SHILOH – At the Shiloh District 85 meeting on Monday, board member Ken Davis announced that Shiloh Village School is now a fully functioning nonprofit foundation.
“I’ve been working on this foundation since August of last year,” Davis said. “I finally submitted paperwork to the IRS.”
While the status of the paperwork was disrupted by the recent government shutdown according to Davis, he made a phone call on the morning of March 18 and the school’s paperwork was approved.
“They will be getting the notice out to us within the next two weeks,” he said. “We have been approved by the state of Illinois as a full blown charity. We have been approved at every level.”
Davis said there are already many volunteers wanting to sit on the foundation board and put together an organizational meeting.
“As soon as we can get that done we are ready to go,” Davis said. “We will start doing some work for kids and filling the gaps to raise money to augment what the district provides.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to really get some great things done for the kids in our district,” he said. “We will be calling on the union and teachers to be a part of this. Everybody should be at the table participating in this — it’s been a while coming.”
Shiloh Elementary School principal Tiana Montgomery said the recent book fair at the school raised funds of $4,714.
“This book fair put approximately 945 books into the hands of students including approximately 170,100 volunteer reading minutes for the kids,” Montgomery said. “Not only are we trying to get extra funding for our library — book fairs promote reading.”
Scholastic dollars earned from the book fair were approximately $3,580. Shiloh teachers will be able to utilize these funds.
According to Montgomery, kindergarten information night will take place on Thursday, April 4, in the Shiloh Elementary School cafeteria.
The night is open to all parents who have children that will be five years old before September 1, 2019. Parents will have the opportunity to meet with teachers, tour the building including the kindergarten classrooms, set up your child’s screening appointment for April 23, 2019 and learn various information about the district’s kindergarten program. Parents will also be asked to fill out pre-registration forms for the 2019-20 school year.
Developmental screenings for kindergarten will take place April 23 and April 24 in the Shiloh Elementary library and screening for preschool aged children will take place on Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26 in Klucker Hall in Shiloh.
Children will be screened for vision, motor coordination, hearing, speech, concept formation and language. Parents can make appointments for their children beginning April 1. To schedule, contact the elementary school office at 618-632-7434.
In other action at the Monday meeting, superintendent Dale Sauer discussed an issue with the 2019 calendar.
Sauer said the four local school districts originally agreed to take off Wednesday before Easter (April 17) rather than Easter Monday (April 22) due to a “one time oddity” that has to do with the timing of SAT testing at O’Fallon Township High School.
State testing for OTHS will take place on Tuesday, April 23. “That means kids go back on Easter Monday and come back to take the test, which is very difficult for them to get logistics done,” Sauer said.
“They asked all the districts if we would take off Easter Wednesday with them and go to school Easter Monday,” he said. “Originally, all four districts were supportive of that.”
“In talking with our union, they very much understand the issue with the high school and are supportive of that but still would like us to take Easter Monday off in stead of Wednesday,” Sauer said.
Sauer said Central 104 has already approved to be off on Wednesday and not Monday, whereas District 90 has approved to be off Monday and not Wednesday.
“As far as logistics, it really doesn’t hurt us one way or another. We tried to do something in alignment with those schools but we have a staff who even though are sympathetic would like to still consider taking Easter Monday off.”
The board chose to approve the 2019 calendar to go to school on Wednesday, April 17 and have off Monday, April 22.
The board approved the Shiloh Middle School Graduation Date of Thursday, May 23, 2019.
SHILOH – Shiloh principals recognized students for their merits at a District 85 meeting on Monday, March 18.
Elementary school principal Tiana Montgomery recognized Ann Merritt as the racial harmony award recipient at the meeting.
“I was very impressed not just with Ann and the student from the middle school, but all the students around St. Clair County that were recognized for this award,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery then read a letter from Merritt’s second grade teacher Amanda Cockrell.
“Ann always has a smile on her face and is happy to work with anyone in her classroom community. She often looks for those who may be left out and chooses to sit by them and ask them to be partners so they don’t have to work alone,” Cockrell wrote.
Cockrell said Merritt is incredibly kind and considerate toward her peers and school staff and that she is a true example of a Shiloh Wildcat and always exhibits positive character by being responsible, respectful and kind.
“She is a model student and we are proud of Ann and all of her achievements,” Cockrell wrote.
SMS principal Darin Loepker then recognized the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education Young Author award winners. The young authors included fourth grader Kallee Kern, seventh grader McKenzie Ballinger and eighth grader Bella Durbin. Ballinger was not present at Monday’s meeting.
Loepker said Kern is a “bright light” at Shiloh Middle School.
“She’s not only really good in academics, she’s very socially accepted,” Loepker said. “She does a very good job in and around the classroom.”
“Bella is one of our shining students,” Loepker said about eighth grader Bella Durbin. “She is intelligent and always even keeled.”
