Shiloh superintendent presents new Illinois education act

(O’Fallon Weekly Photo)

SHILOH – At Monday’s Shiloh District 85 meeting, Superintendent Dale Sauer presented the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which has replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in the state of Illinois. 

Sauer said that ESSA is a “new system of accountability” and was formed in 2015 but it has taken over two years to manifest in Illinois schools’. 

According to Sauer, the idea behind ESSA is to focus on the whole education of a child and less about just one test score. 

Whereas NCLB was performance driven and consisted of a single test score, ESSA consists of different categories – of which 75 percent pertains to academic indicators. 50 percent of the overall score would pertain to student growth – which compares an individual student’s PARCC testing in respective years and would also compare to other students scores in Illinois schools’. 

Twenty-five percent of the overall score is “different student success and school quality indicators” and has nothing to do with testing. Within the 25 percent, chronic absenteeism is a factor, as are school climate surveys. 

“We have always focused on performance and test scores,” Sauer said. “Arguably, this is a better system, but we will have to get acquainted with it and understand it better.”

Goals of the new system are that by 2032, the state of Illinois would like to see 90 percent or more of third graders to be at reading level or above, 90 percent of fifth grade students to meet or exceed expectations in math, 90 percent of 9th grade students on track to graduate and 90 percent of high schoolers to be prepared for college or a career. 

Sauer said that there are expanded “subgroups” within ESSA – of which Shiloh has four subgroups: Caucasian, African American, Economic Disadvantaged and IEP students. A subgroup must consist of at least 40 students. 

Sauer said that beginning next year, school districts will be assigned an A through F designation on Illinois school report cards. There are also district designation rankings such as “exemplary,” “commendable,” “under performing” and “lowest performing” which Shiloh District 85 will receive on Oct. 30. 

“Theoretically, everybody could be an exemplary or commendable school,” Sauer said. “By math, that cant be.”

To be an exemplary school would mean that a district cannot have any underperforming subgroups and also must be in the top ten percent of performing school’s in the state. 

Sauer expressed uncertainty of Shiloh existing in the top five to 10 percent of school’s because of other competitive Illinois “magnet” schools. 

“I would think the top five percent is already eaten up. Its really can we squeeze into that next five percent,” he said. “We’ll do some analysis and see where we are at.”

In other action, SES principal Tiana Montgomery said elementary students are exhibiting “great behavior” this school year. 

“I’m truly impressed and proud of my students here at Shiloh Elementary – we have had several student expressing great character each and every day by being responsible, respectful and kind,” Montgomery said. 

SMS principal Darin Loepker said that the character word of the month is “responsibility” for October and will be “fairness” for November. 

Loepker said that parent- teacher conferences are Wednesday, Oct. 24 and Thursday, Oct. 25. 

“These are wonderful avenues for our staff to get together with parents. It’s not only important to be able to share stories of kids that are struggling and may not be able to make the grades like other kids – it’s also nice to meet with parents to share successes as well.”

“Its one of my favorite times because we get the parent in and get to see smiles and share things with parents that they wouldn’t get to hear on a day to day basis,” Loepker said. 

Loepker said that Shiloh winter sports season – which consist of girls and boys basketball and cheerleading, began Monday evening, Oct. 15. 

On Oct. 22 through Oct. 25 there will be a public book fair at the middle school which will coincide with parent- teacher conference hours. 

Fire Department educates Shiloh elementary students on fire safety

(Submitted Photo)

SHILOH – The O’Fallon Fire Department visited Shiloh Elementary School on Wednesday morning, October 10, to educate students with a fire safety assembly. 

Shiloh Elementary School Principal Tiana Montgomery said that the school’s character trait of the month is “safety” and it happened to coincide with this week being National Fire Safety Prevention Week. 

“During my morning meetings, we have been discussing what it means to be safe,” Montgomery said. 

Montgomery said that the fire safety assembly went very well. “My students were attentive during the assembly and respectful of the presenters,” she said. “They especially liked when I dressed in the Firefighter uniform and the visit from Sparky the Dog.”

(Submitted Photo)

(Submitted Photo)

(Submitted Photo)

Technology education program to be offered to veterans in O’Fallon

O’FALLON – A program that will help veterans and their families access technology jobs is set to take off in O’Fallon.

“LaunchCode,” operating as a national non-profit, will provide free coding classes to retired and active duty military and their families, according to public relations manager Leah Freeman, and is now taking applications.

