The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Joy Swearingen, Correspondent
Illini West High School approved a three-year farming contract with Matthew Swanson of rural LaHarpe to farm land in Durham Township owned by the district.
The board opened lease bids at their meeting Dec. 20, with Swanson having the highest cash rent offer of $337 per acre each year on the 54.2 acres, for a total of $54,796 over the three years.
The payments of $18,265.40 are due on April 1 each year.
Swanson was one of four bidders to lease the land that was purchased last winter as a possible future building site for a new Illini West School campus. Other bidders were Rich Edmunds, Carroll Family Farm and RC Boston Farm.
A levy hearing was held at the start of the meeting, allowing public comment on the proposed property tax levy request. The board approved the levy request of $2,890,035 for the 2018-2019 school year.
Superintendent Kim Schilson reported on a committee of western Illinois superintendents who have organized a committee to deal with the teacher shortage.
"We came up with a list of reasons for the shortage and a list of solutions," Schilson said. They met with State Representatives Jil Tracy and Norine Hammond on Dec. 20 to share their concerns.
"We pay better than many schools in the surrounding area, but not as much as Iowa or Missouri; the process for teachers to certify is harder in Illinois," Schilson said.
"Tracy and Hammond carry a torch for education. They asked if the superintendents would speak to the legislature on the school system in crisis."
Schilson noted that there have been special ed and PE openings for a year at IWHS and more retirements were recently announced.
"If you look at this staff list, in five or six years we could lose half of our staff. We are on it, but the cost will be high. We need to hit job fairs, we need to advertise as soon as we know of an opening, and when we get a good candidate, we need to hire when we can, even if we have to double up on staff for a year or so. We can't sit back and wait until these teachers retire."
The board approved the resignation of Rich McGhghy as director of the learning center. Darcy Good was approved as new learning center supervisor.
A 6 percent salary increase was approved for each of the final three years for Tim Lafferty, and for Judy Stevenson, who will both retire in June 2021.
The following coaching positions were approved: Danielle Gronewold as head girls track coach; Brian Bliss for cross country coach; Matt Snyder as volunteer cross country coach; Lyle Klein as head football coach; Jonah Coggeshall, Steve Wood, Tyler Walker, Michael Lafferty and Robert Eaton as assistant football coaches; Dakota Flesner as head volleyball coach; and Lauren McGaughey and Danielle Gronewold as assistant volleyball coaches.
In other business, the board:
Approved travel expenses for John Huston and for Betsy Wujek to attend the state school board convention;
Learned the district had received $35,000 from the Western Area Career System for renovation of the home ec room, including desks, kitchen and new sewing machines;
Heard from Principal Scott Schneider about the School/Community Input Group that includes students, parents, board members, faculty and administrators.