Litchfield Board Approves Annual Levy

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“Our levy will remain constant for the coming year,” said Litchfield Superintendent Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau.

Members of the Litchfield School Board held their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, Nov. 16, at Litchfield High School, with board members Gregg Hires and David Belusko absent.

As part of their regular business, the board unanimously approved the preliminary tax levy in the amount of $6.1 million.

Dr. Fuerstenau told the board the EAV (equalized assessed value) of property in the district was expected to increase $4.4 million, which is a nearly 3 percent increase over the previous year. In addition, there is $1 million in new construction projects.

The superintendent said the district falls under the 5 percent increase in their levy, so a truth in taxation hearing will not be required.

“The good news is that we have been able to remain constant under these circumstances,” said Dr. Fuerstenau.

The levy will now be on display in the unit office for 30 days, and will be officially approved at the December board meeting.

Other Business

In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution to adopt the Teachers’ Retirement System of the state of Illinois supplement savings plan. Dr. Fuerstenau said the district is required by state law to offer the program to district teachers, but it’s up to individual teachers to decide if they want to participate.

The board also unanimously approved two motions involving a construction project at the Illinois National Guard Armory. The board approved a right-of-way for public construction, as well as a temporary construction easement with the state of Illinois, Department of Military Affairs.

Building and Grounds Coordinator Bob Witter said these motions are part of a multi-phase upgrade to the Armory’s facility, beginning with the parking lot and drainage area.

During the consent agenda, Dr. Fuerstenau said things were moving right along as the board approved minutes from the previous meeting, monthly bills and the treasurer’s report. The board approved payment of $462,304.25 in bills for the month of November, including $330,502.55 from the education fund, $32,240.88 from operations and maintenance, $37,898.67 from transportation, $56,059.21 from capital projects and $5,603.44 from tort immunity.

In his treasurer’s report, Dr. Fuerstenau reported the ending balance of all funds is $31 million, as of Oct. 31. That includes $9.1 million in operating funds, $12.5 million in capital projects and $7.7 million in health-life-safety.

Citizens’ Agenda

The board heard several presentations as part of this month’s Citizens’ Agenda.

LHS Principal Juletta Ellis and guidance counselor Karen Cress recognized this year’s Illinois State Scholars, which are selected each year by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Four of this year’s recipients and their families attended the meeting. This year’s Illinois State Scholars are Julia Bader, Brady Davidson, Carly Guinn, Isabelle Murphy, Ryan Baugher, Kylee Eiting, Rylie Hester, Emma Reid, Cameron Crow, Audrey Fischer, Spencer Hoehl, Allen Schneider and Colby Wygal.

Up next was the husband and wife team of Dan and Abby Carlson, who made a 15-minute presentation on the district’s new essential skills class for high school juniors. Abby said they have joined it with the state-required nine-week consumer education class.

The semester-long essential skills class focuses on career exploration, college planning and teaching students soft skills. Dan, who is a social studies teacher at LHS, does the consumer education part, focusing on real world applications. They use a program called Next Gen Personal Finance.

“There really is a huge spark among our student population,” Dan said. “Students are using it and applying it to their every day lives.”

The required class will then lead students into the senior seminar program.

Board member Val Cain asked if dual credit class information was presented ahead of their junior year, and Abby Carlson said representatives from Lincoln Land Community College visit both eighth grade and freshman students to offer that opportunity.

Cain also asked about students not on a college pathway, and Dan Carlson said they focus a lot on presenting information about careers and college to students. In celebration of Veterans Day, he said they discussed careers in the military.

Board President Julie Abel asked if they would be able to bring in community members to help with the program, and Abby Carlson said yes, just not in the pandemic. Abel added that it will be interesting to see in a few years how this new class impacts students on their journeys.

Following the Carlsons, Candace Mazza made a 15-minute presentation on her job as the family engagement coordinator, which is a position funded through a grant from the 708 Board (Montgomery County Mental Health).

Mazza talked to the board about her job, which is to engage families with the school district. She said originally her title was “parent engagement coordinator,” but she asked it be changed to “family” as a way to recognize that there are many people raising children in the district.

“My goal is to create support and strengthen the program that promotes family engagement,” Mazza said. “The more involved parents are in their student’s lives, the better the student does in school.”

She highlighted a successful back-to-school program, in partnership with the Litchfield Ministerial Alliance, the Litchfield Public Library and more. They served about 100 families ahead of the start of the school year, with plans to do it again next year.

Mazza said it’s been tough to engage families during the pandemic, but she’s working with the library on a monthly art show. In addition to family engagement, it also introduces families to the library’s services.

Board member Mike Fleming told Mazza she has done an excellent job, and Abel added it’s a great program for the community. She has also started a Facebook page to send out information at Office of Family Engagement LCUSD #12.

Information Items

Under information items, Dr. Fuerstenau presented each of the board members with a certificate of thanks for their service and chocolate in honor of School Board Member Day.

In his enrollment report, Dr. Fuerstenau said the district has a current total of 1,152.

He added that parent-teacher conferences were a big success, and many parents were glad they could be in person.

In administrator reports, Sihler and Madison Park Principal Adam Favre highlighted some of their recent events, including a character parade at Madison Park and Buddy Day in pre-K. Abel said she appreciated all the Facebook posts and photos to keep the community informed about the district.

He reported 110 parent teacher conferences for pre-K, 142 at Madison Park, 213 at Colt and 153 at Russell.

In her report, LHS Principal Juletta Ellis highlighted the community Veterans Day program, put together by the Student Council. She had high praise for the boys cross country team who went to state, where Cam Quarton finished in the top 25, as well as the girls volleyball team, who played for a regional title this year.

Ellis said they have been working with student and teacher surveys to help update the school’s course catalog. In a final note, she said the district applied for a Mental Mindfulness grant.

Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Thompson said they are going full force with the new math curriculum and have most of the kinks worked out.

She said they are working on some big grants, as well as Title 1 nights. Thompson said the one for Halloween allowed  brief in-person visits, which was nice. For the winter months, they are planning a reading log.

“We just have a lot of good things going on in our district,” said Dr. Fuerstenau.

He added that 19 high school students and six middle school students were selected for ILMEA’s district music festival. In addition, he thanked retired music teacher Patrice Corso for filling in with the high school band during the maternity leave of teacher Cassie Lord-Remmert-McKorkle.

Dr. Fuerstenau also gave an update on the State Street elementary school project. The pre-cast concrete is done, and they are waiting on a release date for the steel. Ameren is back-filling their portion of the project. Dr. Fuerstenau said they also qualified for an Ameren incentive grant for inside and outside lighting on the project.

Personnel

The board did not meet in closed session this month, prior to approving the personnel report. All personnel motions were approved unanimously.

The board hired Olivia Jones as a high school teacher, starting on Jan. 3. They also approved family medical leave for high schoool teacher Mark Hunt, starting Nov. 15.

The board accepted the resignation of bus driver Roberta Williams, effective Nov. 5. They also approved the reassignment of bus driver Jeanne Gebhardt from the star bus route to the heart bus route, beginning Jan. 4. The board hired Renee Melchert as a bus driver, effective Nov. 29, and she will take the star route starting Jan. 4.

The meeting adjourned at 7:11 p.m. Board members will meet again on Thursday, Dec. 16, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Radius Room at Litchfield High School. Typically the meeting is held on the third Tuesday of each month, but was moved in December due to Christmas break.

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