“She’s a person that we can count on really to carry the torch when it comes to academics in our building,” he said. “She works hard and is a model student in the classroom.”
Kern’s story is titled, “Lilly’s Search for the Perfect Pet,” and Durbin’s book is, “The Lost Avenger.”
The Young Authors Conference will be held Saturday, April 6, at Westhaven Elementary School in Belleville.
The second annual O’Fallon Township High School College to College Fair will take place next week on Wednesday, March 27 in the Panther Dome.
More than 60 colleges are signed up to meet with prospective students about their programs. There will also be added military representatives and career booths present at the fair.
In the Smiley campus IMC, there will be a financial aid award letter comparison workshop for senior students and their parents from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The workshop is presented by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and is designed to help seniors and parents evaluate financial aid award packages.
Corps members begin with a brief presentation on financial aid and how to read and evaluate financial aid award letters. Parents will compare financial aid award letters while Corps members are available to provide one-on-one support as needed.
The OTHS College to Career Fair is free and open to students enrolled in grades nine through 12 residing in and around the O’Fallon community. It will go from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
O’FALLON – LaVerna Evans Elementary School recently congratulated the February winners of the Reading Counts Award.
The purpose of the Reading Counts Program is to encourage children to practice reading in and out of the classroom. The program is to be used as a supplement to the teacher’s classroom reading program.
There are three levels of awards for successful participation in the Reading Counts program. The program combines reading practice with on-line assessments. Once they finish a book they take a corresponding quiz.
When students Earn 50 points they earn a bronze medal.
When students Earn 100 points they earn a silver medal.
When students Earn 150 points they earn a gold medal.
Fulton Junior High School recently named their students of the month for February. Pictured from left: eighth grader Lily Kruse, seventh grader Rebecca Koenig, and sixth grader Laylah Clark. (Submitted Photo)
O’FALLON – The famous Bob Cryder, an O’Fallon Township High School graduate and former NFL player from the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, stopped by Fulton on Monday, March 11 to meet with the kids of “Cryder House.”
Cryder House is one of six “houses”, or smaller communities, into which Fulton is divided. Cryder House was named after Bob Cryder because of his O’Fallon roots.
Fulton assistant principal Alex Herrell said the 2018-19 school year was the first year implementing the “house” philosophy. It’s goal is to positively enhance the social and emotional culture of Fulton Jr. High.
Eighth grade English teacher Laura Derstine helped get the program on its feet, according to Herrell.
“The “houses” philosophy might remind you of Harry Potter and Gryffindor, and that is not too far off the mark,” Herrell said. “Historically originating from England, “houses” have proven to be a beneficial structure for educational institutions ranging from elementary schools on up to universities.”
“Similar to the houses implemented at the award-winning teaching school, The Ron Clark Academy, students are getting opportunities to build deeper relationships with staff and peers, which can foster positive adolescent development and a sense of belonging, acceptance, and camaraderie with their housemates.”
Coincidentally, Herrell said he had the pleasure of meeting Ron Clark at the recent ASCD Empower Conference in Chicago. He was the keynote speaker.
“Whether reading his books or watching him in action, he is truly inspiring and his methods have helped lead us in our new initiative this year,” he said. “When I told him what we were doing at Fulton, he was ecstatic to hear we were working on building that same culture in our school.”
On the first day of the school year, Herrell said students took part in a sorting ceremony that determined which of the six houses they would belong to for the remainder of their time as a Fulton Panther.
Each house is named after a famous or influential person in O’Fallon’s history. Schwarz House represents George Schwarz and his O’Fallon dairy plant. Schmitt House represents Joseph Schmitt, a NASA spacesuit pioneer. Cartier House represents Lionel Cartier who initiated O’Fallon’s park system. Peck House represents John Peck, O’Fallon’s first postmaster. Ogle House represents Joseph Ogle who made O’Fallon’s first modern-day settlement. And of course — Cryder House, which represents Bob Cryder.
“Above all, the unifying element all houses share is that everyone is an Edward A. Fulton Panther.”
Herrell said one of the first activities students did was create a house crest that represented both Edward A. Fulton, who was a former District 90 band director, and also their influential O’Fallon namesake.
“Most of the kids really seem to be having fun with this new approach to structuring the school culture.”
Throughout the year, Herrell said the students and house teachers have engaged in team building and relationship building activities to promote positive relationships between peers and between peers and staff.
Each house is divided into smaller “dens” to allow for more intimate conversations and relationship-building. Additionally, the students have engaged in student-led kindness projects to foster positivity among others, both inside and outside of the school.
“From as simple as leaving positive messages on lockers — all the way to leading toy drives for kids with cancer and writing holiday cards to solders overseas,” Herrell said. “Most recently, our school received recognition from the Kind Schools Network for successfully completing their Kindness Challenge in 2019.”
