The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Joy Swearingen, Quill Correspondent
Five informational meetings about the Illini West High School building referendum have been scheduled.
Cindy Logan, representing the Illini West Building for the Future Committee, reported on the group's first meeting during the Illini West board meeting Jan. 15.
Public meetings are planned on five Tuesdays leading up to the vote on the referendum at the election on March 17. The first meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Carthage Senior Citizen's Center, 301 Main Street.
"Meetings will be held in different locations all around the district," Logan said. Other meetings will follow on Feb. 18, Feb. 25, March 3 and March 10, with locations to be announced later. A Facebook page has been started by the committee.
Superintendent Kim Schilson noted that the IW website (illiniwest.org) has information about the referendum, and the improvements recommended for the current building cited in the Russell building report prepared last fall.
She has received a comment that the power point information is negative since it lists problems from the Russell report. She asked what parts of the proposed plan for the new school can be put up on the website without violating the rule that current school board and administrators cannot campaign for or against the referendum.
The board agreed that beyond stating that it would provide a new, modern infrastructure that meets school building code, specific proposed features should not be on the district website now. The board has a proposed plan for the building, but changes can occur depending on costs and how long it takes to receive the state portion of the funding.
"Except for proper building code, nothing can be guaranteed at this point," said board member Darrell Sutton.
"It is the job of the steering committee to put out the possibilities," said Schilson. "The board has done its due diligence to identify what is needed."
Principal Scott Schneider gave the board information on the 2020/2021 course catalog, which will be voted on in February. He said he has talked with boards of Dallas City and LaHarpe elementary districts who approve offering an eighth grade algebra class. He will meet with the Carthage board soon.
Schilson gave the board information on how Illini West is maintaining a full staff despite a general statewide teacher shortage.
She said that nine teachers have announced retirement by 2023, including three teachers who have previously retired and are teaching 100 days only during the school year.
The district is working to hire replacement teachers before the retiring teacher leaves to allow mentoring by seasoned teachers. She is actively seeking block teachers and student teachers at job fairs and through Western Illinois University. Signing bonuses are offered.
New teachers are offered mentors, and a three-day, paid, new teacher academy is held in August to support them as they begin. The superintendent works with the district teachers union to retain current teachers and give the opportunity for them to offer suggestions.
Schilson works with local legislators on the issue, and is part of a state teacher shortage committee.