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Schroeder says position is ‘strong,’ but shuttering a possibility

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:16 p.m. CST

CHANNAHON — Channahon’s grade school board members were given a five-year financial forecast last Monday evening. The District 17 board receives a forecast every year, and this one predicted the district in stable condition for the near future, with surplus balances each year. The surplus amounts, however, will dwindle slightly over that period of time.

According to the district’s Financial Director, Michael Schroeder, the figures used by Doreen Lindermann, of PMA, to calculate the forecast were conservative to give the board an idea of what they might expect under scenarios that are not necessarily the most positive.

Since the district receives 90 percent of its revenue from property taxes, Lindermann reviewed the anticipated changes in equalized assessed valuation. The new EAV, she said, is “above and beyond” the consumer price index increases — projected at nearly $30 million for the 2012 levy. For the past three years, the district has seen a negative EAV on its existing property roles, and Lindermann and Schroeder predicted the negative growth continuing through 2017.

State aid was predicted to come in at only 75 percent of entitlements for fiscal year 2014.

Schroeder estimated that the state’s financial crisis could result in up to $500,000 less in state aid to the district for 2015 and beyond. That’s a pessimistic view, he said, but it could happen, and the district needs to plan for such a situation.

The number of teachers at the four district schools could stay the same, or it could decrease somewhat with the decrease in student population.

Lindermann said the district’s financial forecast looks very good, and the district should continue to receive the highest level of financial profile score.

“The forecast shows the district is in a strong financial position,” Schroeder summarized after the meeting, “and should continue to  be in the future.”

The school board Monday also continued debate on whether shuttering one of the district’s four schools — most likely Pioneer Path School — will be necessary in the near future. The steadily declining student population could make such an option financially feasible, although the board is not yet comfortable with making that decision.

If the school is closed, it would likely be temporary, as the enrollment is expected to begin to rise again in the future.

Some of the board members said they would not be comfortable with keeping an entire school open for only 200-230 students. Others weren’t so sure. Superintendent Dr. Karin Evans presented the board with details of costs of building a second gymnasium at N.B. Galloway School should the students at Pioneer Path be moved into the building.

The other three schools all have two gym/multi-purpose areas, Evans said, while Galloway has only one. Currently, physical education classes have to suspend for two hours to allow for lunch in the space, and Principal Angela Stallion said it would not be possible to have both required gym time and lunch if students were added to Galloway.

The district cannot request a P.E. waiver, either, as it has done before, because the state did away with physical education waivers.

Architects drew up two gymnasium plans for Galloway. One — just a basic gym — came in at a cost of $2 million. The other was for a larger gym with wooden floors, bleachers to seat 500, wrestling mats, storage and a vestibule that would enable people to enter and exit through that separate entrance without having to go through the school. The expanded plan would cost the district $4 million.

After a lengthy discussion of the merits of a new gym and of the possibility of closing one school, the board decided to consider the options for a few months, then possibly scheduling a work session in the summer to further discuss the issues and ramifications of decisions.

The school board Monday also discussed whether to create a new position in the district. An instructional technology coordinator would work with teachers to help them implement the new common core standards, which contain several mandated technology additions to curricula.

“I do think this position is a necessity in our district,” Evans said. “It’s important to embed technology into every class.”

Teachers, she said, do not have the hours in their days to incorporate all the technology changes into their curricula.

The new coordinator would answer directly to the principals and would also research software and applications, develop technology user guides for teachers and students, provide hands-on classroom support, and network with other districts regarding their technology improvements and plans.

Many on the board seemed in favor of creating the new position, with some saying perhaps it could begin as a short contracted position to see how it works out. Evans said she hopes one of the district’s teachers who has solid technology skills would apply for the position, as he or she would already be familiar with the schools.

The subject will be brought before the board again in April.

The board this week also recognized art teacher Megan Stytz for receiving National Board Certification, an honor Evans said only around 500 teachers a year receive. Stytz said it took her about a year to fulfill all of the application criteria. Evans said those who receive the certification have demonstrated advanced teaching knowledge, skills and practices. It identifies those who are leaders in their field, she said.

The board also recognized the seven students who qualified for state wrestling competition this year, including Jerad Price, who placed second at state, and Jake Bugajski, who placed sixth at state. The other state qualifiers were Julian Cady, Garrit Strunga, Dakota Jerman, Danny McMillin and Jake Ryan.

The board also continued all non-tenured teachers’ contracts for another year and granted tenure status to Nicole Gubbins, a sixth grade teacher at Three Rivers School, and to Dan Nyalka, a P.E. teacher at Three Rivers.

Also this week, the board approved three teacher transfers. Dori Polcyn will move from fourth grade to third grade next year; Angela Colyott will move from third grade to fourth; and Tony Urbanski will move from social studies teacher at the junior high to sixth-grade teacher at Three Rivers.

Resignations were accepted from third-grade teacher Laura Young, effective at the end of this school year, and from Kristi Bandy as seventh grade girls’ basketball coach, effective last month.

The board this week also learned the Timothy Klotz Memorial Fund donated $500 to District 17’s track program. The funds will be used to purchase five starting blocks.

The next Channahon District 17 school board meeting will be on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. There also may be an additional board meeting in April to seat newly-elected board members and to elect officers.

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