Elementary board: MOU for tutoring program with NIU approved

At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Illinois Tutoring Initiative through Northern Illinois University for a tutoring program that is planned to begin next month at Rochelle Middle School.

No changes to COVID-19 policies from end of last year

ROCHELLE — At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Illinois Tutoring Initiative through Northern Illinois University for a tutoring program that is planned to begin next month at Rochelle Middle School. 

The program involves after school tutoring for middle school students by NIU college of education students. District Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle made a presentation to the board about the program and said the district is excited to implement it. 

“This program is just for the middle school,” Doyle said. “It has potential for expansion. We would have a site coordinator in the district that would help with parent communication and matching up the needs of the student using data and teacher recommendations. NIU will hire and pay students that are already in the college of education in their second or third year to come over and work with our students after school.”

There is no cost to the district for the program other than paying its site coordinator. NIU will pay for the supplies and the elementary district will keep any supplies NIU purchases. 

Data will be the first thing to determine which students would be good fits for the program along with teacher recommendations, Doyle said. 

“A parent could call and ask for their child to be involved in it,” Doyle said. “We won't make kids do it. We'll encourage them. Hopefully we can build on celebrating that it's a fun thing and it helps them with homework and tests and build it up. It will be based on their needs academically.” 

Doyle said the district has been “pretty much guaranteed” that there will be plenty of NIU students to work as tutors in the program and the elementary district is early to work on the program with NIU in terms of other area schools. The program is planned to start in mid-September after Labor Day. 

The tutoring initiative could also work for the district as a recruitment tool amid a nationwide teacher shortage. Along with NIU, Doyle said the district would like to strengthen its relationships with Rock Valley College, Rockford University, Western Illinois University and other area institutions.

“We can make connections with those people for recruitment and retaining efforts that every district is faced with right now,” Doyle said. “We can get them in our doors and possibly find some matches. These are students from NIU coming to us. And other colleges are doing it. 

We're not tied to just NIU and we are trying to expand ourselves and have people come and see Rochelle.”

Once the program moves along, the district plans to get student and teacher feedback to assess its progress. Tutors will work with no more than three children at a time. 

“This is going to be more specialized,” Doyle said. “It won't be a big group and that makes for a bigger chance of impactful growth. And you hope those relationships grow and it's one more person for that middle school kid to talk to. I only see the positives. I think once we get going, we can only build and take it as far as we can take it.”

The tutoring initiative came about as the district faces uncertainty with the state grant that funds its after-school HUB Program. That program is funded completely by a grant and an application to continue that funding is currently being reviewed and the district will know its fate later this fall. Doyle said the district wanted to look for new programs to address student needs due to the uncertainty.

It’s also possible that the district could fund the HUB Program itself in some form if the grant is not received. Doyle said if the HUB Program continues, it can be married to the tutoring initiative. 

The tutoring program does not have plans for transportation for students like the HUB Program does. Superintendent Jason Harper said there are ways non-parent transportation could still work for tutoring students at RMS.

“If we do have a student who is also in the HUB Program and this program, we have discussed how we could help support more students,” Harper said. “A student could do tutoring and then finish at the HUB Program and use that transportation. We also have a high percentage of students that walk home from the middle school. If we're able to have both programs, we’ll work on how we can make them work together.”

COVID-19

Harper said that with school starting in the coming days, the district will be operating with minimal COVID-19 restrictions in the same way that it did to end the previous school year. 

“We haven't made any changes to our daily operations since then or the end of last school year,”  Harper said. “There are fewer COVID-19-related procedures. The portable testing site at May School will not be used this year. SHIELD testing for staff members will not be done either. Masks remain optional and we're going to move forward with what we did at the end of last year. There are no changes to transportation or extracurricular procedures.”

Employment

The board unanimously approved the resignation of certificated personnel including Megan Monfils (second grade dual language teacher, Central School) and Michelle Mairs (second grade teacher, Central School) along with the employment of Madison Bromfield (special education teacher, Central School) and the transfers of Melissa Bowers (reading teacher, Central School, to second grade teacher at Central School), Yharosliv Cruz (fifth grade dual teacher at Tilton School to long-term substitute) and Brooke Freeman (ESL to seventh grade ELA at RMS).

Support staff personnel changes were unanimously approved including the resignations of Linda Niemeyer (paraprofessional at RMS), Marina Martinez (paraprofessional at Tilton School), Enrique Lopez (paraprofessional at Central School) and Katie Paulsen (paraprofessional at RMS) and the hiring of Nayeli Ramirez (paraprofessional at RMS), Heather Sandlin (paraprofessional at RMS part-time) Angel Cruz (bilingual paraprofessional at Central School) and Maria Estrada Garcia (cafeteria at Central School).

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