Litchfield Board Approves Audit, Wrestling Co-Op

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It was a fairly routine night for members of the Litchfield School Board who unanimously approved the yearly audit as well as a co-op with Mt. Olive High School for wrestling.

Board member Valerie Cain was absent from the monthly meeting, held Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, at Litchfield High School.

Robyn Klinger and LHS alumnus Katelin Feldmann of Scheffel Boyle made the annual audit presentation to the board. Klinger told the board the district received as clean an opinion as they can offer for the fiscal year which ended June 30. She added that in looking at oversight, the district also scored high due to using Patton and Associates to help ensure the audit is correct.

Klinger also talked about two federal grant programs, child nutrition and ESSER funding. Both had clean opinions, but Klinger suggested the district keep better track of the meals served to students. She said plans were already in place to work on that. In terms of ESSER funding, she said the district needed to expend money from the same line it was appropriated from for better tracking.

In making her report, Feldmann thanked the district’s business manger, Della Witter, and other staff for their help in providing information for the audit. 

Feldmann noted some changes over last year’s budget, including the addition of ESSER funds to the education fund, as well as three new bonds issued by the district for working cash, health life safety and capital projects. Two of those new bonds will be used for the elementary school building project on State Street.

Feldmann said that the district’s average daily attendance had dropped over last year’s audit, and they had seen a rise in the per capita expense, now at $1,411 per student. Klinger said their firm works with more than 30 school districts in the area and those were both common trends.

The district received “recognition” status, which is the highest rank they can earn for the audit. In the company’s management letter, they encouraged the district to continue to work on tracking student activity funds.

Before leaving, Kligner reminded board members they issued $20 million in bonds last year for school improvement projects and that board members are the “eyes and the ears” to make sure that money is spent correctly.

Board member Mike Fleming asked about the unfunded pension liability, which is usually included in the audit. Klinger said it’s still around $40 million. Several years ago, that figure started to be included in district audits when the state was talking about switching teacher pensions to local government.

Approval of the audit passed unanimously.

Other Business

In addition to the audit, the board unanimously approved a co-op for the high school wrestling program with Mt. Olive High School for two years starting this season. LHS Athletic Director Dan Stewart said the district was approached about the co-op by Mt. Olive, who hope to send a  few kids to wrestle at Litchfield.

“I talked with the coach (Chance Davidson), and he was all in,” Stewart said. “He loves to give kids the opportunity that they may not otherwise have had.”

The Litchfield board approved the co-op unanimously, and it moved to the Mt. Olive School Board on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

In a final motion of new business, board members unanimously approved participation in a federal surplus program. Superintendent Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau said it could help them purchase items for the agriculture or shop classes. 

Board members also unanimously approved the consent agenda, including payment of monthly bills and the treasurer’s report. The board approved a total of $308,956.77 in bills, including $223,154.08 from the education fund, $44,268.46 from operations and maintenance, $39,960.79 from transportation and $1,573.44 from tort. Dr. Fuerstneau said the bills were a little higher in September as the new teacher salaries started on Sept. 1. 

In the treasurer’s report, the district has $30.7 million in all funds as of Sept. 30. That figure includes $8.8 million in operating funds and $12.4 million in capital projects. Dr. Fuerstneau said the budget is tracking properly for this time of the school year. He said the district has received an additional $90,000 this year from the 1 percent sales tax. State funding continues to come through, and the district is working on the latest application for federal ESSER funding. In a final note, Dr. Fuerstenau said the district is working to transition from air conditioning to heat. He said the last bills were a little higher due to the warm fall and running the air conditioning most of October.

Information Items

Dr. Fuerstenau said there was not much change in the monthly enrollment report with kids coming and going.

He introduced Charles Dykema of OPAA Foods for a report on the district’s food service. Dr. Fuerstenau said they are tracking meals, which are still provided free of charge to all students who want them. He had high praise for Dykema for working on supply chain issues to make sure Litchfield had what it needed.

In administrator reports, LHS Principal Juletta Ellis said they have begun to post weekly celebrations from the school on the district’s Facebook page. She highlighted the volleyball team raising $3,300 at Dig for the Cure and Carly Guinn for representing the school at the state golf tournament. Ellis said they continue to work with staff in impact training.

Board President Julie Abel asked about the new freshman program. LHS Assistant Principal Hillary Wagenblast said they had another event on Oct. 7, which was well attended. She has also begun a “freshman conversation” program to reach out to all students in the freshman class.

Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Thompson said they had a full-day in-service on the new math curriculum, which is up and running and going pretty well.

At Colt and Russell schools, Principal Jeremy Heigert said they had a big response for parent-teacher conferences, which are next week. He highlighted a Panther Attendance Program, designed to get students to school more regularly and the Russell House Cup program, which focuses on good behavior throughout the school. Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated throughout the district the week of Oct. 26.

At Sihler and Madison Park, Principal Adam Favre said they will join in Red Ribbon Week activities, culminating with a storybook character day on Oct. 29, and trick or treating from room to room. He said staff continues to work with the Capturing Kids Hearts training on interacting with kids.

Favre also said he plans to introduce the board to Candi Mazza, the parent engagement coordinator. Her position is funded each year through a grant from the Montgomery County 708 Board. In a final note, Favre said the district once again received a Duff Grant to help with technology in the district.

In his superintendent’s report, Dr. Fuerstenau said the administration responded to two FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. He also honored board member Mike Fleming for earning the status of “master board member” with the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Dr. Fuerstenau said Ameren has begun site work at the new elementary school property. The board scheduled an official ground breaking for the project on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 5:45 p.m.

Dr. Fuerstenau said the district continues to work on mental health efforts as resources for parents. 

He reminded the board they will be discussing transportation issues soon, as it’s been four years since they purchased new buses. At the November board meeting, Dr. Fuerstenau said board members would meet Mazza, as well as Dan and Abby Carlson, who will make a presentation on the essential skills class.

Personnel

The board did not go into closed session on Tuesday night before approving personnel matters. All items were approved unanimously.

The board approved family medical leave for custodian Frank Walden for eight weeks, starting Sept. 23, and special education teacher Megan Becker from Sept. 24 through Oct. 19.

They hired Jaime Holbert as a special education classroom aide.

In sports, they hired Brooke Roemelin as interim middle school volleyball coach, Dale Volentine as freshmen boys basketball coach, Carter Powell as assistant middle school wrestling coach and Abby Frerichs as volunteer to the girls basketball program.

The board voted to adjourn at 7:03 p.m. Members of the Litchfield School Board will meet again on Tuesday evening, Nov. 16, beginning at 6 p.m. at Litchfield High School.

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