ROCHELLE — Rochelle Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle presented a school improvement goal annual overview at the school board’s monthly meeting Tuesday.
Doyle said social emotional learning (SEL) will be the main goal as the district moves forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Students returned to all-day, in-person schooling at the start of the current semester.
Social and emotional learning is defined as “an integral part of education and human development and a process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop.” Social emotional learning was also the main focus of the high school district’s school improvement plan, which was presented last month at that district’s board meeting.
“If we don't get a good handle on our social emotional learning with students and staff, it really doesn't matter what else we're doing,” Doyle said. “Kids have to be able to regulate themselves, we have to be able to give them support and staff have to be able to regulate themselves. It's never been more important than it is now.”
Doyle said the elementary district has had some growth on the topic, but added it “has a long way to go.” An additional counselor was recently added so there is one in every elementary school building. He said the district is attempting to get an SEL paraprofessional in each building and said it has been a challenge due to “some turnover” with paraprofessionals this year.
“We're all in this together trying to get that social emotional piece in place,” Doyle said. “We're going to continue to use student and parent feedback and counselor recommendations to improve what we're already doing. Simply listening to what our kids are telling us. Listening to everyone will help to guide us. We have to be consistent and purposeful."
Cosme Becerra, a fifth grade teacher at Tilton School, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting on behalf of teachers that asked him to attend and said students have shown aggressive behavior towards staff and peers and “very few” of them have been held accountable for it.
“There has been no consistency with consequences with communication involving individual buildings,” Becerra said. “Students have shown aggressive behavior towards staff and peers and have remained in the building all day with these behaviors continuing. It's not OK and it's causing burnout all over. It makes people feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the workplace.”
Doyle acknowledged Becerra’s comments and said they tie into the district’s SEL work.
“It's never been more important than it is now,” Doyle said. “Some of the things we've heard tonight, those things are true and they are happening. I was glad to hear Mr. Becerra talk about it.”
Becerra is also the co-president of the teacher’s union that is currently negotiating with the district on a new contract. Karissa Dobson, a fourth grade dual language immersion teacher at Tilton School, also spoke during public comment and walked the board through an example of her day while working under an expired contract.
Becerra said the union is working with Doyle and feels there's forward progress toward a new contract. Board President Dave Casey thanked both teachers for their comments and their work with students.
“For a lot of our kids, you guys are their safe spot,” Casey said. “You're where they get a lot of the love. And thank you for that. I know it's not easy. The board knows it's not easy. From us to you, thank you very much."
School resource officer
The board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Rochelle extending its school resource officer program with the Rochelle Police Department until Sept. 1, 2024. The board agreed to pay 33 percent of the SRO’s total compensation including salary, overtime, benefits and pension payments.
“We feel it's been a productive program and we're very appreciative of the services we've received from the police department and specifically SRO Jim Jakymiw,” Superintendent Jason Harper said. “The city has already approved it.”
Attendance center survey
Lincoln Elementary School Principal Justin Adoph presented the findings of a survey the district did on its new attendance center model put in place this year that sends students to schools based on grade level instead of where they live in the district.
Parents and staff were surveyed. Adolph said responses were 74 percent positive overall and 64 percent positive on district transportation. Some of the negative responses were due to traffic or anxiety due to parents having to pick up children from multiple schools.
“We do have staff on hand to wait for kids if parents have to pick up at multiple buildings,” Adolph said. “They described the anxiety of trying to hurry to get to the buildings. That's one thing we want to communicate is that that's not necessary. We're planning on some kids being left for 5-10 minutes while you travel to the buildings.”
Communication was rated positive by 80 percent of parents. The district plans to do more district-wide communication going forward to make for less lengthy text chains for parents with kids in different schools due to the new model. Adolph said the overall parent satisfaction was 90 percent.
The staff data’s overall satisfaction with the new model was 54 percent and the building comfort level was 57 percent, Adolph said. The survey found staff’s biggest needs were SEL and more collaboration time.
“Collaboration time is a benefit of this model and we're not where we want to be with that yet,” Adolph said. “We do have a need for more meeting time and we're working on that. Overall, that's the data. We plan to give this survey again in the spring after we've implemented some things.”
HUB Project Director Amy Hayden gave an annual update on the district’s extended learning program. She said enrollment has been “steady” and HUB has enjoyed a return to in-person learning. The HUB site changed with the attendance center model and now every student in the district is eligible for the after school program.
Hayden said that in the past, kindergarten and first grade numbers were smaller, but this year those levels reflect the most HUB students. “Quite a big” group has been coming this year for the morning HUB program, which helps with socialization and SEL skills.
Compensation was recently increased for HUB teachers, paraprofessionals and staff, which “hadn’t been done much” over the course of the program’s grant. Hayden said the program is preparing for its next five-year cycle and its funding expires June 30, 2022.
“We've been meeting about what the next steps are,” Hayden said. “We're committed to pursuing the next five-year cycle of the grant. We're not eligible for continuation funds this time. We're working our channels at the state to see about a request for proposal being released and being ready for that. We're working on what we want the after school program to look like for the next five years.”