President Chad Ruppert called the Nov. 17 meeting of the Nokomis School Board to order with all seven board members along with Superintendent Doerr, principals Reedy, McDowell, and assistant principal McDonald present along with several guests. As many as 18 connections with the meeting were made via Google Meets, although the normally reliable audio was poor and it was lost for an extended period shortly into the meeting.
In his report to the board, Dr. Scott Doerr stated that the State of Illinois owed the Nokomis School District $29,093.09 mostly for Early Childhood program payments. He said that since the Progressive Tax had failed in the election, the governor is calling for a five percent reduction across the board in the state budget, including education, because “nothing is off the table.” However, the state cannot cut federally supported programs, their debt payments, or pension payments, which make up the bulk of the budget, so most of the cuts will have to come from human services and education. Doerr believes Pritzker will wait until January and potential COVID relief action in Congress.
Short of that help, the Governor is calling for an additional 10 percent cut in state funding for FY22. Later in the “new business” portion of the meeting, Doerr reported to the board a tentative tax levy for 2020, payable in 2021, for the FY22 budget. At this point Montgomery County has indicated a 4.24 percent raise in EAV, while Christian County is estimating an 8.31 percent increase. Fayette County has no estimate.
Doerr relayed that the FY20 audit is still not complete. ISBE has not provided auditors with all of the information needed this year regarding federal CARES money received, therefore, ISBE has given all districts an extension to complete the audit. Doerr said he hoped to have it by the December meeting, as the district’s bonding agents were needing copies of it.
Doerr also reported that the regional office of education had conducted their Health/Life Safety inspection last week and in his opinion it had gone well, with a small list of violations or needed updates. The most notable items were as follows: South School needs to clear pathway for egress in the boiler room, the North School fire escape needs professional testing and classroom 143 had more than 25 percent of flammable material on classroom walls.
There were no violations at the junior high, and at the high school the stage curtain did not have a flammable tag on it, fire escape needs testing, and room #101A needs glass in the door.
Dr. Doerr reported relative information from the District Report Cards. Some of the key grades from the Nokomis tests at the junior high and senior high included 39 percent passed eighth grade Algebra I versus the state average of 30.8 percent for those tested; 97.8 percent of ninth graders are on track to graduate versus a state average of 88.8 percent. The current graduation rate is 94 percent, and 36.6 percent of seniors are taking college courses. There was a 96 percent student attendance rate. At this level, the district showed an 84 percent teacher retention rate and 79 percent teacher attendance rate. Some results with respect to the elementary level showed a 96 percent student attendance rate there also and 81 percent teacher retention rate, with a 79 percent teacher attendance rate. Doerr said the junior/senior high school had been marked as “Commendable” and the North elementary school as “Targeted,” referring to a target population that is special education.
Doerr reported that Mrs. Ambrose, the library aide, completed a grant with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Library Division and a $4,500 grant was awarded. She will be working with teachers and principals to begin ordering books for all three libraries.
He also reported of one Freedom of Information Act request from Vince Espi of LocalLabs regarding information related to contracts for professional development and guest speakers. A response was provided the next day with only contract issues from the regional office and Capturing Kids Hearts.
Last in his report, Doerr reported problems with the computerized HVAC system. They will be meeting with Honeywell to attempt to find a solution to the problem. He felt the main issue was the fact the program was running on Windows 95, which is now an unsupported platform.
Later the board would focus discussion on the possibility of winter sports being held. Doerr kicked off this discussion by reporting to the board that at 2:30 that afternoon the Governor had moved the entire state into Phase 4, Tier 3 Mitigations effective Friday, Nov. 20. The two major implications for schools to come out of this is that all school board meetings can host up to ten persons, including board members, causing meetings to be held remotely; and all sports are suspended until further notice. He said the IHSA then sent out a press release that evening suspending all winter sports until further notice. Doerr said IHSA is planning to meet later, but the governor’s office and IDPH had indicated they would not attend the meeting.
Coaches Engelman and DeWerff reported on the possibility of playing basketball this year. No one present voiced any opposition or disagreement to their comments. The board was in favor of moving ahead with winter sports in any way possible that did not violate IHSA/IDPH protocols. The discussion revealed that other local districts were having similar conversations and that Montgomery County did have one of the lowest positivity rates in the region; perhaps an abbreviated local schedule could be played.
Ruppert said he felt, “If we can stay clean after Thanksgiving, maybe we will have a pretty good chance of doing something in January.”
Doerr refocused the discussion and echoed that sentiment by saying, “We are hoping–trying to be optimistic that something can happen in January. We just have to wait and be ready.”
Jim Eisenbarth then made a motion to table the resolution to play winter sports until the December meeting. The motion was seconded by Janssen and passed on a 5-2 vote with Ruppert and Ben Tarter voting against.
Gasparich made a motion to approve a three-year contract with CINTAS for custodial uniforms. The motion was seconded by Fesser. Discussion around the motion revealed that Monte was already contracted to Aaramark and would likely be converted to the CINTAS contract upon the expiration of the Aaramark agreement. Doerr felt that despite a $4,500 cost, the benefits of having all the custodial staff in acceptable and recognizable dress as well as the laundry service provided to staff through the uniform subscription was worth it. The motion passed 6-1 with Eisenbarth voting against.
The board went into executive session at 8:58 p.m. and resumed regular session at 9:49 p.m. They employed Kelsey Beck as elementary special education teacher effective Jan. 4, pending background check and completion of all paperwork.
Prior to a motion by Janssen to adjourn, the principals and Dr. Doerr wanted to take a moment to not only thank all of the faculty and staff for their hard work this year considering the circumstances, but also thank nurse Keifer for all of her work in keeping protocols updated, calling parents, keeping in touch with Montgomery County Health Department, and being available for not only her regular work, but all her work with COVID issues.
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