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Illini West Board Focus Is On Improvement In Math

Joy Swearingen, Correspondent

The focus of improvement in math at Illini West High School is seen in the tentative course catalog for 2018-2019 that was given to the board at their meeting Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Along with offering a summer workshop for some eighth graders entering Illini West next fall, math courses will change. In the past a student struggling in math would take the slower paced algebra A one year and algebra B the second; then geometry A and geometry B, which would be a student's four years of math.

Principal Scott Schneider and the math staff have developed "math group" companion classes for algebra and geometry. Schneider explained that a freshman needing extra help will take algebra and algebra group in his or her first year.

The same would be done for geometry, being paired with a study group class when needed. This would allow the possibility of more math classes in the junior and senior year.

"The extra support course would earn credit toward graduation, but would not be counted as a math credit," Schneider explained. "This goes along with our push in the School Improvement Plan to help students with math."

Superintendent Kim Schilson added, "The number one indicator of success in college is completion of algebra II. Not a high grade, but just completion of algebra II. We are holding our kids back if they don't have the chance to get to algebra II."

Other changes in the course catalog include two more ag classes, vet tech and food science tech, based on student needs; addition of an aerobic PE class; and other changes in course descriptions and titles.

The board will review the catalog and take action next month.

Schilson acknowledged the efforts of IT coordinator, Chris Greenhalge, for his work with students providing video and live streaming of basketball games during the Hancock County Invitational Tournament.

There were 1,400 views and over 10,000 minutes watched of live streaming.

"He takes on these extra projects, and the kids are doing some really cool things," Schilson said.

The district has been approached by Carthage Community Development Director, Amy Graham, to see if Illini West internet can be used as a link to provide community information from 6 to 8 a.m. before school. With the loss of WCAZ radio, there is a need for communication.

"This will not cost the district anything. It is one of those things we can do for the community, when they do so much for us," Schilson said. She and Greenhalge will continue talks about this plan.

Dean of students Jim Short reported on student interactions during the first semester. He reported that the number of discipline referrals by teachers was down, and the number of students being referred is down.

"It is important to note that 94 percent of the students had no disciplinary referrals," Short said. "We get caught up in the negative, but that is a definite positive."

The key concern is tardies and student absentees, with 20 percent of the students below a 90 percent attendance rate.

Short, Schneider and school/parent liaison Grant Surprenant are working on a three-tiered plan for working with absenteeism.

The district has taken four emergency days this school year, due mainly to bitter cold. This has changed the schedule to include Friday, May 25, as a student attendance day, and pushed back finals to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week.

"We have one more emergency day to use, then we would have to go with Act-of-God days," Schilson said.

Schilson reported on plans for summer work. Life Safety funds will be used to improve restrooms, replace the stage curtain which has brought up fire code concerns, and replace exhaust fans in the home ec room.

The district will use WACS (Western Area Career Services) grant money to make additional improvements to the home ec room.

In other business, the board:

Accepted the resignation of Matt Snyder for all classroom and coaching positions;

Hired Summer Tracy as special education teacher, starting in the fall of 2018;

Approved a 6 percent salary increase for Suzy Holtsclaw for each of the final three years before her retirement Jan. 31, 2022;

Approved buying a John Deere Gator 4-wheeler with blade for $11,975 for snow removal and other uses on the campus.

Approved a fundraising project for on-line donations for the baseball team.