked at on a year-to-year basis.

Hopper said that there were no national or state requirements and was a local decision. He added that the board could develop guidelines within curriculum policy.

Pitchford also said that it might be a good idea to make sure that the parents understand the information on weighted classes a little better, beyond emailing the course catalog.

Schuster said he believed the next prudent step is looking at what weighted courses should look like, including input from the school’s leadership team, a  parent and a  board member or two and report to back to the full board.

In other business, the board approved the 2020 tax levy, with a truth in taxation hearing held before the regular board meeting, and transferred $69,175 from the school facility occupation tax fund to the bond and interest fund to abate taxes in 2020.

Hopper said over the last 36 months, the district has received an average of $26,000 a month from the capital sales tax and that number has only dipped slightly this year to $24,000 per month. The bond abated by the sales tax is for the 2019 bond for the roof project, with both that bond and a 2012 bond slated to be paid in full in 2027.

The board also approved the 2021 graduation date for May 21, 2021, with contingencies planned for an indoor and an outdoor ceremony; approved the second reading of board policies and approved the consent agenda, which included of bills, disbursements and the treasurer’s report.

In his building update, Hopper said that frames had been added to the Hall of Champions at Lincolnwood and several old filing cabinets had been hauled off during cleaning of storage areas by the janitorial staff. Hopper said that he and Transportation Coordinator Jason Wagahoff had contacted three companies for a survey of the Lincolnwood parking lot, which has issues with lighting and drainage.

Board member Scott Cowdrey, an architect, said that the goal of the project is to get the parking lot to drain properly so the current problem areas don’t persist. He recommended having a civil engineer do a drainage plan.

Hopper said that he will continue with the project in hopes of getting the engineering work completed by February, so the project may be finished in the summer of 2021. He added that the school has received grant money to help pay for the project.

In curriculum news, Hopper said that the district’s committee spoke about the elementary language arts program and would do so again on Dec. 16 and bring their findings back to the board in January. Hopper has also continued work with area schools regarding agriculture opportunities with the Danforth Center in St. Louis. He and ag teacher Monty Elvidge will also be meeting with the Illinois 4-H association, which is looking to bring a program, FarmBot, to Illinois schools.

The board also discussed the reorganization possibilities with Morrisonville, with Hopper and Dana Pitchford among the group that met with Morrisonville representatives virtually in December. 

Pitchford said the group heard the pros and cons of deactivation and consolidation, with many members of the group leaning more toward deactivation. She added that when the group meets virtually again in January, the focus will be on curriculum, as in what the schools offer, what they have staff capable of offering and what they would like to offer in the future.

Cowdrey said that he would like to know what the schools are gaining with the reorganization. Pitchford said curriculum seems to be the biggest benefit and that there may not be a large amount of different classes offered, there may be multiple sections of current classes.

Hopper said that before the school deactivation went to the voters, a memorandum of understanding would have to be done by both boards. This memo would have to be re-evaluated every so often to determine if the district’s needs have changed.

The board would enter closed session at 7:55 p.m. After 28 minutes in closed session, the board approved the resignation of Jan Wagner as Preschool For All parent coordinator and the hiring of Joseph McWard as volunteer assistant boys basketball coach. They will meet next on Monday, Jan. 11, at Lincolnwood High School and virtually via Webex.

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