The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Illini West School Board Meeting

Joy Swearingen, Quill correspondent

lllini West High School is ready for a major renovation of restrooms near the main entrance of the building this summer.

At their regular meeting March 20, the board approved the low bid from Leander Construction of Canton, IL, for $268,000 to completely overhaul the girls and boys bathrooms, which are most often used by the public during school events, and the teachers room bathroom. Five bids were received for the work.

Health and Life Safety Funds have already been approved by the state for the project, based on an architect's plan that was submitted last year to the Regional Office of Education.

"We have toilets that don't work, no hot water at some sinks," said Superintendent Kim Schilson. "Work will start the day after school is out this spring, and will be done before school starts in the fall."

Some board members questioned if this was the highest priority project to pursue.

Schilson explained the process for getting approval to use Health and Life Safety Funds.

"This is the project that is approved and ready to go this spring," she said. "I have reservations about spending this amount of money since we don't own the building, but we have had kids here for 10 years, and it will be five years or more even if we were to pass a building referendum today."

Handicapped accessible stalls will be revamped in each bathroom to meet the most recent standards for accessibility. The teachers room stall will be handicapped accessible.

Another summer project is installing fire alarms in the portable classroom buildings and green house, at a cost of $17,000 from the building fund.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board acknowledged the retirement of custodian Carol Walker, thanked her for her many years of service to the school, and presented her with a gift.

The board approved a $250 stipend for all non-certified, hourly employees, who lost pay because of the high number of emergency days when school was cancelled.

Schilson outlined a plan to meet the new state minimum wage requirement of $15 by 2024-25 for hourly workers.

She said most of the non-certified staff is above the $15 rate.

The proposed schedule would increase the beginning hourly rate to $14 in 2022-23, to $14.50 in 2023-24, and to $15 for 2024-25.

She noted that another state proposal is for a minimum teacher salary of $40,000.

"Some schools are upset with the state taking power away from the local districts. I am not concerned for Illini West. That is (the amount) we have been working toward, but I am not sure I like legislation forcing it." Schilson said.

"If we don't get there, we're not going to be able to hire the teachers we need. Our 2020-21 contract is above the required amount."

After executive session, the following employment and appointments were approved for the coming year:

Rita Bennett, bus aide;

Mattison Penfield, special education teacher;

Narrezia Burdette, special education teacher;

Justin Ellison, head boys basketball coach;

Tim Lafferty, assistant boys basketball coach;

Grant Surprenant, head girls basketball coach;

Dakota Flesner, assistant girls basketball coach;

Stephen Patrick, assistant girls basketball coach;

Lyle Klein, head wrestling coach;

Ashley Burling, dance coach; and

Amanda Lewis, cheerleading coach.

The board set an amended budget hearing for 7 p.m. May 15, at the beginning of the May board meeting.

The amendments would allow the fire alarm additions and bathroom renovations to be placed in the budget as expenses, and allow for adding grants received as income.

The board approved buying Skyward financial software at a cost of $26,000 in the first year, and a yearly fee of $4,000 in following years.

The higher cost of the initial year includes transferring all information to the new system, and training staff to use the system.

Schilson said several school districts in the area considered various programs, then brought district bookkeepers into the final decision.

"We knew it was going to be expensive whatever way we chose, so we might as well get the system our bookkeepers want to use," Schilson said. Webinars will be available for continued training or refresher classes if needed.

In other action, the board:

Approved the course catalog and the student/parent handbook for 2019-2020 school year;

Set pay categories for the head coach and assistant of the e-sports (gaming) team;

Learned the procedure for filling board vacancies by appointment after the election April 2;

Approved first reading of several board policy updates, and new policies;

Renewed membership in IHSA;

Approved several fundraising requests; and

Designated old volleyball uniforms as surplus items.