School District 54 is so grateful to the amazing individuals who support our students by serving as substitute teachers and substitute paraprofessionals. As we continue to focus on recruiting additional substitutes, the District 54 School Board recognized a few substitutes who have gone Above and Beyond in their service to District 54. Some of the substitutes attended in person and others appeared in a video highlighting their work. Honorees include Jennifer Hextall, Susan Musnicki, Dulce Martinez, Saba Khan, Bill Short and Bonnie Labarbera.
Discussion Topic – Operational Update
The district provided an update on enrollment, facilities usage, staffing, transportation, finances, capital improvements, the District 54 Nature Center and an online filtering system.
District 54 annually looks at the sixth-day of enrollment to account for late registrations. The sixth day of student enrollment was 14,438 which is slightly lower than last year’s number of 14,480. While fluctuations in individual school enrollments continue to be monitored, adequate facility space still exists. District 54’s class size average is 22 students in elementary and 24 students in junior high.
The 2022-23 school year began with rosters fully staffed. The district’s participation in job fairs, early screening practices and a rigorous interview process has continued to allow us to hire one more like our best. District 54 also hired 38 new paraprofessionals and welcomed 24 student teachers this fall, with both groups showing potential to transition to full-time positions in the future.
District 54 has been working with our transportation provider, First Student, to address the significant bus driver staffing issue that has impacted districts across the state. All District 54 routes are being covered, but some routes have experienced delays. First Student has worked to aggressively recruit drivers by increasing pay rates; offering retention, signing, referral and training bonuses; hosting job fairs; recruiting Lyft and Uber drivers; and implementing marketing efforts through social media, neighborhood canvassing and staff appreciation events.
District 54 continues to operate from a sound financial position. On October 13, 2022, the budget committee will meet to discuss the estimated 2022 property tax levy and the capital budget needs of the district. Over the summer, District 54 completed many capital improvement projects such as roofing replacements, office renovations, network upgrades, student device replacement, interactive flat panel installations and classroom furniture replacements. Supply chain issues have forced delays to some projects. Future capital improvement projects include HVAC replacements, new telecenters, classroom lighting retrofitting, paving and life safety improvements.
The former District 54 Nature Center behind Frost Junior High is being used as the district’s wood shop and a storage facility. The property is protected by the EPA, which brings down the value to potential developers. The district continues to maintain this facility and is ready to make improvements to transition back to a learning facility if needed.
With a focus on enhanced safety, District 54 has contracted with a new provider, Lightspeed Systems, for the filtering and blocking of inappropriate online content for students when logged into school accounts and using school devices. Content flagged as an imminent threat to student safety triggers an immediate alert to school administrators and sends alerts to local first responders if the threat occurs outside of school hours and administrators are unable to respond immediately.
No one asked to speak.
Freedom of Information Act
District 54 received and replied to five Freedom of Information Act requests since the last report to the Board related to school capacity utilization, parent email addresses, expulsion data, purchasing records and email records.
Consent Agenda: The School Board approved the following items on the Consent Agenda.
Cabinet Report – Elevate Student Success
The Elevate Student Success After School Program began in 2021-2022 in response to the impact the pandemic had on student learning achievement. Students in need of additional math or literacy support met twice weekly in small group tutoring sessions conducted by District 54 staff. Due to the success of this program, District 54 will utilize Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to offer Elevate sessions again this year.
Cabinet Report – District 54 Strategic Social-Emotional Processes
The District 54 Strategic Process for Ensuring Social-Emotional Supports includes the following areas.
Superintendent Andy DuRoss reported that as he has been visiting all 28 schools he sees a reinvigorated district. District 54 started the school year with visits from Jon Gordon presenting on the power of a positive leader, from John O’Leary talking to new teachers about “What more can I do,” and with Chris Singleton sharing his message that love is stronger than hate with all middle school age students.
We have a lot to celebrate in the district too, such as the opening of a new inclusive playground at Muir and Keller Junior High being named a National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics, one of only five schools chosen in Illinois this year. Keller joins Addams and Mead, becoming the third District 54 junior high to gain this honor.
DuRoss introduced Bridget Peach from ED-RED, an advocacy organization representing more than 80 suburban public school districts in Cook and Lake counties. The School Board requested more information about the organization in advance of voting on whether to join later in the meeting.
Board President’s Report
Board President Mary Kay Prusnick announced that Ken Van Dyke resigned from the board. The School Board received a number of applications for the position and plans to appoint a new member at its October meeting.
District Citizens’ Advisory Committee (DCAC) Report
Board Member Barbara Hengels encouraged people to apply for the committee. At the September meeting, DCAC members learned about staff professional development and student summer camp opportunities.
District 54 Education Foundation Report
Board Member Bill Harper thanked everyone who supported the Foundation during Septemberfest weekend. More than $13,000 was raised that weekend to support financially struggling District 54 families.
The Board thanked everyone who participated in the Septemberfest festival, including those who joined in and attended the parade, volunteers who parked cars or worked the food booth for the Foundation, and the student musicians who performed (and their teachers).
There is still time to sign up for the District 54 Run to Read on Sept. 25. Register online at sd54.org/runtoread.
The Board adjourned at 8:30 p.m. to enter closed session for legal matters.