New Illinois law allows students to take more college courses

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A new law allows Illinois high school students to take as many college credit classes as they want starting next year.

Some school districts had previously limited the number of dual-credit classes that students could take. Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, sponsored Senate Bill 2527 to change that.

“High school students can get as many dual credit hours as they’re capable of doing while still being able to meet their normal high school coursework,” he said.

The law requires the courses be taught by instructors who meet state requirements and is worded to allow students to take them either in the classroom or online.

Weaver said the law was designed to encourage students to learn at their own pace, among other things. Plus, a big bonus is that it will help reduce their future college expenses.

“It will help motivate the kids that are able to go faster and learn more to have more opportunities on things they could be studying, but then it also helps them with regard to their college costs,” Weaver said.

The idea for the legislation arose because some school districts in Illinois limited how many dual-credit classes students could take, Weaver said. He now wants to make those courses available online.

“It was a local-control issue with certain school districts and what this does is it said that the school district cannot limit that assuming that the child is on track with their normal coursework,” he said. “The next step on this, I’d like to be working on our ability to use online classes for dual credit, which I believe the time has come for.”

Weaver plans to work on crafting legislation to allow it, he said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Weaver’s bill into law last week. It takes effect Jan. 1.

McKendree Named One of the Best Online Colleges in Illinois

LEBANON, IL. — McKendree University has been recognized as one of the Best Online Colleges in Illinois in 2018 by BestColleges.com, a provider of higher education research and college planning resources. The ranking highlights accredited, not-for-profit institutions who have developed affordable, accessible and quality academic online programs for students seeking to advance their knowledge, skills and career in their respective fields of study.

BestColleges.com’s ranking uses a methodology grounded in statistical data compiled from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The aim is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities.

“The Best Online Colleges in Illinois ranking serves to recognize and promote online institutions in the state that provide exceptional programs that are affordable and provide meaningful learning opportunities for prospective students,” said Stephanie Snider, director at BestColleges.com. “Earning a position on this ranking demonstrates that McKendree University is committed to providing an online learning experience that values student outcomes.”

View the full ranking here. To learn more about McKendree University’s online degree programs, visit http://www.mckendree.edu/admission/info/online/index.php

BestColleges.com helps prospective students find the school that best meets their needs through proprietary research, user-friendly guides, and hundreds of unique college rankings. It also provides a wide array of college planning, financial aid, and career resources to help students get the most from their education and prepare them for the world after college.

O’Fallon District 90 welcomes 17 new teachers and staff

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – O’Fallon District 90 hired 17 new staff members for the 2018-19 school year. 

Those hired include: Jordan Thoele, Samantha Wiegand, Stephanie Szilagyi, Morgan Schulte, Tom Clark, Jessica Heidemann, Kathryn McNeil, Danielle Schnable, Katie Shannon, Logan Maggio, Ann Hughes, Linda Sudduth, Jennifer Allen, Katie Terziovsky, Catherine Long, Amy Little and Allison Zeisset. 

Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that District 90 is “very pleased” to welcome the new staff. 

“Once again this year we had strong candidates and this group rose to the top,” Hruby said. “We look forward to seeing their successes for many years to come in our classrooms.”

Central 104 Board of Education allows students to attend District 90 schools

By Nick Miller

O’FALLON – The Central 104 Board of Education approved a resolution Monday evening allowing residents living on Carnegie Knolls Road, a road attached to the subdivision Parcs of Arbor Green, to send their children to District 90 schools even though they reside in the Central School District.

The resolution will allow the four students impacted by the boundary issue to attend District 90 schools for one year while the residents of Carnegie Knolls Road appeal to the Regional Office of Education to have their homes permanently listed within District 90 boundaries.

At the July District 90 Board of Education meeting, it was announced by Superintendent Carrie Hruby that four students who reside on Carnegie Knolls Road were mistakenly registered and should have been attending Central District 104 schools based on the zoning of the neighborhood.

At the meeting, Hruby said an intergovernmental agreement was made between the two districts to allow the four students to continue to attend District 90 schools for the 2018-19 school year. However, the resolution adopted by District 90 was different than the one originally approved by the Central 104 Board at their July meeting, resulting in the need for the Central Board to address the issue again at Monday’s meeting. 

“Central School District 104 provides a quality education for all students in our district. We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate how we can serve the needs of all students within our district boundaries. However, without compromising its boundaries, the District 104 Board of Education finds it appropriate to allow the affected children to switch schools for the 2018-19 school year only. Under these circumstances, the Board is approving a one year agreement,” said Board President Sarah Svoboda. 

The impacted students will begin classes at their appropriate District 90 schools on Wednesday, August 15.

