A Note from the Superintendent’s Desk: Feel the Energy!

By Superintendent Dawn Elser

As you walk through the doors of Central School or Joseph Arthur Middle School you can feel an energy that invites students, staff, family members, and visitors to engage in learning.  The energy can be directly attributed to the leadership of the schools and their ability to empower the staff and the students.  In an effort to establish, improve, and maintain a growth-producing school climate and culture, the leaders model and use the following pillars to guide the school:

Welcome everyone:  The principal of Central School can be seen early each morning opening the car door for students and giving them a high five to start their day.  This creates a very inviting atmosphere and gets the students day started on the right track.  Many teachers start the day off by standing in their doorway greeting their students with a handshake, hug or high five. The principal at JAMS is often seen skipping down the hallway high fiving students or singing in the cafeteria to the students on their birthday.

Set the stage:  The expectations are taught, the goals are set, activities are planned and then it’s lights, camera and action.  Our theme is Hollywood, so everything the teacher does for students, sets the stage for their success. They strive each day to ensure students achieve success, socially, emotionally and academically.  

Use Choice Words: The things you say to students can either make their day or break their day.  As Maya Angelou once said, “they may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.”  When speaking to children it is vital to make them feel respected. 

Spread the Good News:  There is no greater joy for a parent than to receive a compliment from their child’s teacher or principal.  The principals at both Central School and Joseph Arthur Middle School have been intentional in making a Good News Call of the Day, to reward students for their excellent choices, their kind words, their good behavior or their display of positive character traits.  A simple phone call and picture on Facebook has brought tears of joy, smiles and a sense of pride to many students and parents.  

Strive to Be the
Greatest School in the World:
  What is it that makes a school great? We believe that what makes a school great is the collective leadership of the administration and staff, the positive beliefs and attitudes of the teachers, the programs and curriculum that the district offers, the character that the students demonstrate and the achievement and accomplishments of the students. We do not intend to be boastful, rather we aspire to be a school that students want to go to each day and that parents feel good about sending their kids to on a daily basis.  Every teacher, student and staff member at Central School District #104 strives each day to be the greatest. 

Walk through the doors at one of the schools in our district and you will sense the positive climate and culture that has been established between the walls! 

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.” 

Maher and Ashkar named 2018 Homecoming Queen and King

During the 2018 Homecoming Dance Saturday evening, Riley Maher and Mohammed Ashkar were named the Homecoming Queen and King.

Riley is the daughter of Jeff and Kelly Maher. In school, Riley player for the Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team, is the NHS Vice President, and is a member of the National Spanish Honor Society. Outside of school, Riley is a St. Nicholas Youth Group Leader, a Children’s Hospital Teen Life Council, and coaches a Youth Lacrosse team. Riley’s favorite memory so far was the 2018 minus 36 Boys vs Girls lacrosse game because the community donated over $6,000 to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for cancer research in her name. 

Mohammed is the son of Maha and Waleed Ashkar. He is the Vice President of the Senior Class on Student Council and of Key Club. He also participates in FOR Club, Culture Mix Club, Chemistry Club, Spanish Club, National Honor Society, and Spanish Honor Society. Outside of school, he volunteers for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and is a member of the St. Clair County Teen Court. His advice for OTHS students is to stay strong because what doesn’t challenge you won’t change you.

(O’Fallon Weekly Photos by Nick Miller)


Moye names September Character Students

The Character Education word of the month at Delores Moye Elementary School for the month of September is respect, treating others the way you would like to be treated, including self, property, and authority. The following are students who are being recognized for their respect: Reese Seipp, Brooks Sommer, Zeke Palmisano, Cooper Burrow, Michael Albright, Olivia Wessel, Jaylen Amison, Andrew Scott, Taylor Bell, Jason Smith, Hank Schmitt, Lucas McLean, Carter Albers, Mila Venne, Jenna Milner,  Madison Ford, Gavin Dooley, Bethany Wessel, Matthew James, Matthew Devore, Dax Lieberman, Kylie Guetterman, Bryce Karns, Blair Liggett, Joe LoBue, Emma VanderVen, Jayden Siddens, Elizabeth Millender, Will Bilbruck, Gavin Underwood, Gabe Fulton (Submitted Photo)

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.”

OTHS board approves FY19 budget

Superintendent Darcy Benway presents the budget to the board members and assembled administrators. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

By Nick Miller

O’FALLON – The District 203 Board of Education approved the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, totaling $34,596,843 at their monthly meeting on September 20.

The budget does continue the district’s deficit spending, running $1.89 million into the red.

The district projects it will bring in $31,743,300 in direct revenue and the budget accounts for more than $34.5 million in expenditures.  While that adds up to a deficit of slightly more than $2.8 million, the district has built in contingency spending, planning for potential unexpected occurrences that may never occur. Those contingencies total $955,000, which is how the district arrives at the final deficit of $1,898,543.

Revenue did increase this year versus last and is attributed to increased funding through the state and a higher EAV in O’Fallon. Expenses also increased, in part due to contractually negotiated salary increases. 