“We also engage the students in friendly school spirit competitions to earn rewards, such as the massive monthly pancake breakfast and the distinction of proudly displaying the Panther Spirit stick for the month.”
Herrell said that Fulton staff is responsible for teaching students more than just academics.
“We recognize middle school can sometimes be a complex time for adolescents, so we are always searching for innovative ways to help them navigate through this stage of life and keep believing in themselves.”
“We have been very excited with the positive gains we have seen in our students thus far with the house philosophy and look forward to growing it in the future,” he said. “It is truly helping us provide the nurturing guidance our students need while they are with us.”
To find out more fun things happening at Fulton Jr. High, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Fulton-Junior-High-559025640962922/.
Property tax rates are falling for O’Fallon District 90 residents, thanks in large part to property value growth, a TIF expiration and fund balance reviews by the board and administration.
The taxing bodies recently received their preliminary tax extensions from the St. Clair County Clerk’s office for the 2018 property taxes. The extension sets the tax rate and is based on the tax levy requests made in December by the taxing bodies and the rate-setting tax base calculated from the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of properties in the district. Prior to approving the tax extension, some taxing bodies choose to review their fund balances and abate taxes. That’s exactly what O’Fallon District 90 did at their meeting Tuesday, March 19th.
Taxing bodies, like the City of O’Fallon, took into consideration reserve account balances when setting their tax levy so they do not need to abate taxes during their tax extension review. Other taxing bodies, like the school districts, often set their levy at the maximum increase allowed by the state at 4.99 percent to capture all growth within the district then make adjustments after the extension is sent.
O’Fallon District 90 saw a 5.3 percent increase in their EAV which immediately dropped their tax rate from 3.1648 to 3.1201 based on their original levy request. A review of their FY19 projected ending fund balances during their March 14th finance committee meeting led to the recommendation from Superintendent Carrie Hruby and Business Manager Patty Cavins to abate $200,000. The recommendation was to abate $100,000 from the debt services fund and $100,000 from the IMRF/Social Security fund. Finance committee chair Steve Springer suggested further reductions be considered, and those were presented during the regular board meeting on March 19th.
Springer focused on the abatement of the non-capped funds (IMRF/Social Security, Debt Services and Tort). “The idea is to abate that as much as we can to a point where we cover the obligations that we have and leave some kind of a pad there to cover any kind of contingency that may arise.” The money in each of these funds can only be spent for eligible expenditures within these categories, so the thought is carrying a substantial balance is unnecessary since the district levies for the amounts needed each year.
The second option presented to the board, based on Springer’s recommendation to consider further abatement amounts, was a $230,000 abatement in debt services, $174,245 abatement in IMRF/Social Security and $119,000 abatement in tort. The debt service fund is bond and interest payments, and this amount is calculated by the county based on the payments required of the district. The IMRF/Social Security fund is the retirement for non-certified staff and Medicare contributions, the contributions for the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) come out of the education fund. The tort fund is used for expenditures associated with risk assessment, legal reviews for things like FOIA requests and contract negotiations, liability insurance, legal fees associated with due process hearings and lawsuits, and some security staff salaries.
When discussing the abatement for the tort fund, board member Rebecca Huller said, “I don’t want to abate any money from that (tort fund). We get FOIA’d from the public, we get FOIA’d from our own board members. That creates a lot of time, Jeff’s got to look through all that stuff. On top of the new issues that come. I think abating money out of there is ridiculous at this point.” Huller later indicated she would like to see the reserve fund balance for tort reach at least $200,000. Board member Mary Baskett echoed Huller’s concern in reducing the tort fund balance.
The board voted separately on abating taxes from the debt services and IMRF/Social Security funds. With an approval of 4-2, the board abated $230,000 from debt services. Board members Mary Baskett and Rebecca Huller voted against the motion. They both indicated their overall desire to abate taxes, but were more comfortable with abating a lower amount. Board member Becky Drury was not in attendance. The board voted unanimously to abate $175,245 from the IMRF/Social Security fund. No action was taken for abatement of any taxes from the tort fund.
With the $405,245 in abatements approved by the board, the new tax extension will likely set the rate for the 2018 property taxes at 3.0605. This represents a 0.1043 percent reduction from the 2017 property tax rate. With the recent property reassessments and 1.0337 township multiplier, residents may see an increase to the actual dollar amount on their tax bill, but will definitely see a lower rate for certain taxing bodies.
In other district news:
Carriel Junior High student Delaney Hall was recognized as the recipient of the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award. This award was given to one middle school and one high school student from each state. Hall was the recipient for the state of Illinois at the middle school level and will travel to Washington DC in May for national recognition.
The Teacher of the Month recipient was Jami Bossart and Support Staff Member of the Month was Amy Jones. Recipients were nominated by their school principal and voted on by the school board. This month’s awards were sponsored by Todd Stonewater of Edward Jones.