Having recently observed its fifth year of service, Freeman said LaunchCode operates in multiple cities across the country, including St. Louis, with the mission of creating pathways into technology for those who may have had trouble getting their foot in the door.

“Most of our students do not have computer science degrees,” Freeman said. “It’s for people that may have education in a different field and are trying to re-enter the work force. Maybe they are stay at home moms and are having trouble landing that first job back.”

“Those are the type of people we focus on and the first step to LaunchCode is a teaching program.”

Freeman said that all LaunchCode training programs are completely free, adding that a standard program is part time and lasts approximately five months.

“We never charge our students,” she said. “We are able to do that because we are a nonprofit. People come to our program with zero computer programing skills and we take them from zero to basically ready to land a computer programing job in about 20 weeks.

“We are teaching students that have jobs during the day or have kids and other responsibilities.”

After students complete their training, they will participate in LaunchCode’s apprenticeship placement program.

“After our students do complete the course and we determine that they are ready to enter the workforce we will talk to our company partners – we have hundreds in St. Louis – and kind of map our students with the job that would fit them best,” Freeman said.

“We will be their advocate and place them into an apprenticeship with that company.”

Freeman said that the apprenticeship is approximately 90 days and is paid because LaunchCode’s goal is to “change the economic well-being of that family.”

“Most of our students do actually go into a full time job after the apprenticeship,” she said.

Freeman said that LaunchCode works with companies “big and small” such as Boeing and Master Card. “In today’s world, every company is a tech company and every company has open tech positions that they are struggling to fill.”

LaunchCode offers a few different classes.

She described a “flagship” class as “LC101,” as well as “CoderGirl: which is an all-female class, which is an all- females class.

“We have two of those classes going on right now in St. Louis and they will graduate at the beginning of next year and we will start re-enrolling at the end of this year,” Freeman said.

She added that the military class – which will take place in O’Fallon – is funded through a grant awarded by the Berges Family Foundation.

Freeman said that it’s the first time LaunchCode is offering the LC101 class in O’Fallon specifically for this targeted population.

“It’s a big deal because our courses are very high demand – we received over 1,000 application for 400 seats,” she said. “The fact that we are opening up this opportunity to that group of people is a really big deal.”

The location for O’Fallon was chosen because of its proximity to Scott Air Force Base, which Freeman said was a community her organization wants to cater to.

LaunchCode will take place in O’Fallon at the American Legion Post 137 from Nov. 5 to April 18, Monday and Thursday evenings.

“We screen our applicants based on their aptitude, drive and passion,” she said. “We choose people who truly want a career in technology and prove that they can learn the material and are willing to put the work in. It’s definitely not an easy course.”

Freeman said that LaunchCode relies on grants and individual donors and also profit from the companies where they place their candidates.

“A lot of company partners help mentor our students and support our educational programs.”

Freeman said that LaunchCode is a “huge opportunity” for O’Fallon residents.

“It’s a free education and very high demand skill that can get you in upwardly mobile career. It’s really life changing for our students,” she said. “This specific group of military veterans and active service members is a huge pool of untapped talent and they have a lot of the skill we look for in our students. They have experience in leadership, problem solving which are exact traits companies look for.”

Apply at LaunchCode.org/lc101. Applications are due Monday, October 22.

Third annual BaconFest to take place Saturday on West First Street

The third annual BaconFest will be held on Saturday, Oct. 13 on West First Street in downtown O’Fallon. 

The free event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature local vendors with their own items and food – of which at least one item on their menu will feature bacon. 

Red Door Realty Group is hosting its inaugural bacon cupcake eating contest at 12 p.m. at the East Stage. Registration will take place at the Red booth between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. There will also be live music from a DJ and three different rotating bands.

Vendors from Saturday’s event include: Sugar Fire, Art Geako, LipScence, U.S. Air Force, The Depot, Costco, Renewal by Anderson, Kersting Creations, Toys 4 Tots, Raffle booth, Drinks booth, The Brick Pick, Metro East Floor Covering International, Bricks 4 Kids, Skyline Church, U.S. Army, LuLaRoe, Marine Corps League, Kona Ice, OTHS Hockey, BarBee, Freddy’s Food Truck, Progressive Property Network, The Egg & I, Paparazzi, Norwex, DoTerra, Sugarfoot photography, Jacob Home Remodeling, Young Living, Transquility Designs/flags, Gifts My Way/ Ruesberry Dreams, M Global, Jamberry, Magnolia and Vine, Tupperware, Premier Jewelry, A Pink Petunia, PitterPat Candy, Peyton Bre, Sweet-E’s Bowtique, Rustic Revival, Usbourne Books, Scentsy and gypsymomma.

