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Illini West Board

Joy Swearingen

CorrespondentAt least four Illini West High School graduates earned their diplomas Sunday, thanks to their school's learning center.

For two years the district has offered the learning center, an alternative classroom, where students can take on-line classes at their own pace to complete credits needed to graduate.

"We have had some success stories," Principal Scott Schneider told the Illini West board at their regular meeting May 16.

"Four students working in the learning center this spring got to graduate. We had seven students who didn't get to go through graduation. But six of those should be able to finish this summer if they continue with the Edgenuity program," Schneider said.

The learning center is one of several ways the Illini West staff is working to help struggling students succeed. Grant Surprenant was hired last fall as a student liaison to work with homebound students and those with attendance, academic and behavior problems.

He gave a summary to the board, having met with 117 students in the first quarter, 106 in the second, 110 in the third and 106 in the fourth quarter. He made 10 home visits.

"I think the parents were shocked when I actually came to the door," Surprenant said. "We try to get more parents involved, especially those who have not been to college, to help them realize how important high school is.

"We want them to understand we are calling because we care about the students and want them to have success."

Beth Pence read a letter to the board from Jason, Carrie and Josie Finch expressing their gratitude for the thoughtfulness of the Illini West High School Git "R Done Club and advisor Greg Hoener.

The group held an event raising over $4,000 to start a scholarship fund in honor of the Finches' daughter, Maddie, who died Jan. 1, 2018. The group came to the Finches home, helped with spring yardwork, and brought a memorial stone and poem.

A budget amendment hearing will be held at 6:45 p.m. before the June 20 board meeting. The district has received grant money during the year that was not in the original budget.

"The board has to amend the budget to include the grants so that the money can be spent," explained Superintendent Kim Schilson.

The district received almost $60,000 in grants for the Horse Head Studio, which includes classes and student activities in technology, broadcasting and communications. Another $50,000 in Western Illinois Career Systems grants is being used to update the home economics room.

The fee schedule for 2018-2019 school year was approved. It is the same as past years, with two exceptions. The student price for meals was increased from $2.50 to $3 based on guidelines that require the meal to be at least $2.94.

The board approved giving all Carthage, LaHarpe and Dallas City seventh and eighth grade students free admission into Illini West home athletic events, provided they show a special student pass that will be created for this purpose and distributed to students by Illini West. Some junior high athetes were admitted free this year.

"If kids want to go to the games they should be able to. I say we go for it," said Schilson. "I think it should go to all of our (seventh and eighth grade) students so they get a taste of high school," Shannon Pence added.

Currently, all Illini West High School students are admitted free to home sporting events with their IW student identification.

The board approved a bus lease agreement with Midwest Transit that will cost $63,000 per year for the three-year lease.

Schilson told the board she was notified that property tax money from the county would be late this year. Assessments are just now being sent. The first tax payments won't be made until around Labor Day.

She assured the board the district was in good shape to handle the delayed payments.

Two employees were honored on their retirement. Harold Northup retired after teaching since 1982. He started with Carthage High School in 1995 and continued with Illini West. He will continue on a part time basis with the district.

Larry Housewright retired as a bus driver after working first for the LaHarpe School District and moving to Illini West.

Resignations were accepted from Kevin Peel, English teacher, and Darcy Cook, supervisor of the learning center.

Summer Tracey, special education teacher, was approved for a 2018-19 signing bonus. Zak Huston, Isaac Schreacke and Michael Lord were hired for summer help.

Western Area Purchasing Cooperative Resolution was approved. This states that Schilson will attend meetings of the co-op, and gives her power to make purchases for the district as needed.

Harold Northup, left, was honored at the Illini West High School board meeting by board president, Tom Holtsclaw, right. Northup retired after 36 years of teaching industrial arts, including 23 years at Carthage High School and then Illini West. -photo by Joy Swearingen