The board gave approval to the superintendent to begin the process to post positions for an assistant principal at Marie Schaefer, an additional HVAC/Grounds person and up to seven teachers for class size reduction efforts.
Based on the use of 4 snow days, the last day of school for the 2018-2019 calendar is now Tuesday, May 28th. The district will also have a student attendance day April 2nd, since the county no longer uses the facilities as polling locations, to make up one of the snow days.
The board also approved the 2019-2020 school calendar. The districts in O’Fallon and Shiloh are trying to align their calendars as much as possible to reduce transportation costs. The board was presented with two calendar options, the difference being Spring Break. Due to mandatory state testing at the high school level on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, OTHS will have a student attendance day on Monday, April 13. OTHS, District 85 and District 104 will have attendance days on April 13, but the District 90 board approved April 8-13 as Spring Break so Monday will not be a student attendance day for District 90.
The building committee presented the board with a brief overview of projects they discussed at their last meeting, with bids coming to the board soon. Projects included parking lot repairs at most of the schools, roof repair at Fulton, and flooring at Evans.
The board approved the district’s participation in the property tax abatements incentive for the enterprise zone voting 4 to 2, with Boone and Huller voting against it and Drury absent.
O’FALLON – O’Fallon Township High School is hosting the Illinois Veterans Classroom Project for the sixth consecutive year.
Kristin Strubhart, OTHS U.S. History Teacher, is currently seeking veterans of foreign wars to interview as part of the project.
Civilians who participated on the “Home Front” are also welcome to share their experiences, according to Strubhart.
The main goals of the veterans project are:
• To provide students the opportunity to do personal interviews and capture Veteran and Home Front experiences organized around an inquiry-based, digital-story telling learning experience.
• To provide students with authentic connections which foster a deeper understanding and knowledge of the overall purpose and sacrifices made by our veterans.
• To digitally preserve the personal stories of veterans and persons who served and sacrificed for our country.
Illinois Central Bus Company, OTHS’ school bus company, is sponsoring the Veterans Classroom Project.
Strubhart said veterans do not need to put together a presentation. She said it will be more of a Q&A session.
“Past veteran participants have said that it is a very healing experience for them,” Strubhart said. “The project has a profound impact on our students, as well as veterans.”
As an effort to preserve veterans stories, interviews will be videotaped and submitted to the U.S. Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project at http://www.loc.gov/vets/about.html and to the Illinois Veterans & Community Classroom webpage at http://ilvets.ltc.k12.il.us/ilvets/.
“Veterans will be given the opportunity to view the interview and give approval before any footage is uploaded to the websites,” Strubhart said. “If you are not comfortable with the interview being submitted to the Library of Congress or the Illinois Veterans Project, it will not be submitted. Veterans will receive DVD copies of the interview to keep and share with their family.”
According to Strubhart, veterans will tell their story to a small group of about five students in a small conference room. Veterans will be provided student prepared questions in advance of the interview.
Strubhart said veterans are encouraged to bring photos and artifacts to share with the students. OTHS JROTC cadets will also be on hand to escort veterans.
Interview dates are Wednesday, April 17 or Thursday, April 18, and the veterans can select whichever date works best for them. The interviews will take place at OTHS Milburn Campus located at 650 Milburn School Road.
If interested in participating in this project, Strubhart asks that you contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (618)632-3507 x 536.
Recently, LaVerna Evans Elementary School named its Young Author Winners.
Mrs. Connor, a fifth grade teacher at Evans, is the sponsor for this event. She is pictured with the ten building winners. Pictured from left: Mrs. Connor, Reagan Woomer, Michelle Wallman, Izzabell Howard, Magus Boomershine, Jillian Ellis, Aaliyah Patterson, Avery Beiter, Aiyana Fowler, Kiara Richardson and bottom front right is Ella Snedeker.
Addiitonally, four students were chosen to move on to the St. Clair County competition. Those students are Jillian Ellis, Michelle Wallman, Magus Boomershine, Aaliyah Patterson. (Submitted Photo)
O’FALLON – The Carriel Garden will join the list of vendors for the opening day of Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station in May.
O’Fallon Station’s Vine Street Market will feature farm, culinary and artisan products on the second Saturday in May through the third Saturday in October from 8 a.m. to noon.
Seventh grade science teacher at Carriel, Amanda Mellenthin, said while the Carriel Garden is not a club, “it’s a lot of things.”
“It started small with worm composting and over time we started adding veggies in and and kind of built up the veggie side,” she said.
Mellenthin said the Carriel Garden has evolved in large part due to grant money through the district.
Through funding from the Emerson Gold Star Grant, Carriel gained a greenhouse. In the spring, the garden will receive a new pollinator patch and approximately $1,400 of plants.
Mellenthin spends time in the garden and the greenhouse with her science students and also the Carriel Eco Team.