Not so fast… Boundary dispute continuing problem for Carnegie Knolls residents

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – As classes at local schools are about to resume, some O’Fallon families are struggling to understand why school officials can’t stick to what was believed to be a one-year resolution in a boundary snafu.

Scott Albritton is among four families that reside on Carnegie Knolls Road, a road attached to the subdivision Parcs of Arbor Green, and is frustrated that as of now his child is being required to unenroll from Fulton Jr. High and re-enroll at James Arthur Middle School. 

Earlier this month at a District 90 Board of Education meeting, it was announced by Superintendent Carrie Hruby that four students who reside on Carnegie Knolls Road were mistakenly registered and should have been attending Central District 104 schools based on the zoning of the neighborhood.

At the meeting, Hruby said an intergovernmental agreement was made between the two districts to allow the four students to continue to attend District 90 schools for the 2018-19 school year.

According to Albritton, it came as a “complete surprise” when Central District 104 sent out a letter on July 30 stating that these four students are to attend Central District 104 schools – which contradicts the earlier agreement.

Hruby said that District 90 received a letter from Central District 104 last Wednesday that stated there was not an agreement due to the fact that District 90 agreed allow the students to attend its schools for the 2018-19 school year and Central 104 agreed to allow the students to attend District 90 through their eighth grade years.

“I guess originally what happened was District 104 passed their version of the bill which allowed all four kids to attend District 90 schools throughout their academic career until they all start at OTHS (O’Fallon Township High School),” Albritton said.

Albritton said that the agreement was then amended by District 90 to say the students would attend the district’s schools for one school year so that “parents have time to get this issue fixed in the long term for everybody and not just these four kids.”

“We were told that it was all good to go and to register our kids in District 90,” Albritton said.

Central District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser said that the district had approved the original agreement with the longer terms on Monday, July 9.

“District 90 changed the terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement and approved the agreement at their board meeting in July,” Elser said. “We were informed by our attorney that no Intergovernmental Agreement exists since the language in the agreements that were approved by both school boards is not consistent.”

Elser did not respond to follow-up questions regarding if she believes her board of education will take up a newly revised version and adopt it prior to the start of the school year.

“My opinion is that it comes down to the taxing of the houses,” Albritton said. 

Albritton said that if you look at a map of Parcs of Arbor Green – there are two cul-de-sacs – Carnegie Knolls and Shady Parc Court – and there are a total of 28 homes between them.

“(Central District) 104 used to split right down the middle of that neighborhood – they moved it to kind of re-align it but then the cul-de-sac wasn’t completed so it just kind of bordered the districts,” Albritton said.

Albritton said that the few students that reside in Shady Parc Court attend private school and aren’t affected by the public school boundary dispute.

“(Central District) 104 still collects their taxes – and all the homes in Carnegie Knolls cul-de-sac, which is 14 homes – all their taxes go to 104,” he said.

Albritton said that with the Intergovernmental Agreement, the four students would be able to attend District 90, while Central District 104 “would still collect tax (dollars).”

“If we petition to move the District 90 school zone to encompass all Parcs of Arbor Green – which is what the residents of Carnegie Knolls would like to happen – it doesn’t make sense to have a kid that lives one street over to go to a completely different school, which is actually further away then the school nearest to our community,” Albritton said.

Albritton said that Fulton Jr. High, a District 90 school, is approximately 1.2 miles away from his home on Carnegie Knolls Road, whereas Joseph Arthur Middle School is approximately two and a half miles.

“When I originally moved – our kids ended up going to District 90 schools,” he said.

“My son has been going to these school for two years and now all of a sudden they are telling us to move schools because of a boundary issue,” Albritton said. “We tried to work with both of the boards to get this fixed because this was no fault of any parent – this was their doing.”

Albritton’s son will be going into his eighth grade year – at what would have been Fulton Jr. High.

“He’s facing the prospect of going to a school where he knows no one,” he said.

According to Hruby, “Per the law, the only way District 90 can enroll the students is with a tuition status if the resolution is not in place.”

Albritton said that the “worst case scenario” is sending his son to Fulton Jr. High on a tuition basis, which he said would be $8,400 for the school year.

“It’s really not fair to ask us to have to pay when we were already promised that the issue was done and solved,” he said.

Albritton said that his next step in the boundary dispute is to “seek legal council.”

“The long term plan was to eventually encompass all of the Parcs of Arbor Green community into District 90 – so I reached out to HOA today and asked if they were willing to take on that issue with city council,” he said.

Spaces available for Shiloh District 85 tuition preschool program

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – Shiloh School District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer said space is still available for a new tuition-based, “developmentally appropriate” preschool program set to begin when class resumes for kindergarten through 8th grade next month.

