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Illini West New Programs Help Students' Success

Joy Swearingen, Correspondent

Two new Illini West High School programs are helping students in their struggle to be successful. An after school tutoring program has started, and the community outreach liaison was added this fall.

Grant Surprenant explained his work as community outreach liaison to the IWHS school board at their regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 18. Surprenant has worked with about 40 students so far this year. Students are referred by staff for issues such as behavior, academic problems or poor attendance.

He works with students in the IW learning center to keep them focused on their goals, and keeps in contact with students who qualify in the "homebound" program, usually for a medical reason.

There are times, he explained, when he talks with a student to identify personal issues which may be causing problems, and they work to find a solution.

"I like to problem solve with the students. I think they are coming to understand I am there to support them," Surprenant said.

He sees himself as providing support to students before behavior issues get to the point of discipline or before they get too far behind academically.

He is in daily contact with Principal Scott Schneider; Dean of Students Jim Short, and Guidance Counselor Ryan Bliss.

"Anytime you can add a level of intervention, of support for the students, it is a good thing," said Schneider.

If a student goes too far, Short, who handles discipline, said Surprenant has helped him to know what consequence would be most effective for a particular student.

Surprenant communicates with parents on the phone or face-to-face to be sure they know when problems occur and what the school expects of students.

"With parents, I think they know I'm there for support, someone they can talk to. At the end of the day, the whole school is looking out for their kids," Surprenant said.

Schneider explained an after school tutoring program that started, recently, after teachers were concerned about students falling behind in their work. Two teachers help students make up assignments for two hours on Monday to Thursday. The time jibes with the afterschool shuttle buses to the north.

"We jumped right in with this when the teachers brought it up," said Superintendent Kim Schilson. She said funds could come from Title I money. Teachers will rotate as tutors, but a math teacher will always be one of the tutors.

The board approved continuing the program. Paying the tutors $25 per hour, the program costs $100 per day. Schneider assured the board it was worth the cost.

Math teacher, Sandi Morrison, who had pointed out the need for student help, said missing assignments had gone down from 153 to 79. He gave several examples of students whose work had improved several grade points.

Schneider said 79 students have attended with an average attendance of 12 to 15 students each day. Teachers refer students to the program, or students can come in on their own. Parent calls and email blasts have been used to help students and parents know about the program.

A hearing was held on the 2018 FY budget. No visitors were present to make comment. Schilson noted the budget is in the black for all the main funds except that they will spend down a surplus in the IMRF fund.

She noted that with the new school funding formula, reporting forms will change, and the board will likely be required to file an amended budget later in the school year, when the new forms go into effect.

Schilson asked for guidance on the levy request, which must be filed with the state before the end of the calendar year.

A five-year contract was approved for principal Scott Schneider, running from 2018 to 2023. The board gave Schneider a mug in honor of principal month.

A video-making contest was approved for students to show life at Illini West High. A $200 prize will go to the winning team, selected by an outside panel of judges.

"I think the students will come up with some creative work," said Schilson. "If we hired an outside company to make the videos, it would cost much more than $200."

The positive videos will be used on school media screens, the scoreboard sign, and other places around the school.

Robert Eaton was approved as freshman boys basketball coach.

The board approved the content of a three-year farm lease for land in Durham Township owned by the district, to be sent out for bids.

Early graduation was approved for six students - Ashlyn Gilpin, Sara Kost, Mathew Clark-Scott, McKenzie Snyder, Isabelle Grisham and Cory Squier.

The state requires schools to set a maximum level of reimbursement to board members per event attended. The board set the limit at $1,000. Repayment for expenses higher than that amount must be approved by the full board.