Mellenthin has taught science at Carriel Jr. High ever since it opened 10 years ago. She said the garden was brought to life about a year after she started working. While Mellenthin was instrumental in the garden’s success, she attributes other teachers and classrooms for helping develop and expand it.
Mellenthin met Horticulturist and Market Coordinator for the City of O’Fallon Sarah Burton through the O’Fallon Garden Club. Burton is instrumental in putting together Vine Street Market.
“The O’Fallon Garden Club has helped us pull weeds when we have our community work days where we invite anybody that wants to help us keep this thing running,” Mellenthin said. “One of the members said to talk to Sarah.”
Mellenthin said Burton and the city helped the Carriel Garden by sharing pots for plants, which began a repertoire between the two.
Burton then asked if Mellenthin wanted to become involved with the Vine Street Market committee.
“I didn’t know too much about O’Fallon Station and the farmers market until she contacted me and said ‘did you want to get involved,’ she said. “I’m actually on their committee to help decide who’s going to be (in Vine Street Market).”
“She knew I was into the gardening scene and wanted to get another perspective,” Mellenthin said. “They try to get different viewpoints to make sure that it’s set up for everyone involved there.”
Mellenthin said selling the Carriel Garden plants was never what she had in mind. In previous years, after planting seeds in the garden with her students, they would give them away to Laverna Evans and Moye Elementary.
“Now — the second spring with the green house, we just decided they looked pretty good last year so I thought we could handle selling them at the market.”
Mellenthin said her seventh grade science students are currently working on a project to prepare for the farmers market.
“For whatever we sell, the kids are making flyers to go with them to say what plant it is and how you grow it,” she said. “They have to do research on it.”
Mellenthin said that her Eco Team students began planting seeds last week to prepare for the market.
While her students will be involved in Vine Street Market, Mellenthin said she hasn’t figured out who will participate as she has around 200 students.
The Carriel Garden program will be at the inaugural open of Vine Street Market on Saturday, May 11.
“We didn’t make plans to do anything beyond the first day,” Mellenthin said.
“I’m thinking it’s going to go pretty well,” she said. “The kids are excited about the opportunity to participate in it.”
Mellenthin said the Carriel Garden allows an opportunity for her students to get outside and be involved with the ecosystem.
The Carriel Garden will be bringing native pollinator starter plants like Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed and Purple Coneflower along with basics such as basil and marigolds. Proceeds from their sales will go toward supporting the garden program.
To stay up to date with what’s going on with the Carriel Garden, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CarrielGarden/
To find out more information about Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station, visit https://www.ofallonweekly.com/2019/01/22/downtown-ofallons-newest-destination-vine-street-market-to-open-may-of-2019/
O’FALLON – The five candidates running for three open positions on the OTHS District 203 Board of Education took part in a candidate forum sponsored by the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce and O’Fallon Weekly on Thursday, March 7.
The event was broadcast live on Charter Cable Channel 993 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99, and will be rebroadcast through April 3.
Incumbents Mark Christ, Brandt House, and Donna Johnson were joined by challengers Martha Fraier-Stoffel and PK Johnson. The candidates were each given two minutes to introduce themselves. From there, all of the candidates were asked a random question and one fixed question. The fixed question related to the district’s finances and how the candidate would suggest OTHS adjust its budget to get out of deficit spending. The candidates were then given three to five minutes to make their closing statements.
Through a random draw prior to the start of the event, Donna Johnson was given the opportunity to speak first. Johnson, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, has served one term on the District 203 Board. Aside from acting as the board’s secretary, she is a member of the Building Educational Success Together (BEST), Outreach, and Achievement Gap Committees.
“My platform is the same as it was four years ago: students today, world leaders tomorrow. Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve brought a different perspective that challenges our board and administration to look at things differently, understand all points of view, and encourage out of the box strategic planning for the future,” Donna Johnson said.
During the random question portion, Donna Johnson was asked how important she felt it was, as a board member, to be involved in day to day operations at the school.
“As a board member, our job is not to be involved in day to day operations. We are supposed to be at the fifteenth level looking down and the day to day operations is why we hire our superintendent and administrative staff. They run the corporation and we as the board run the governance and make sure its done correctly,” Johnson said.
When asked about the district’s finances, Donna Johnson said, “When I came on the board four years ago, the top issue was fiscal constraints and uncertainty. In the past four years we have budgeted conservatively and because of this our five year projections are stable. We’re doing pretty good as a board.”
During her closing remarks, Donna Johnson touched on what she views as her accomplishments during her time on the board.
