The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Joy Swearingen, Correspondent
The Illini West High School board took action March 21 to counteract problems caused by the shortage of teachers, facing schools in Illinois.
The district will offer signing bonuses for new teachers accepting jobs in the district. At their meeting Wednesday, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with the teacher's union to move ahead with the plan.
"We will give a $2,000 signing bonus to new teachers on Aug. 1 of their first year. This helps them move into the area and get settled," explained Superintendent Kim Schilson. New teachers will receive smaller bonuses for their second and third years with the district.
"One problem we face in Hancock County is our much lower salaries than in Iowa. It gives us a disadvantage in attracting teachers.
"Looking at the teachers we've hired and those to be hired tonight, we are in a lot better place than we were," Schilson said.
There will be four new teachers starting at the school next fall including two hired at the meeting. Andrew Willis was approved as a math teacher and Justin Ellison was hired as physical education teacher.
Schilson made comments to the board about a recent Letter to the Editor in the Hancock County Journal Pilot which questioned the purchase of land by the district in Durham Township. The letter assumed the district had borrowed money to buy the land and was paying interest.
"The district did not borrow money for the purchase," Schilson stressed. A CD came due the week before the district purchased the property. The CD was earning .65 percent, yielding $4,500 a year in interest to the district.
"We are making more on it now, with the $18,265 in annual cash rent."
In other staff action, the board approved the retirement of Larry Housewright as a bus driver and resignations by Samantha McGaughey as a math teacher, Steve Wood as head wrestling coach, Harold Northup as golf coach, Bill Rasmussen as head boys basketball coach and Jim Schaller as bus driver.
The following coaching positions were approved for the 2018-19 school year:
Grant Surprenant, head girls basketball; Stephen Patrick, assistant girls basketball; Dakota Flesner, assistant girls basketball; Justin Ellison, head boys basketball; Tim Lafferty, assistant boys basketball; Robert Eaton, assistant boys basketball; Jonah Coggeshall, head wrestling coach; Steve Wood, assistant wrestling coach (half stipend); Lyle Klein, assistant wrestling coach (half stipend); Amanda Lewis, head cheerleading coach; and Ashley Olin, head dance coach.
Harold Northup was hired as a bus driver.
Principal Steve Schneider explained the completed School Improvement Plan, a self-assessment of the district's performance, challenges and goals/strategies for improvement. The team included Schneider, Counselor Ryan Bliss, Dean of Students Jim Short, and teachers, Samantha McGaughey, M.J. Palmer, Alex Rodeffer and Shari Shupe.
"Three areas keep coming back for us, math, English/reading and graduation rates," Schneider said.
Some of the strategies for improvement include continued after school tutoring and SAT bootcamp, offering the PSAT8 test to incoming 9th graders to determine placement, offering companion small group classes for algebra and geometry, looking at PBIS incentives for positive behavior, offering the district computer-based learning center for credit recovery and students with other issues, and continuing work with the student liaison for attendance and student success.
The board will study the plan and vote on it at the next meeting.
Schilson noted that the School Improvement Plan is now directly related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the current education assessment and support initiative.
School spending must support the needs identified in the plan.
Student handbook revisions were adopted. The book included adjustments to the grading scale that have been reviewed by teachers.
The scale retains 100 percent to 60 percent as passing grades, but adjusts the scale within that span of student performance.
Schneider noted that third quarter honor roll has been announced with 165 students or 51 percent of the student body being named to one of the three honor categories.