Aligned with Illinois Early Learning Standards and Creative Curriculum, the program, which offers part-time and full-time options, is designed to meet students’ needs where they are in their educational progression.

Literacy-based instruction will be “engaging and dynamic,” according to a release issued by the district.

“Based upon sound curriculum, each child’s unique capabilities will be assessed, guided, and challenged,” the release states.

It goes on to state that students will be provided learning opportunities in math, science, language, music, art and fine and gross motor activities.

“Each student’s progress is monitored throughout the year,” the release states. “Parents will receive quarterly reports as well as regular newsletters, informational handouts, and parent conferences.”

The preschool classes will follow the Shiloh School calendar. Options available are:

Monday – Friday each week – 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. for $620 per month

Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week – 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. for $384 per month

Tuesday and Thursday each week – 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. for $256 per month

The release indicates that snacks are provided by the school in the morning and afternoon. Families have the opportunity to purchase a school lunch or bring one from home daily. Students need to be “potty trained.”

For more information, call the school at 618-632-7434, extension 200.

School districts agree to one-year resolution for kids caught in boundary dilemma

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – An intergovernmental agreement between O’Fallon District 90 and Central 104 District is being put into action, according to District 90 superintendent Carrie Hruby. 

Hruby said that the “majority” of the Parcs of Arbor Green subdivision is within District 90- but a small portion is considered Central 104 District. 

“A few months ago we discovered four students who live on the border of the two districts were attending District 90 although their homes are actually within the legal boundaries of Central 104,” Hruby said. 

Hruby said that both districts were “empathetic” toward the students and families who had “established roots” within District 90. 

Hruby said that Illinois law mandates that students attend school where their parents reside, “unless they are charged tuition.” 

“When presented with a solution to pursue a legal modification of the boundary line, all parties recognized that it wasn’t possible for such a process to be completed prior to the start of a new school year,” Hruby said.  

“For that reason both districts approved an Intergovernmental Agreement to allow the students to continue to attend District 90 schools for the 2018-19 school year,” she said.

Hruby said that the one- year agreement allows the families time to pursue a more “permanent” resolution, “either through a legal modification of the boundaries or a change of residence.” 

District 90 to hire safety security monitors, four new teachers

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – The District 90 Board of Education took action to hire safety security monitors for its buildings and four new teachers. 

During the July 17 meeting, Board Member Steve Springer said that he thinks it’s time the board moves forward with security personnel. The option to hire SRO’s, safety security monitors and hall monitors has been discussed by the Board since April, and is based on the multi-phase Security Improvement Plan.

“To me, there are a couple major differences between SRO’s and a safety security monitor. The very obvious difference is a SRO is a current active O’Fallon Police Department officer. The price tag for that is very expensive,” Springer said. 

Springer said that the difference in price between hiring a SRO versus and safety security officer is 50 percent. 

“If we could hire two officers for the price of one, I think that would make a huge difference,” he said. 

Springer said that the safety security officer hired would still have to be “the right person with the right personality.”

The hall monitor would be considered a lower position compared to a SRO or a safety security officer and would be paid $11.74 an hour. 

A motion was carried to hire two safety security monitors, as opposed to SRO’s, for the 2018-19 school year. 

Springer said that he is not in favor of the board hiring hall monitors for the 2018-19 school year. 

“The job description doesn’t say anything about interpersonal skills or crisis prevention skills,” Springer said.

Wagnon said that he is not opposed to updating the job description of the hall monitor position. 

The motion to hire hall monitors for the 2018-19 school year with the current job description was not carried. 

A staffing consideration was proposed by Superintendent Carrie Hruby to hire four teachers if class size is at capacity. According to the board of education meeting agenda, “Due to the fact that the August board meeting will be held after the start of the school year, the administration recommends the board provide permission to hire up to four teachers if class sizes are close to the caps.” 

The cost of each position would be approximately $35,000 base salary plus insurance benefits for each teacher. 

“If we add a second grade teacher at (LaVerna) Evans then we obviously wouldn’t just reduce all of those second grade classes, we would also try to reduce them across the district and transfer students over,” Hruby said. “It gives us a little flexibility in trying to keep our class sizes low.”  

The district has hired teachers in a similar manner, on a one-year contract, before in order to balance class sizes.

The motion to hire four new teachers before the 2018-19 school year was carried. 

Springer refuses to step down amidst public pressure

O’FALLON – What would have been a brief special meeting for the O’Fallon District 90 Board about security upgrades and selling off retired technology turned into a four hour meeting with hours of public comment about about Board Member Steve Springer. For the second month in a row, parents, community members, and district staff spoke out for and against Springer.

