ROCHELLE — During Tuesday’s Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Jason Harper said Rochelle Middle School’s eighth grade graduation will be held Friday, May 27 at Rochelle Township High School outdoors on the football field weather-permitting.
If the weather doesn’t allow for it, the ceremony will be held inside in the RTHS gym.
“The RTHS graduation is the following day, so it's convenient and we'll continue to do what we've done in the past,” Harper said. “We did not take any snow days off this year, so our last day with students this year will be May 24 and our last day with teachers will be May 25. We will do our typical end of the year celebration with teachers as we've done in the past. That will be the first time our entire district has been together since August 2019. We're looking forward to it and we'll share a meal and highlights of the school year. We're back to typical procedures with that.”
District Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle said it’s been nice to see some of the traditional end-of-year activities return to elementary schools and RMS for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We’re doing things like picnic days and field days,” Doyle said. “Some classes have actually gone on field trips. It's kind of cool to see the fifth graders back over at RMS this week to have middle schoolers give them a tour. It's good to see those things come back and give us that normalcy we've all been craving.”
Harper said during the meeting that an application to continue funding for the district’s HUB Program has been submitted.
The program, which is specifically targeted to support the district’s K-8 at-risk youth using a before and after-school model plus summer school, has been fully-funded by the grant for the past 10 years. The district currently receives about $435,000 per year to run the program at no cost to it and the community. About 200 students are currently enrolled in it.
Harper said last month that the Illinois State Board of Education Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant cycle will be more competitive this time, with $10 million being awarded statewide and more districts looking for post-pandemic programming for at-risk youth.
The district has been told that grants will be awarded sometime in October, after the start of the fall semester. Harper has said that the HUB Program will take place this fall at the district’s expense along with other grant money possibly being used
“Over the summer we'll come back to the board with a plan for how to start the fall semester next year with an after school program,” Harper said. “We'll have costs associated with that. If we get the grant, those costs will be embedded and brought back through the grant process. If they're not, that would be a local burden. More details to come."
If the ISBE grant is not received, the program’s future will be an “evolving conversation,” Harper said last month.
Doyle recognized four employees within the district that will be retiring at the end of the year. They include Jan Morrissey, Heidi Mann, Robert Donovan and Mark Papke.
Morrissey is finishing her 19th year with the district. She started employment in August 2003. She has served as a special education and third grade teacher and is currently a second grade teacher.
Mann is finishing her 28th year at Rochelle Schools. She started employment in 1994. She has served as a first grade, third grade and English-Spanish language teacher.
Donovan is finishing his 31st year. He started employment in August 1991. He’s served as art teacher, art supervisor and sixth grade sports coach.
Papke is finishing his 30th year. He started employment in August 1992. He’s served as industrial arts teacher, wrestling coach, assistant intramural boys basketball coach and a.m./p.m. supervisor.
Harper recognized Lincoln School kindergarten teacher Nicole Tobler for recently winning an Illinois Principals Association Teacher Leadership Award. Tobler has taught for 14 years in the district.
"It's a great recognition for her and for Lincoln School and our district and community," Harper said. "We're very proud of her for this special recognition."
The board unanimously approved personnel changes including the resignations of Anna Adolph (seventh grade ELA teacher, RMS), Karissa Dobson (fourth grade, Tilton School), Jodi Dickey (administrative assistant, Tilton School) and Jonathan Gehm (assistant soccer coach) and the hiring of Bryan Garcia Belmonte (special education, RMS) and Mattie Hoiness (special education, Tilton School).
The board took no action on the renewal of the district's health insurance due to the fact that it's awaiting more information on rates. Harper said the district's medical insurance rate will come in at a 5.6 percent renewal, but information is still needed on vision and dental. Life insurance will see no increase. A decision from the board on renewal will come at its June meeting.