ROCHELLE — At Tuesday's meeting of the Rochelle Elementary District Board of Education, Superintendent Jason Harper provided an update on district facilities and future projects.
He said that in recent years, facility plans have shifted and have been reshaped due to supply chain issues and “all sorts of things across the board.” Administration wanted to give an update to the board on where various facilities projects stand. In no order of priority and importance, Harper listed current and future projects at elementary district properties.
A multi-year effort is ongoing to upgrade lighting at district facilities to more-efficient LED lighting. Rochelle Middle School recently had HVAC work done to increase climate-controlled spaces and improve existing climate-controlled areas. RMS has also seen work on its locker rooms and gyms. “A lot” of outside exterior concrete work has been done at various district properties, Harper said.
During the upcoming summer, the roof at Central School will be replaced and the district will review safety and security measures at all of its buildings to make them as safe as possible.
As far as future projects, Harper mentioned that the district’s maintenance building on Cherry Avenue is in “a state of disrepair.” The “older building” has a few maintenance staff members in and out of it each day.
“It has major structural issues and we're coming up with some possibilities for improving that building, which would be costly, or modifying our approach with some other type of maintenance building at one of our properties,” Harper said.
A project at Tilton School involving windows, HVAC and geothermal work is earmarked for a future summer, Harper said. That school is also being looked at for work to help improve its drop off and pickup situation, which Harper said is a “constant concern” of parents and the public.
“We've talked about an easement with the city on the southwest corner of our property there, and we've talked about expanding that teacher parking lot to have either a bigger parking lot or a drop off area for parents on the southernmost portion by the sidewalk there,” Harper said. “We'll continue to give updates on that when we have a better scope of what's happening there.”
The district is currently looking at the future use of a computer lab at Lincoln School that was built for that purpose before each student had their own personal computer device.
At the vacant May School, a portable building on the property has reached the end of its useful life and Harper said the plan is to remove it from the property in the year to come. The portable building may be sold in the future.
“All of these items are things we're looking at and were presented in no order of priority, importance or cost,” Harper said. “We want to do these projects in a financially-responsible way. We don't want to get too far behind on these things.”
RMS sixth grade math teacher Jason Deutsch presented an update on the Huskie/Hub Tutoring Program that began at the school this year. The program involves after-school tutoring for middle school students by Northern Illinois University college of education students.
There is no cost to the district for the program other than paying its site coordinator. NIU pays for the supplies and the elementary district keeps any supplies NIU purchases.
Data is the first thing to determine which students are good fits for the program along with teacher recommendations. The program began in October with 17 students.
“It's been going pretty well,” Deutsch said. “NIU staff have been great partners. They've brought us a lot of materials and smart tutors. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and starting next week we'll be meeting four days a week. Mondays and Wednesdays we'll be doing English language arts and Tuesdays and Thursdays will be math, which we started with. We've had some good kids in the program and they've had a lot of fun.”
Deutsch said he’s noticed positive changes from the tutoring program in his own classroom such as students opening up more, asking questions and being more of a part of the class. The school is tracking the program based on Star testing scores.
“The program has been going very well,” Deutsch said. “We've expanded it and we're looking forward to that. And the kids are having fun. We're currently one-to-one with students and tutors. We recently got 10 more kids enrolled and have 27 students on the current roster. NIU has over 100 tutors ready to go. We go from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Parents are responsible for transportation and a few students take the HUB Program bus home.”
RMS Principal Jordan Young and Assistant Principal Katie Smith presented an update to the board regarding their school.
RMS is in the process of work on social emotional learning (SEL) goals and is in year two of an advisory time program where students meet with various teachers in the building to build a sense of community and make connections with students and peers across all grade levels, Smith said.
“We've also added some fun activities to this like bingo and escape rooms,” Smith said.
“There's been great feedback from students and staff. We also have some SEL activities that we've been doing with our staff. Earlier this year, we had the Chana Education Center come over and talk to us about strategies that teachers could be using in their classroom, that's been really effective. We look forward to some of our staff sharing their strategies that they're using with each other at our next school improvement day this month.”
Young said the school is continuing work on implementing standards-based grading schoolwide. Sixth grade is in the second year of that practice and seventh grade is in its first year. Eighth grade will start next year.
“We're working towards improving parent communication with that, including in class syllabi and sharing information in the parent handbook,” Young said. “This spring, we're shifting our focus to work on building performance descriptors and involving eighth grade teachers in that process ahead of the fall of 2023.”
RMS is continuing to use its positive referral program and as of Jan. 1 has seen nearly 600 positive referrals.
“That allows us to get all the great things that happen inside the walls of RMS out into the homes of our students and families,” Young said. “We love to read those.”
The board heard a report from WIPFLI on its fiscal year 2022 audit and unanimously accepted it as presented. The district has a total profile score of 3.9 out of four, the same it received last year. It had 340 days cash on hand in fiscal year 2022, compared to 298 the year before.
The board unanimously approved certificated employment changes including the resignation of Sarah Laviieri (speech language pathologist at Tilton and RMS), the transfer of Katie Sullivan (long-term substitute at Central to second grade teacher at Central) and the employment of Priscilla Escatel (paraprofessional at HUB Program at Lincoln), Gregory Ricketts (substitute teacher as-needed) and Sadie Matura (substitute teacher as-needed).
Support staff changes were also unanimously approved including the resignation of Jennifer Brown (tech support specialist) and the employment of Moncerat Rocha (paraprofessional, Stepping Stones Preschool) and Lori Reish (cafeteria, Lincoln and Tilton).