A series of emails from 2016 between Springer and Superintendent Carrie Hruby regarding a transgender District 90 student and potential Muslim students have caused O’Fallon community members, local civil rights advocacy groups and even Illinois state officials, to request Springer’s resignation.

To read the full article, pick up a copof this week’s paper on newsstands now. Or, click here for the digital edition. Wish to receive the paper weekly? Go to our Subscription Page to find out rates and how you can subscribe to our weekly paper. 

OTHS celebrates 2018 graduation

Congratulations to over 615 O’Fallon Township High School (OTHS) seniors who graduated on Saturday, May 26, 2018 in the Panther Dome.  All one had to do is look at the colorful stoles that many of the graduates wore with their graduation gowns to understand that this class of young people will go far in life and do wonderful things for their communities and world.  Gold stoles designated National Honor Society members; Green stoles, Summa Cum Laude; White stoles, Magna Cum Laude; and Red stoles, Cum Laude.  

Nicholas Boone, the Class of 2018 Speaker, encouraged graduates to be kind and compassionate as they embark on the next journey in their life.  The OTHS Class of 2018 earned numerous Awards and Honors, which are listed on the OTHS website at www.oths.us.

To read the full article, pick up a copof this week’s paper on newsstands now. Or, click here for the digital edition. Wish to receive the paper weekly? Go to our Subscription Page to find out rates and how you can subscribe to our weekly paper. 

District 90 Board Member under fire for comments about library program

District 90 Board Member Jason Boone (right) called for fellow Board Member Steve Springer to resign during the meeting held on May 15. Additionally, Boone asked Superintendent Carrie Hruby to research whether the Board had the option to remove Springer. Springer has come under fire for comments made about a program at the O’Fallon Library and emails sent to the superintendent. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – A large crowd of parents, teachers, and residents descended upon the District 90 Board of Education meeting held on May 15 to express their displeasure with the statements made by Board Member Steve Springer at a recent City Council meeting about a program held at the city library.

The library event focused on a book, “Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire,” and taught children age five and older about civil rights, community service, and how to impact the world in positive ways. Springer however felt the event taught social activism and was indoctrinating the city’s youth.

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Central 104 Board names new elementary principal

Jayson Baker was named the new principal at Central Elementary School at the May 14 Board of Education meeting. After the meeting, Baker met some of the teachers in attendence.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

The Central 104 School Board unanimously approved the appointment of a new principal for Central Elementary School. The unanimous approval of hiring Jayson Baker for the position was applauded by the board and audience. 

He began his 12 year career as a Preschool for All teacher in Millstadt, then taught first grade and kindergarten there before leaving to teach kindergarten in Mascoutah. Baker currently serves as the Principal of the Evansville Attendance Center, a 150 student k-8 building in the Sparta Community Unit School District. 

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New state funding model allows for money to flow into local schools

O’FALLON – Illinois schools are finally being compared in an even light thanks to the new Evidence-Based Funding model that Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law last August. The model uses a formula of 26 factors to figure out where all Illinois school districts fall on an adequacy scale, with 90 percent being the current target. O’Fallon and Shiloh schools will all be getting additional funds based on the new formula. 

Adequacy in this sense means how much the districts spend per student versus how much the state thinks they should be spending, based on the calculations. Of the four local districts, District 104 has the highest adequacy percentage at 81 percent, and will be getting $15,187.69. District 90 came the next highest at 69 percent, receiving $205,749.50, Shiloh weighed in at 66 percent and will receive 47,970.52, and OTHS has an adequacy of 62 percent, receiving $442,069.14.

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D90 Board Member proposes arming teachers

Patricia Cummings received the “Todd Stonewater, Edward Jones District 90 Support Staff Member of the Month” Award for April.
According to Principal Joi Wills, “Patricia Cummings has been a member of the Fulton team for a number of years and has gone above and beyond to support the staff and students. Every year when I’m in the process of developing the building schedule, I receive many texts messages, phone calls, emails, and taps on my office door from teachers requesting Mrs. Cummings be assigned to their classroom for the year. This is a reflection of the way she goes above and beyond what is expected of a paraprofessional in the building. Fulton appreciates her support, professionalism, and the high expectations she holds for our students.”
(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – District 90 Board Member Steve Springer proposed arming the district’s teaching staff. Springer read from a presentation and resolution that sought to arm staff, but none of his fellow board members chose to support the proposition. 

“I am are concerned about how we can best protect our students – within the framework of the law – in the event of an active killer coming into our schools. Districts may be fearful of how quickly lives can be lost while waiting for law enforcement teams to arrive on scene of a school attack. An average of 8 students/staff is wounded every minute an attack goes unchallenged,” Springer said during his presentation.

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