“We budget conservatively. We tend to budget a little bit high on the expenditures and a little bit low on the revenues and we built in contingencies to account for the ‘what if’s’ so we know we’re covered,” Superintendent Darcy Benway explained. 

Benway stated that a portion of the deficit is planned. 

“We’ve been saving money over the years in our Health, Life, Safety Fund so we can do a bunch of HLS projects. We’ve been saving, stockpiling money to do these projects and now its time to spend. We’re not getting as much revenue in because we have been getting it in over several years so we can now spend that money,” Benway explained. 

The board has previously discussed using Health, Life, Safety Funds to increase security measures at the two campuses. 

Benway said the district does have the reserves needed to cover the deficit, with cash reserves estimated to be at around $15,562,057 at the end of June, 2019.

The board voted unanimously to approve the budget. Board President Lynda Cozad participated in the meeting by speakerphone.

Benway’s presentation and the Fiscal Year 2019 budget are both available to view on the district’s website, www.oths.us.

EK names September Character Builders

(Submitted Photo)

Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary School recently named their Character Builder winners for September. The word of the month was Respect. The following students displayed great respect during the month. 

Front Row:  Stosh Porzukowiak, Kendall Denny, Dominic Timko, Cori Moore, Harper Lowe, Harper Harris, Dean Garcia 

Middle Row:  Elizabeth Seipp, Truett Brown, Andrew Macugay, Garrison Mohlman, David Smith, Kara Miller

Back Row:  Reyna Clayton-Wolf, David Shaw, Rylee McVickar, Callie Baxter

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.

Moye hosts annual Family Reading Night

(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – Teachers and PTO members at Delores Moye Elementary School hosted the annual Family Reading Night on Thursday, September 13. 

Students were given the opportunity to read to therapy dogs from “Got Your Six Support Dogs Therapy Dogs,” while real life super heroes (members of the O’Fallon Police Department, O’Fallon Fire Department, and military dads) read books to kids. Junior High school art students painted faces, and attendees could take part in games, crafts, and photo opportunities with Batman and Spider-Man. Power Up snacks, and Epic Beats music also helped make the fall book fair a success.

(Submitted Photo)

(Submitted Photo)

(Submitted Photo)

(Submitted Photo)

McKendree is Among Top Midwest Regional Universities, Says U.S. News

LEBANON, IL. — McKendree University continues to rank in the top tier of Midwest regional universities in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 “Best Colleges” edition.

U.S. News rated 656 participating institutions in the Regional Universities category nationwide. McKendree remains a Tier 1 institution among the Best Regional Universities in the Midwest, at No. 65. U.S. News defines this category as institutions that provide a broad scope of undergraduate and master’s degree programs and few, if any, doctoral programs. It compares universities to their peer group in the North, South, West or Midwest because they tend to draw students most heavily from surrounding states in the region.

McKendree University was also recognized among the “Best Value Schools” and “Best Colleges for Veterans” in the Midwest regional universities category. According to the U.S. News website, Best Value Schools are those which are “above average academically and cost considerably less than many other schools when the financial aid that they dispense, in the form of need-based grants and scholarships, is taken into account.”

To meet the Best Colleges for Veterans criteria, an institution must be certified for the GI Bill; participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program or. for public schools, charge in-state tuition to all out-of-state veterans; and have enrolled a minimum of 20 veterans and active service members in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The 2019 U.S. News Best Colleges guidebook examines how accredited four-year institutions nationwide compare among widely accepted indicators of excellence. Statistical measures of quality used to calculate the rankings this year were outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving.

The U.S. News Best Colleges rankings have become a comprehensive tool for students and their parents in their search for the right college or university. The rankings are available at usnews.com/colleges.

District 90 school board discusses policy changes to protect transgender rights

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – At an O’Fallon District 90 meeting on Aug. 21, Board of Education members discussed the Equal Education Opportunities policy that is under a five year review. 

Board Member Rebecca Huller said that the district had received an email “from an outside group” saying that the current policy was discriminatory against transgender students. 

Huller said that the district’s attorney had recommended a newly amended policy, which would protect all students’ rights. “I think we should go with the recommended policy,” she said. 

Board member Steve Springer said that he doesn’t think the current policy is discriminatory. 

“We have one letter from a group who is not local,” Springer said. “I would love to know where the discrimination is.”

Springer said that the current policy states that the district will provide extracurricular activities and resources to all students “all of the time.” 

“I see no discrimination there,” Springer said.

Huller referenced the current District 90 policy which states that students must use the restroom according to their biological gender. “I think that’s discriminatory.”

Board Member Jason Boone agreed with Huller and said that he would like to further explore a policy that would allow student’s to use a name that is associated with their chosen gender on their ID cards. 

Board President John Wagnon said that having looked at the historical changes of different protected classes, he think’s it’s important to make changes to the policy according to current legislation. 

“As the law changes, we are covered,” Wagnon said. 

I think having looked at the historical changes of different protected classes, I think its succinct to say ‘provide opportunities as provided under the law’ that way as the law changes, we’re covered.

Wagnon said that the current policy does allow students to use a gender neutral facility if it’s available. 