“I’m very active and involved as a school board member. I’ve been the school board secretary for the past four years. I’m a member of the BEST committee which asked the Chamber of Commerce to do an independent feasibility study on school consolidation. We’ve collaborated with feeder districts for a seven percent reduction to our transportation rate. We’ve consolidated waste management in a joint agreement with the city. I’m on the outreach committee which establishes parent advisory group, coffee over conversations, and restructured our student discipline. I’m also on the Achievement Gap committee where we renamed math courses so students and parents clearly understood their math level, provided repurposed laptops, and excelled minority student enrollment into AP and honors courses,” Johnson said.
Mark Christ first joined the OTHS board in 2007. Since that time, he has not only been involved in the District 203 Board of Education, but also gotten very involved int he Illinois Association of School Boards, helping to steer policy at a state level.
“I would ask that you re-elect me to continue to serve. Your O’Fallon high school is fantastic and is doing well.
We have maintained a superior academic environment throughout some challenging times in the past twelve years. I appreciate and take very seriously the commitment and trust the community has placed in me and ask that you allow me to continue to serve in this way,” Christ said.
During the random question portion, Christ was asked what he felt were the current challenges facing the district.
“The most important one is the issue of state funding. It has gotten better under the evidence based funding model, but for many years OTHS faced reduced state aid payments which, in turn, forced the local taxpayers to share a greater burden. We faced serious reductions in staff and programs, and we weathered that storm. We’re now seeing, on our five year forecast, the best financial picture we’ve had since 2007 when I came on the board,” Christ said.
When asked about the district’s finances, Christ said “There’s no one easy straight forward answer to that. Obviously salaries and benefits are 67 percent or more of our operating budget and that’s just what our school is. Its a people business. I think given the state continues to fund the evidence based funding as they have promised, it will go a long way to alleviate some of our deficit spending. Certainly we can make cuts, but when you make cuts you have competing sides on what should be cut. There are certain core academics have to be maintained. We can’t exceed class size limits. There will have to be a continued effort by the board to look at the situation as a whole… it’s a balancing act.”
Christ said he is proud to serve the community on the District 203 school board during his closing remarks.
“I have been the vice president of the board for the past four years. I also serve as one of 21 regional directors for the Illinois Association of School Boards. What I love about serving on the school board is that it brings it down to the local level. This is Americana 101. This is where our community elects representatives to govern our schools. Yes, we have our hands tied by a lot of things, but its a wonderful way I can serve O’Fallon and give back. I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’d ask you to re-elect me as I have the experience, integrity, and dedication to continue to perform and serve the community,” Christ said.
House, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and current pilot for United Airlines, has served on the District 203 board since 2014.
“I joined the board because I wanted people to realize that it is those people who helped me get to where I am that are important. Now I want to continue on the board. My statement for this election is ‘A vision for OTHS’s tomorrow, today’. One of the things I have done this past term and want to continue is to look at the future and see what we can do at OTHS,” House said.
During the random portion of the forum, House was asked what made him decide to run for the District 203 Board of Education.
“As there was this exodus from East St. Louis, of families coming to O’Fallon to attend our schools, these kids were dealing with challenges that are unique to O’Fallon in a lot of ways and we see this in a lot of other places around the country where this happens. I wanted us to be prepared to deal with those challenges. In the last eight years, we’ve gone from nine percent reduced and free lunch to 24 percent of our population being reduced and free lunch. So there is a need to be able to address the students that were migrating from East St. Louis High School and that community,” House said.
House said part of that effort was to create the Achievement Gap Committee to “close the gap of our low income and minority students to our students of means.”
When asked about the district’s finances, House said the district needs to be looking at the future and projecting outward.
“How do we pay for those things though? We can’t do that in deficit spending. Right now one of the things I’ve asked as a board is how do we right-size our cash balance. We’ve got this cash saved up, but that’s tax payer dollars that they could be saving. If we’re not doing something with that what is the right size for that cash balance to be. We need to go outside of our boundaries and not just rely on tax dollars and not just think about what’s around us and even development going on around us. We’re not like Wal-Mart with a product to sell but then I challenge that thought as well as we have a great product to sell and that’s our academic programing. Would Boeing be willing to invest in what we have here to develop, maybe a wing of a school geared toward STEM? How do we reach out and leverage the opportunities around us and help our taxpayers out and help our students out with top of the line technology,” House said.
During his closing remarks, House touched on a question that PK Johnson received about the district’s one and done policy as it relates to students being expelled if caught with drugs on school grounds.
“Obviously, I’m someone who benefited from second chances because the adults in the room that were dealing with the challenges I was dealing with. So when my board hears me advocate for the second chances of the students coming through our expulsion hearings, its from that mindset. I do take it personally, because I can’t imagine that had one thing not gone right in my life, I would not be living the dream I’m living today,” House said.
“Donna and I were invited to a class recently where we spoke about drugs and advocating against the use of drugs, and a student said to us ‘I know you adults think drugs and alcohol are bad, but you never expel anyone for bullying and that’s an even bigger problem for us.’ We need to give kids a second chance and be aware of what our students are dealing with,” House said.