The event, which is being put on by VFW Post #805, will raise funds for local veterans. 

Lebanon council approves pay increase for city employees

LEBANON – At Monday’s Lebanon City Council meeting, the council approved a three percent pay increase for supervisors, part time and full-time city employees.

Auditor Kevin Tepen spoke to the council at the Oct. 8 meeting and summarized the Lebanon fiscal year 2018 audit report.

Tepen said that the current year overall for the taxing funds saw a decrease of about $32,000, while the general fund was down approximately $152,000. 

“The utility tax was up about $60,000,” Tepen said. 

He said that for water and sewer, “these funds have very good balances.” 

The sewer fund had an increase of about $418,000, while the water fund was up approximately $26,000.

“Those funds are looking a lot more solid than what you would be looking at on the tax side,” he said. 

Streets and alleys department head Jody McNeese said that flashing yellow caution lights were successfully installed at a cross walk at the high school.

“I talked to quite a few officers and crossing guards,” McNeese said. “They are ecstatic about the flashing yellow caution lights at the school. We have the most advanced crossing light down there at this point in time.”

Mayor Rich Wilken said that the caution light has a voice system that is compliant to those with disabilities. 

“It has made a tremendous big deal,” McNeese said. “It took us a while but we responded and did our due diligence with that.”

The city council agreed to renew a $100 per year membership with the local group Heartlands Conservancy. 

“They are working with the state and county to come up with answers to deal with flooding caused by the Silver Creek run off,” Wilken said. 

Wilken said that Lebanon is right in the “vortex” of the Silver Creek watershed.

“Lebanon is at risk of being an island,” he said. “It has safety and health related concerns for the fire department and ambulances.” 

He said that the local group is very active with meetings and also the EPA. One of the areas Heartlands Conservancy would look at would be the regular flooding of Route 50 and other streets throughout Lebanon. 

Lebanon Chief of Police David Roth said that last week – with the assistance of the O’Fallon Police Department, officers were sent to Lebanon High School for active shooter training. 

“It was exceptional training,” Roth said. “It was designed specifically for the teachers and staff. It was very well received by them.”

District 90 passes budget for fiscal year 2019

O’FALLON –The District 90 Board of Education unanimously passed its annual budget for this fiscal year at their September 25 meeting. 

Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that the “balanced budget is a reflection of the board and the staff’s continued commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

“It also reflects the support of state legislators who added new dollars to the Illinois Evidence Based Funding Formula,” Hruby said.

Hruby said that the EBF legislation that was passed in August of 2017 sent approximately $200,000 additional funding to District 90 in each of the last two fiscal years. 

“The district continues to prioritize spending based on student needs as they refresh textbooks and curricular materials while upgrading layers of safety and security.” 

District 90 passes annual fiscal year budget

At a recent September budget hearing meeting, the District 90 Board of Education unanimously passed its annual budget for this fiscal year. 

Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that the “balanced budget is a reflection of the board and the staff’s continued commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

“It also reflects the support of state legislators who added new dollars to the Illinois Evidence Based Funding Formula,” Hruby said.

Hruby said that the EBF legislation that was passed in August of 2017 sent approximately $200,000 additional funding to District 90 in each of the last two fiscal years. 

“The district continues to prioritize spending based on student needs as they refresh textbooks and curricular materials while upgrading layers of safety and security.”  

City hears business owners concerns with food trucks

Assistant City Administrator Grant Litteken speaks with assembled Downtown O’Fallon business owners and interested parties about a proposed ordinance regulating food trucks. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – City leaders are proposing what they consider to be a restrictive approach to regulating food trucks in the city of O’Fallon, but some local business owners who operate brick and mortar facilities say the restrictions don’t go far enough in protecting their interests.

Assistant City Administrator Grant Litteken told business owners at an informal meeting at O’Fallon City Hall on Sept. 27 that there aren’t any ordinances currently in place in O’Fallon regulating hours of operation, licensing, fees, sanitary requirements or restrictions on where trucks can operate, but that could soon change.

“In reality, a food truck could pull up in front of your business today – park there and serve and there is nothing the city could do to make them move,” Litteken said.

An ordinance being proposed would set up regulations for how food trucks can operate. Litteken said the way food trucks would operate under the proposed ordinance is by obtaining a special events permit and a mobile food truck license to operate in O’Fallon.

“No locations can have food trucks more than one day per week,” Litteken said.

