Elementary board: Grant application to continue HUB Program funding approved

At its Tuesday meeting, the Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the submission of a grant application to help continue its HUB Program.

Update on district improvement plans given

ROCHELLE — At its Tuesday meeting, the Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the submission of a grant application to help continue its HUB Program. 

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.

District Superintendent Jason Harper said the Illinois State Board of Education Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant cycle will be more competitive this time, with a $10 million being awarded total and more districts looking for post-pandemic programming for at-risk youth. 

“We're full-steam ahead,” Harper said of the grant’s submission. “We feel the weight in a positive way of what this means for our community and our students. We're working and exhausting our ability to try to extend this for as long as we can. The grant is due before April ends. We have been told we won't know the fate of our application until probably October. We will be competing with every other district that decides to do an application to secure funds out of that pot.”

The district was originally awarded the grant 10 years ago, and five years after that, the state decided the awardees of the original cycle would get an automatic rollover for five more years. 

Harper said the program, which currently has 200 enrolled students, has also been great for community partnerships and has even included some programming for parents. 

“It's a fantastic grant, it costs us essentially zero dollars to run this from our district and community's standpoint,” Harper said. “It's a pure benefit to our students, families and teachers if they want to work additional hours. It's been a great program.”

HUB Program Director Amy Hayden has been working with the program’s grant evaluator, ISBE and administration to rewrite the grant application to stay competitive. Harper believes the district has 10 years of evidence to show how successful the program has been for the community.

The grant application will also highlight the current issues the community has due to the lack of a daycare. Over 30 letters of support from community partners in recent years will be included in the grant application.  

With uncertainty of whether or not the grant application will be chosen and the selection process taking until October, Harper said he’d like to commit to the HUB Program operating in the fall using district funds and other grant money. 

“But I don't want to give the false representation that this program is ultimately sustainable for another five years without the grant,” Harper said. “There's inflation and all sorts of things that are happening with the district's budgetary concerns in general. Looking at our projected budget we have as part of this application and what I think we can do to start off next year, I think we can commit to that to our parents and community. Beyond that, I think it will be an evolving conversation.”


District Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle provided an update to the board on district improvement plans. 

Doyle said last year’s improvement goal was to increase support for social emotional learning (SEL) for students and staff. A challenge was returning to full in-person learning after the pandemic impeded that, especially for kindergarten and first grade students that had never been in the format. 

“That has been a big challenge and it's still going to be a work in progress as we finish out the year and probably going into next year,” Doyle said. “I appreciate everyone's efforts on that. We'll come back this summer with more detail on how we measured that and how it worked out.” 

Doyle said he guesses the school improvement goal will be similar going into next year in focusing on SEL. The district tries to measure success by student referrals (both positive and areas of concern), counseling interventions, student, parent and teacher feedback, basic student observation and testing with a universal screener for SEL.

Improvements this year included adding a third counselor so there’s one in every building. 

“Going into next year, we know that social emotional needs, if we don't have our kids regulated or in a good state, they're not going to learn,” Doyle said. “The only thing that hasn't changed in public schooling is bell to bell. It's a short window to get them in here and get everything they need.”


The board unanimously approved an agreement with Jim Gensler to farm the district’s land in a cash rent arrangement he’s had with the district since it purchased the land. 

The terms of the agreement remain the same, except the price increased from $230 per acre to $275 (19.6 percent increase) for the 14 tillable acres.