Fraier-Stoffel is proud to call O’Fallon home for more than 30 years and to have graduated from OTHS. She feels as though her background in accounting and human resources will be a benefit to the board, as well as her involvement learning as much as she can about city and school district governance.
“This community and school are very important to me. My love and commitment to them serve as my primary motivator for running for school board. My parents, David and Susan Hursey, modeled and instilled in me and my three younger brothers a love of service to this community. I cannot think of a more fitting way for me to take two things I care so much about and put them together into one service opportunity,” Fraier-Stoffel said.
During the random question portion of the event, Fraier-Stoffel was asked if she believed OTHS should put a greater importance on skilled trades and how she would go about that.
“I think the curriculum and offerings at OTHS are exceptional. I am a product of that institution. I do agree there is a need for skilled trades and the district is fortunate we have a lot of really knowledgable teachers and administrators that let us know what the curriculum needs are. I think we should continue to reach out to parents, teachers, and guidance counselors that are helping students prepare for their next steps and see if there are any potential needs the school board needs to resolve,” Fraier-Stoffel said.
When asked about the district’s finances, Fraier-Stoffel said,” When you’re talking about the finances as it relates to school districts, the primary means of funding comes from property taxes. Its a really exciting time in Shiloh and O’Fallon, as we’ve got a lot of growth going on. So while the previous boards have had some really difficult decisions to reduce programs and things like that to get the budget as close to balanced as we can, we’re really looking at some amazing opportunities financially over the next five to ten years. There’s been a recent expiration of a TIF here in town that contains some commercial development. There’s two in Shiloh, the Dierberg’s and Target area specifically that will expire in 2021, that will generate sizable commercial property taxes. And there is some current and projected commercial development that will increase our base as well. That will definitely benefit the district as it relates to our financial strain.”
Fraier-Stoffel detailed all of the extensive research she has conducted about the district and what it means to be a school board member during her closing remarks.
“I approached my decision to run for school board as I do most major decisions in my life: methodically, logically, and with a lot of research. I have spent countless hours meeting with district administrators, union representatives, current and former teachers, community members, city officials, and school board members from this board and feeder districts. I have reviewed endless amounts of information specific to this district, such as the budgets, the audited financials, past board meeting minutes, the current board policy, and the student handbook. I’ve researched information on board member roles from the Illinois Association of School Boards and read articles on things like curriculum, student discipline, and military impacted students. I’ve attended OTHS school board meetings since July and feeder districts for over two years. I’ve attended the BEST committee Board Academy training and, most recently, the OTHS school board retreat. I wanted to understand as fully as possible, this side of sitting on the board, the responsibility that would be placed on me. It is important to me, if elected, to be able to have a solid foundation of knowledge to best serve the district and community as soon as I’m sworn in,” Fraier-Stoffel said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Martha Fraier-Stoffel is a freelance reporter for the O’Fallon Weekly, primarily covering O’Fallon City Council.
PK Johnson previously served as a member of the Wolf Branch School District 113 Board of Education. An attorney by trade, Johnson moved to O’Fallon about a year and a half ago and has a son attending OTHS.
“I really believe I have all of the attributes to be a good school board member. There is a big learning curve when you’re on a school board to learn your role, figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, and I learned that you’ve got a lot of competing factions. You’ve got the teachers, you’ve got the administration, you’ve got the taxpayers, all of whom don’t always see eye to eye. And I’ve learned from being an attorney that before you make a rash decision, you really need to look at all sides of an issue. Being a school board member, after looking at all sides of an issue, you need to come to the realization you are looking out for the students,” PK Johnson said.
During the random question portion, PK Johnson was asked if he supported the district’s “one and done” policy, which states the district shall expel a student caught with drugs on school grounds. Johnson answered that, while he can see that some kids may be good kids that just get wrapped up in a bad thing, he did support this policy.
“I think I side with the one and done policy. I know that with the students that do get in trouble, they aren’t necessarily expelled. Some go to safe school, which isn’t a bad thing. These kids are still learning and they still get to graduate with their class. While it may be harsh, I am for it as long as you can find a way to get these kids into a safe school, still learning,” PK Johnson answered.
When asked about the district’s finances, PK Johnson said, “Making cuts is always tough. I’m optimistic about the future for a couple of reasons. With the evidence based model, O’Fallon is in the best financial situation it has been in years. I think we are running in the deficit, but in the scheme of things its not a huge deficit. I think the administration and previous board has done a really good job keeping a rainy day fund in case major issues arise in the future. O’Fallon is also expecting some growth over the upcoming years. With more businesses and people living in the district, there will be more tax dollars.”
In his closing remarks, PK Johnson said he is running as a way to give back to a district that has been good to his son.