He also said that the proposed ordinance would prohibit food trucks operating in one location for a duration that exceeds six hours. Sale of liquor also would be prohibited.

Food trucks also may not operate within 250 feet of a property line of an existing restaurant unless the owner of the established restaurant provides written consent.

Restaurant owners and O’Fallon residents said during the meeting that they believed the 250 feet rule is not a great enough distance.

“It should be 1,000 feet,” resident Dave Witter said. “We don’t need competition for our restaurants.”

Food trucks also must be clean, maintained, licensed with fresh food by St. Clair County, Litteken said. An annual fee of $125 with a $25 food license would be required of each vehicle.

Owner of Sweet Katie Bee’s, Beth Hendrix, asked if the proposed food truck ordinance benefits the city of O’Fallon. Sweet Katie Bee’s new location off of First street broke ground the same day of the meeting – Thursday, Sept. 27.

“This puts us in a position where we may actually want to get out of our lease and take off,” Hendrix said. “It sounds very unfair and like there is virtually zero protection for the businesses that exist here.”

Hendrix said that food trucks are a “huge obstacle” for all of the restaurants and shops in downtown O’Fallon.

“The (ordinance) is not at all restrictive or protective,” she said. “The city should protect the businesses already here who are investing in a brick and mortar.”

Litteken said that the O’Fallon City Council can deny any food truck application – including applications that may directly compete with nearby businesses.

“As they come in for special events, if the council feels that they don’t want a food truck in downtown, they can deny the application,” Litteken said.

Mayor Herb Roach said that the Thursday meeting was to hear comments made from local business owners.

“The council sees every request that comes through and will know if changes need to be made to the ordinance,” Roach said.

“Right now (food trucks) can do whatever they want. They can come in and park right next to your store.”

Litteken said that the city is “getting pressure” by larger employers to allow food trucks in the area but did not confirm the identity of the employer. 

The meeting held on September 27 was an informal meeting designed to get the input and suggestions of local business owners in the proposed ordinance prior to a final draft being put before the City Council for consideration.

Ben Koenig brings the goals for Panthers soccer team

Ben Koenig

By Annabelle Knef

O’Fallon High School boys soccer coach, Jason Turkington, speaks highly of junior Ben Koenig, whom he nominated for this week’s Athlete Spotlight.

Turkington said that the team was recently losing a game against Belleville West before Koenig scored three goals at the end of the game, which ultimately brought O’Fallon a win. 

“He nailed the hat trick and won the game for us,” Turkington said. “He’s one of our leading goal scorers of the season.” 

This season Koenig has currently accumulated nine goals, more than his freshman and sophomore year totals combined. He has also put up four assists, matching his prior year totals.

Koenig has played a couple different positions throughout the season and Turkington said that he’s been a “key part” of the team’s success. 

“He’s had a lot of success and he’s been a key part of our team,” he said. 

Turkington said that Koenig’s teammates “respect him and look up to him,” and that Koenig is “very supportive of them.”

“He does a good job in pretty much all aspects of games and practices.”

O’Fallon boy’s soccer has a record of 8-4 and will next compete away against Glenwood High School on Monday, October 1, and away again against Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo on Wednesday, October 3. 

O’Fallon student receives perfect score on ACT

By Annabelle Knef

O’Fallon Township High School Student Stephen Monson received a perfect score of 36 on his ACT. 

Monson said that he prepared to take the ACT by taking practice tests. 

“I started five weeks before the ACT,” Monson said. “I did two one and a half hour sessions where I would just sit down and take practice tests.” 

Monson said that he originally didn’t think he did well on his ACT and was “surprised” to receive a score of 36. 

“I was pretty stoked.” 

Monson is still deciding on which college to attend. He said he is deciding between the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Utah honor’s school. 

Monson said that he plans on studying neuroscience and hopes to have research opportunities as an undergraduate student. 

“They all have fantastic research opportunities for neuroscience,” he said. “After that I plan to go to medical school and then I would want to do endovascular brain surgery or spiral neuro surgery.”

District 85 Board of Education passes Fiscal Year 2019 budget

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – At Monday’s Shiloh District 85 meeting, the Board of Education approved the fiscal year 2019 budget. 

“Overall we made pretty good efforts to reduce expenses and effected communicated costs – any decrease to that was primarily due to special education out placements and special education transportation and staff pay increases,” Superintendent Dale Sauer said. 

Sauer said that the district is still deficit spending. 

“Our largest area of concern continues to be the special education realm. We continue to feel those effects because we typically don’t get reimbursed for that money until the next year,” he said. 

