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July BOE Update
July BOE Update
Fred Lamkey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Board Approves SRO Officer and Tentative Back to School Plan

The Mt. Pulaski CUSD 23 Board of Education called their regular meeting for July 19, 2021 to order at 6:00 PM in the MPGS Learning Center.  All Board members were present with the exception of Mr. Smith.

There were four audience members in attendance including two members of the student council and two high school staff members.  No members requested to address the Board.

The first item of business was the Consent Agenda, which included the approval for the payment of bills, the sales tax report, meeting minutes from June 21, 2021 & June 28, 2021 and executive session minutes from June 21, 2021.  Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that sales tax revenues reported for April were up once again at $27,205.  He felt this was a good sign of an improving economy in the pandemic.  The motion passed unanimously.

Superintendent Lamkey reported on the finishing touches to the high school construction project which include sidewalk renovation along Spring Street, street lights along Spring Street and the installation of the marquee.  The marquee has been installed and is awaiting an electric connection which should occur at the end of this month.  The street light project will wait for the completion of the sidewalk project so that the proper grade may be maintained to set the lights.  The City of Mt. Pulaski has the lead on the sidewalk project.

High school principal, Heather Fricke, described a new extracurricular activity that she is proposing, E-sports.  This is an up and coming activity that has the potential for students to earn college scholarships.  Mrs. Fricke is still measuring interest in this program, but she hopes to kick it off this fall.

Principal Lora from the grade school then described curricular changes being offered in the junior high including an agriculture elective, a coding class and podcasting.  Students seem excited about the new electives, which offer a different spin compared to traditional music and art classes.  Mrs. Lora added that the addition of the junior high agriculture class will potentially open an opportunity for the addition of a junior high FFA chapter.

Mr. Martin opened a discussion considering the addition of the Trap and Skeet coaches to the extracurricular salary schedule.  After the discussion, it became apparent that there were other factors to be considered.  The administration will investigate to see what would benefit the program the most.

Mr. Brown asked Principal Lora a question about the enrollment of junior high math classes.  Mrs. Lora said that the junior high is going away from tracking students and taking on a more heterogeneous approach that has been proven to be better for student learning.  The grade school math teachers continue to work on curricular and instructional changes with the Regional Office of Education.  Mrs. Lora noted that the grade school will maintain an 8th Grade Algebra I class for qualifying students. This year’s class enrollment is 11 students.

Under Unfinished Business, the Board discussed the changes that have occurred in CDC and IDPH guidelines that now allow for more local control as school approaches.  Mr. Lamkey explained that the administration is looking to provide an educational setting that creates the least restrictive environment which will optimize student learning.  The Hilltop Return to School Plan 3.0 will be discussed in New Business.

The first item in New Business was the approval of the Consolidated District Plan, which is an application created for ISBE that allows the school district to receive state and federal funding.  The motion passed 6-0.

Sheriff Landers and Deputy Pharis have been in communication with three county school districts, New Holland-Middletown, Hartem and Mt. Pulaski, concerning the addition of a School Resource Officer (SRO) shared between the three.  This has been a topic of discussion amongst the Board for several years and widely considered a need for the district.  Under the contract, each district's Board of Education would pay $22,565.11 for an equal share of time for one SRO.  The SRO would be a presence at all schools to assist as needed, as well as building positive relationships with students.  The SRO would also collaborate with teachers to work with students on appropriate topics.  After a short discussion on this matter, the Board approved the SRO 6-0.

The next items under new business involved district policy.  Policy Committee members, Mr. Wilham and Brown, briefly explained a few language changes and reviews that did not greatly affect the content of policy.  After this review, the committee entered a discussion of potential policy that would disallow remote students from participating in extracurricular activities.  It was added that this would not include students who are remote for specific medical purposes or under quarantine.  After some mixed discussion, Superintendent Lamkey was directed to put together policy language that could be reviewed by the policy committee and discussed again at the August meeting.  The second reading of Press Policy was approved and the Board Policy Update was adopted, both with 6-0 votes.

Mt. Pulaski CUSD 23 joined a coalition of over 300 Illinois school districts which are sending a resolution to the governor’s office affirming school district’s rights to maintaining local control when considering pandemic mitigation measures.  This resolution is an act of unity that respectfully states the expectations of all the schools involved.  The resolution passed 6-0.

Superintendent Lamkey, in cooperation with President Cowan and Vice President Mott, completed an application for the Illinois Association of School Boards to become recognized for excellence in school governance.  Last year, only 15 districts in the state were honored and Mr. Lamkey feels MPCUSD23 is worthy of consideration due to the outstanding leadership of this school district’s board of education.  Applications are due August 1st and recognized schools will be identified later this fall.  The measure was supported 6-0.

The Board then approved the Tentative Hilltop Return to School Plan 3.0, 6-0.  This plan is tentative, as expectations from the Illinois State Board of Education and the state government become more clear.  The theme of the plan will maintain local control by our district, but some of the language and metrics will be adjusted between now and the August 16th Board meeting.  Highlights of the plan include:

  • School will be conducted full days (8am - 3pm)

  • All students will attend school in-person.

  • Masks must be worn on school transportation per the CDC, IDPH and ISBE.

  • Masks will be recommended for all non-vaccinated individuals, but our local district will determine mitigation practices based specifically on our schools needs.

  • All extra-curricular activities will take place in their normal season in accordance with the Illinois High School Association and the Illinois Elementary School Association.  

  • School visitors and field trips will once again be considered by administration.

In short, we are in a much better position this year compared to last year.  The district is adamant about instructing students in a least restrictive environment based on student needs and local conditions.  We are very optimistic that we can begin the school year in a traditional and normal manner.

The Board then considered if there was a need to open Executive Session Minutes to the public.  Being that there were no concerns, the item died due to the lack of a motion.

Superintendent Lamkey then spoke about the district Risk Management Plan which creates a system to allow for safe and efficient practices in the school district.  Lamkey added that a time study would be conducted this school year to determine the percentage of the work day each different position spends on risk management activities in the district.  The plan was approved 6-0.

The 1963 High School Gym was prepared for painting this week which entailed the removal of all temporary items from the gym’s walls.  Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that if they desired a change in format and structure of wall hangings, this would be the time to consider change.  He also noted that there was not enough current wall space under the current system to hang all new banners.  The Board directed the Building and Grounds Committee, as well as Mrs. Fricke and Mr. Lamkey to research options for the gym.  They will report back at the August meeting.

The Personnel Report had four items:

  • Hiring Rob Siebert and Jamie Selinger as Co-Assistant High School Soccer Coaches.

  • Hiring Chelsey Smock as the Grade School and High School Assistant Volleyball Coach.

The motion passed 6-0.

Under Items of Information, Superintendent Lamkey informed the Board that reservations for the Joint Annual Conference have been made and we are currently waiting for our assignment.  The meeting adjourned at 7:30pm.  The next regular meeting will be August 16, 2021 in the MPGS Learning Center.