“When I decided to run for the board, it isn’t because I had an agenda. It isn’t because I’m looking out for one group of students, cut taxes drastically. I don’t have an agenda, I just want to help the students. I have a son, Kaden, who is a sophomore. He’s a decent student but he’s struggled at times and I’ve spent a lot of time with him and with his teachers. The teachers have been awesome and been courteous and helped him a ton. I want to give back.”
O’FALLON – During a recent BEST committee meeting, it was reported that the committee assembled to organize a study into the possible consolidation of the four O’Fallon area school districts has chosen consultants to conduct the effort.
Dave Hopkins, who represents the committee organized by the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce as an independent party, said the committee has chosen Dr. Nick Osborne and Dr. James Rosborg.
Osborne and Rosborg most recently prepared a consolidation feasibility study for Freeburg, Smithton, and St. Libory school districts. In that report, the pair did recommend consolidation, however child sex abuse allegations at Freeburg District 70 and the potential litigation costs associated with them scuttled the deal.
The consultants have told Hopkins that they plan to discuss the consolidation idea with each of the four school districts, Districts 85, 90, 104, and 203, to determine the level of interest in consolidating. If they feel a district will not comply and the board of education will vote not to take part, they don’t wish to pursue consolidation plans that include that district as it could kill the whole process. An event similar to this took place when Smithton rejected the consolidation idea with Freeburg and St. Libory.
“They are going to get the base data and then they will make the recommendation of which will be the most effective combination of schools. At the mid-point [of the study], they will make the recommendation of final combination,” Hopkins said.
“The basis behind this is that if they have indications that at one school district or another that the idea just isn’t going to pass, they’re going to leave them out rather than pay for a separate study. Do what has a chance of succeeding rather than grasping at scenarios,” Hopkins continued.
The projected cost of the study is around $17,500. The city of O’Fallon has dedicated $7,500 and the village of Shiloh has agreed to contribute $5,000. The remaining $5,000 is expected to be raised in the community. Hopkins said he does not anticipate the committee will have to approach any of the school boards for contributions towards the study cost.
The study is expected to be completed by June 30. It will first be made available to the chamber committee, then the chamber membership, and then the public at large.
“I’m very happy we have a consultant identified and that we’re moving forward. We’re probably about a year later than what I expected, but I’m happy to see some momentum,” Hopkins told the BEST committee members.
O’FALLON – At the Feb. 19 O’Fallon District 90 Board of Education meeting, superintendent Carrie Hruby said the Illinois State Board of Education has given the district a positive financial profile score.
Hruby said the ISBE looks at the district’s fund balance to revenue ratio, days cash on hand, fund balance and long term and short term borrowing debt capacity — they then assign a score.
“Our score has increased every year for the past several years,” Hruby said. “We’re at the second highest level.”
“It’s important especially should you go out and sell bonds that your credit rating is partly based on the financial profile score and also based on policy and what you have done to reduce budgets.”
Hruby said there is an asbestos abatement necessary for the secure entry way upgrades taking place at District 90 school’s. According to Hruby, there is an issue at Moye Elementary which has to do with a water leak in the wall behind a water fountain. Hruby said there may be mold needed to be remediated.
Hruby said CENPRO Services, Inc. gave an estimate of the work required to be done. She said it’s a “high estimate” of $50,000 because services may require the total replacement of the water fountains. Hruby said “that probably won’t need to be done.” “It’s hard to know when it’s behind a wall.”
At the District 90 meeting, the Board amended the district wide calendar.
Hruby said school was previously unscheduled for April 2, 2019 because District 90 school’s were to be used as a polling place for the upcoming election cycle.
Hruby said per St. Clair County, District 90 facilities are no longer to be used for polling. As a result, the board passed a resolution for students to attend school on Tuesday, April 2. The day will be used as a make up snow day, with the other missed days added to the end of the school year.
Due to the Feb. 28 weather cancellation, an additional day may be added to the end of the calendar. Hruby said the current last day of school for District 90 students is May 24 – however, that is subject to change at the March Board meeting.
While there was discussion had at the District 90 meeting about hiring a communications director between the four districts, Hruby said “this isn’t our top priority right now.” She also raised questions on the job description and how local districts would share the director.
“When a crisis comes, where is the person and whose day is it,” Hruby said. “This isn’t our top priority right now.”
Hruby said currently, District 90’s primary focus is the reduction of class sizes and the continued improvement of curriculum.
“There are a lot of needs that would come before the need for a communications director,” she said. “That was a great idea but lets put it on the back burner for another time when we have met all of our other priorities.”
Hruby said District 90 received a Department of Defense Education Activity grant that required the district hire a math grant project director.
The total grant is approximately $750,000 over five years.
Hruby said the math grant project director would oversee the grant itself and “make sure everything is taken care of and all the paperwork is filed.”
Hruby described that as a “half time” position, which couples with a math instructional position that would support teachers in classrooms. The board approved the job description for the position. The position will be partially paid for by the grant.