“Through the state budget crisis in the last nine years – we have our local tax property owners to thank for keeping our heads above water.”

In other action, SES third grade teacher Sara Witte shared with the board about a new project called the “Third Grade State Postcard Project.”

“The third grade is learning about all of the states and where they are located,” Witte said. “We are trying to get postcards from all 50 states.”

The project will help the third graders learn about where each state is located within the country. 

Postcards should be mailed from the state in which it belongs with one reason as to why “your state is great” and an “encouraging sentence” written to the students. The postcards can be mailed to Witte’s third grade classroom at 125 Diamond Ct. Shiloh, IL 62269. 

“We’re pretty excited about it,” she said. 

SMS principal Darin Loepker said that the fall sports season is coming to a close. “Our last regular season games were tonight.” Both the softball and baseball teams will compete in regionals. 

“We are waiting to hear if our soccer team has made the final four for the tournament as well,” Loepker said. 

“Sept. 27 is fall sports award night. It’s something new we have started this year. It takes some of the heat off of the academic and athletic night that we do in the spring,” he said.

Appellate Court Judge David Overstreet speaks to O’Fallon Rotary Club

Club President Woody Almind (right) thanks Appellate Court Judge David Overstreet for speaking Monday at the Rotary Club of O’Fallon meeting.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – Members of the Rotary Club of O’Fallon were given an inside glimpse into the Illinois Appellate Court by Judge David Overstreet on Monday.

Overstreet is a judge in the Fifth Appellate District of Mt. Vernon. He also currently serves on the Supreme Court strategic planning committee. Overstreet is also fellow Rotarian, a member of the Mt. Vernon club.

“It’s wonderful to be here and it’s a privilege to serve you as one of your fifth district appellate judges,” Overstreet said. 

Overstreet was a circuit judge for ten years in the second judicial circuit before he was assigned to the appellate court for the last year and a half. 

Overstreet described the appellate court as the “intermediate court of review.” 

“We are the court of last resort,” he said. “A lot of times the rulings we make become the law of the case and also the precedent for cases that come after.” 

“It’s a great responsibility,” he continued.

Overstreet said that the appellate court hears civil, criminal and juvenile cases. Cases that are appealed following a decision in the circuit courts go before the appellate court.

“I’m in a unique position – I’m an assigned position,” he said. “We sit in panels of three, unlike circuit judges.” 

Overstreet said that “consultation, collaboration and discussion” is necessary between the court justices presiding over a case. 

Overstreet said that “majority rules” in an appellate court but that the dissent is important as it could result in a case being heard by a higher court.

“If it’s a two to one split – that might be a case the Illinois Supreme Court picks up,” he said. “We keep in mind of the seriousness of what we do.” 

He noted that approximately ten cases a year may go to the Illinois Supreme Court. 

The fifth district holds its proceedings at the historic appellate court house in Mt. Vernon that was built in 1854. 

“It’s the only courthouse that exists where Abraham Lincoln argued a case and still operates as a courthouse on a daily basis,” Overstreet said.

Lebanon receives 2017-18 Fiscal Year Audit Report

By Annabelle Knef

A financial audit of the city of Lebanon shows that assets exceed its liabilities by $10.3 million

According to an annual audit provided by outside auditor C.J. Schlosser & Co. on Aug. 10, the largest portion of the city’s net assets reflects investment in capital assets, such as land, buildings, machinery, equipment and infrastructure, minus any debt to acquire them.

The report analyzes the city’s position through the end of the fiscal year, April 30, and shows that the city’s net position increased $409,580 over fiscal year 2017.

It further states that current assets – cash, investments and accounts receivable – increased $157,908 over last year.

Current liabilities, which include accounts payable, advance payments for water and sewer tap deposits and customer deposits, decreased $48,731, the report states. Also, long-term liabilities were down $364,701, “primarily” because of a decrease in the net pension liability and the retirement of debt.

Total revenues decreased $377,148 for the year ending April 30, which the report attributes to lower reported capital grant contributions for payments the state made on capital projects in the city. For instance, in 2017, capital grants and contribution revenue was $518,419, compared to $58,551 in 2018.

However, property tax and sales and use tax both increased in 2018 over 2017.

Property tax revenues in 2018 were $290,454, compared to $284,260 in 2017. Sales and use tax in 2018 were $621,937, compared to $602,439 in 2017.

The city increased expenses in governmental activities by $235,854 – the largest category of expense being public safety, according to the report.

In 2018, the city spent $2,207,913 on governmental activities; in 2017, it spent $1,972,059.