Discussion of the policy was a “first review” and no voting on policy changes took place at the August 21 meeting.

Few changes for Illinois schools under new funding formula

Illinois schools are welcoming students back to class for their first full year under Illinois’ new school funding formula, but so far, it’s just like any other year.

Back to school means back to class for students and back to the books for Illinois school leaders.

The state’s new school funding formula changes how the state pays for schools. Need is paramount, and schools will be paid based on enrollment, not daily attendance.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said that’s a big change for local schools.

“Enrollment versus average daily attendance. This is a huge [change] for school districts who are the neediest because they struggle with attendance too,” Bourne said. “They were underfunded, then underfunded even more because their students struggle with attendance.”

Bourne said the state will average enrollment for the past few years.

Anna Jonesboro Superintendent Rob Wright said the switch is a big change in the broad scheme of things, but it doesn’t change much day to day.

“We count kids the same as we always have,” Wright said. “We continue to try and focus on getting our kids to school, and to try and do things to try and incentivize kids being in school.”

Wright said he thinks it’s a little more fair to use enrollment as a basis for school funding.

Gov. Bruce Rauner approved the new school funding formula last year. The cornerstone of the plan is that it makes need the driver of school money.


Teachers express concerns to District 85 board members

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – Shiloh elementary and middle school teachers raised concerns with District 85 board members at the August 20 meeting on what they believe are inefficient policy changes and unfulfilled promises.

SMS math teacher Rob Gribbins said that he wanted to ask the board some “very direct” question about the district’s cell phone policy.

“Some things happened or did not happen over the summer that really caused some concern,” Gribbins said.

Gribbins asked the board if they were aware of the end-of-year suggestion forms that Shiloh teachers completed during the 2017-18 school year.

He also asked the board if they were aware of the “large amount” of teachers at the middle school that feel the cell phone policy “needs serious adjustment.”

In the 2017-18 school year, the school board added a clause under electronic devices reading: Electronic devices may be used throughout the school day when under approved supervision of school personnel.    

Gribbins said that he had previously spoken with Superintendent Dale Sauer about his concerns, but he wanted to address the board because they are the “gatekeepers of the policy.”

Board President Leslie Tesluk-Ecker said that the board has a policy on how communication is handled.

“Before anything were to happen we need to refer back to that policy and that needs to be funneled through administration and then we would absolutely be happy to take questions,” she said. “We aren’t doing it through this kind of forum.”

“You emailed me last week Mr. Gribbins and I said we would sit down and talk about it and we will,” Sauer said.

Shiloh P.E. teacher Jami Richter raised concerns to the board regarding technology in Shiloh school’s.

Richter said that during the last school year, the elementary school was promised it would be receiving chrome carts for the 2018-19 school year.

“Back in 2016, we received a long technology progress report stating that $3,000 was committed out of the SES and SMS activity funds,” Richter said. “I think the concern of the union is where is the money and what was it spent on.”

Sauer said that part of the funding had gone toward chrome books for teachers and buying three chrome carts for the middle school.

Richter said that the teachers have followed the “chain of command” and already brought up their concerns to administrators.

“A lot of the teachers left over the year thinking that it was certain that this was going to get changed,” she said.

The board made note of the teacher’s concerns and agreed for further discussion in future meetings.

Teacher instills positive affirmations at Shiloh school

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – Shiloh Elementary School teacher Charlee Dixon spent time decorating the school’s bathroom stalls with inspirational quotes to motivate District 85 students. 

Some of the positive messages were quotes like, “Be your own kind of beautiful,” and “Your mistakes don’t define you.”

Dixon said at the Aug. 20 District 85 board meeting that she had seen a post on Facebook with other school’s decorating their stalls. 

“I just threw it out there and had a bunch of people jump on right away,” Dixon said. 

Dixon said that Shiloh parents and other teachers helped Dixon with her idea. “Without them, it would have never happened.” 

“The kids were very excited,” she said. 

McKendree University Welcomes the Class of 2022

President James Dennis, McKendree University

LEBANON, IL. — McKendree University welcomes the Class of 2022 to campus, as 375 first-year students and118 transfer students arrived on campus this week.

Continuing a trend from recent years, an increasing number of new Bearcats are from out of state. While 62 percent of the Class of 2022 have come from throughout Illinois, others represent 23 other states, as well as 20 other countries. International students have arrived from the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

The Class of 2022 has a collective high school grade point average of 3.5 and 87 percent received an academic scholarship. Most McKendree first-year students—90 percent—live on campus.

At the traditional opening convocation on Aug. 22, President James Dennis told the students, “Part of our work is to challenge you, to cause you to think more deeply, consider more thoughtfully, make you feel uncomfortable, challenge your thinking—and to just make sure you know what you think, what you stand for, what you value and most importantly, why.”

New students then signed the Matricula—a document that officially signifies their enrollment at McKendree University. They will participate in three days of orientation, activities and “Into the Streets” volunteer service in local communities before classes start on Aug. 27.

Photos of Convocation, New Student Orientation groups and move-in day will be posted at mckendree.edu/photos.