Strategic Planning Retreat Report From the Eastland School Board
The Special Meeting of the Eastland Board of Education for Strategic Planning was called to order by President Woessner October 2, 2013.
The meeting opened with a presentaton on BluePoint technology. John Shales and John McNutt of Shales-McNutt Constructon explained the concept whereby pull stations are installed in schools similar to the fire alarms currently used. The pull stations automatically contact law enforcement and also send automatic public address messages throughout the building in the event of an emergency situation. Chadwick-Milledgeville and West Carroll superintendents Tim Schurman and Craig Mathers were also invited to hear the presentation, as well as Ken Sandy as a representative of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department. Board members asked questions pertaining to the location of the stations and grants that might be available to subsidize costs. Eastland will further consider whether to purchase and implement the technology at their Regular October meeting.
Superintendent Hansen then provided a status report on progress made on the District’s 3-Year Strategic Plan, from 2012-2015. A copy of that report is posted on the district website at www.eastland308.com under the ”District Information” tab.
As for co- and extra- curricular programming, trend data shows that the percentage of students participating in activities is being sustained and increased in general. The administrators listed Cross Country, WYSE and Lego League as recent additions to a wide variety of extra-curricular opportunities for Eastland students. Trend data shows generally increasing participation in H.S. Golf, Cross Country, Jr. High Band, Jr. High Chorus, H.S. FFA, H.S. FCCLA, 6th Gr. Literacy Council, Jr. High Boys’ Basketball, Jr. High Girls’ Basketball, and H.S. WYSE Competition.
Trend data shows the following activities with generally declining participation: H.S. Fall Musical, Jr. High Wrestling, H.S. Baseball, and Jr. High Track and Field
The Board members and principals recessed briefly for dinner at 5:20 p.m., and during dinner heard a presentation from Kim Purvis, Director of the Whiteside Area Career Center. The presentation focused on the skills gap and the number of skilled-labor jobs in the region that are currently unfilled - jobs in the areas of plumbing, pipe-fitting, and welding for example. She also shared information about employment certification programs and dual-credit courses offered at the Career Center that are available to Eastland students.
After dinner, the Board members heard a report on the task plan for transportation. All tasks included in the 3-year strategic plan are completed. Eastland has reduced total miles traveled by 38,000 miles per year, saving approximately $20,000 per year in expenditures. Dr. Hansen said that he expects a further reduction in 2013-14 due to changes in routes facilitated by the reduction from three to two attendance centers. Also, by sharing transportation services for some programs with Chadwick-Milledgeville, another $15,000 per year has been saved. Finally, by contracting to lease rather than purchase buses outright, the District has managed to replace eight (8) old buses with new buses over the last three years. Even with the 20% reduction in state transportation reimbursement, and a 25% reduction in local revenues available for transportation due to decreases in EAV, the District has managed to operate balanced budgets in the Transportation Fund over the last three years.
Dr. Hansen reported that the situation with facilities is similar to that of transportation. By constructing the addition to Eastland High School and improving spaces within the old high school building, the District has been able to reduce from three to two attendance centers. Also, by contracting for cheaper electrical rates when the markets were opened for competition in 2011-12, Eastland has reduced expenditures for utilities by $20,000 annually. A further reduction in utility expenditures is projected for 2013-14 now that the District is operating two, rather than three schools. Sale of the old Eastland Elementary is pending. All tasks on the 3-Year Strategic Plan are completed except for the goal of approving a plan to air-condition all of the instructional spaces in the remaining two attendance centers. The Board Facilities Committee is looking into the costs to add HVAC to the spaces that are currently not air-conditioned.
Eric Haan provided a written status report on technology improvements. All students in grades 2-12 now have access to laptops at a 1:1 ratio during the instructional day, with 7th -12th graders allowed to take them home every day. The District has completed an upgrade of the network infrastructure, including adding additional access points at the Jr/Sr High School and an entire wireless system at the Elementary in Shannon. Eastland is now connected to iFiber – high speed fiber-optic Internet. In addition, the District has leased space to iFiber to house infrastructure in the Elementary in Shannon. Most of the curriculum and content for courses in grades 7-12 is now hosted on Moodle, a virtual learning environment or learning management system supported on District servers. Eastland is hosting Moodle for six (6) school districts throughout the northwest region. Moving ahead, administrators and teachers will map their curricula and assessments to the Common Core State Standards; they will also be working to use technologies to engage students in higher level thinking and problem-solving.
Superintendent Hansen shared information about the new school report card that will be published at the end of October. By providing information on a variety of indicators, rather than only skill attainment scores on a standardized test, the new report card is designed to provide educators, students, parents and the public a more comprehensive view of their district’s progress. He also shared a draft of the Fall Newsletter that will be published and distributed as an insert in the Prairie Advocate. He recommended that the Board continue to survey staff about his annual evaluation, and that 5essentials survey data be used to measure school climate and learning conditions over time. The District continues to use parental and public input through a Citizens Advisory Committee, through parent representatives on the School Improvement, STEM, and Parent-Student Handbook Committees. Staff members provide input through participation on these same committees, and many others as well.
Dr. Hansen identified declining assessed values of properties in Freedom Township as the greatest threat to district finances. In three years, the total value of property at Lake Carroll has dropped by 33%. An additional drop is projected for the 2014-15 school year. The result is a projected deficit of $146,000 in the Education Fund for 2013-14, and an estimated $400,000 deficit in 2014-15 if expenditures are not reduced further.
The District’s financial rating during this period of time has been excellent. However, the District has now reached the point that the current program is unsustainable without new revenues or additional cuts. The Board has demonstrated a willingness to use fund balances in the short term so that budget cuts can be planned and sequenced in a manner that minimizes the impact on student outcomes and employees. Moving ahead, decisions will be more difficult, and outcomes more difficult to protect. These threats are exacerbated by political influences throughout the region, the state, and the country.
Because of time constraints, the Board agreed to continue the Strategic Plan status report at the Regular October meeting. A motion was made at 6:55 p.m. to go into Closed Session to discuss the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the District or legal counsel for the District, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee or against legal counsel for the District to determine its validity. 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(1).
The Board exited Closed Session at 7:50 p.m. and approved the following personnel actions:
1. The hire of [Bethany Bremmer] as teaching tutor for a student with a home-hospital IEP.
2. The request from [Stacey Lamoreux], 1:1 and building aide at Eastland Elementary in Shannon, for 8 weeks of maternity leave beginning in November, 2013.