The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Illini West High School will continue attending classes in alternating weeks

Joy Swearingen, The Quill

Students at Illini West High School will continue attending classes in alternating weeks, with the blended school attendance plan that was started on September 8.

The board took no action to change the schedule at their Oct. 21 board meeting. The plan brings LaHarpe area students and half the Carthage students to school for one week, while the other students have remote learning. In the following week, Dallas City/Lomax and the remaining Carthage students attend in-person classes.

All students have remote access to teachers in the afternoon for questions, homework help and tutoring. Some students have chosen totally remote learning.

A letter to the board from Family and Consumer Science teacher, Nancy Barnett, stated that while it would be much easier to teach in the "normal" way, things have changed.

"Illini West is doing things right!" Barnett wrote. "The A/B week schedule is working to promote health and safety for everyone. I encourage you to continue with the A/B schedule."

At the meeting, ag teacher Jennifer McFadden, gave results of a teacher survey, with 26 of 30 teachers responding.

"Fifty percent of those responding said, "I'm doing OK,' We had two responses (about 7 percent) that said, "I have adjusted and I'm doing awesome'," McFadden said. The rest of the teachers marked two other responses indicating they were struggling.

Another question related to how teachers wanted to continue the school year - 46 percent said to remain as they are, 30 percent said to bring everyone back, and 10 percent preferred to go full remote.

Other questions related to how administrators could help teachers. Suggestions were for more guidance with student attendance and lack of attention by remote students, better communication and more walks throughs in classrooms so administrators can see how things are going with remote and in-person classes.

Principal Scott Schneider said that he, dean of students Jim Short, and counselors Ryan Bliss and Grant Suprenant follow up with calls and home visits any time teachers report an attendance, discipline or attention problem.

Superintendent Kim Schilson asked Schneider to plan more short staff meetings to assure communication with staff, and so suggestions and concerns can be shared and handled.

Board member resigns

The board accepted the resignation of board member Holly Wilde-Tillman. She has recently been named Hancock County Clerk and Recorder. The vacancy is restricted to someone residing in the Carthage Elementary School District. Letters of interest and resumes can be sent to IWHS District Office, 600 Miller Street.

At a special meeting Sept. 28, the board discussed the search for a new superintendent. Schilson has resigned, effective June 30, 2021. The board is advertising the position, plans to interview candidates in December, and will name a new superintendent in January 2021.

Jeff McPherson of Gray Hunter Stenn presented the annual district financial report. He said Illini West had a perfect 4.0 score when district numbers were plugged into the ISBE forms. The board accepted the financial report.

The board set a levy hearing for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Schilson said she would base the levy request on an estimated 5 percent increase in Equalized Assessed Value of land in the district.

She noted that the district balances are healthy. However two things could change. One is how COVID affects the state budget, and how voters respond to the state income tax amendment.

"Our governor is relying on that tax amendment passing," she said. "We could see a drop in state funding if it does not pass."

The levy is a request for funds to use to operate the 2021-22 school year.

Board president John Huston urged board members to study the tentative levy and ask questions of Schilson in advance of the hearing. The levy must be approved and filed by the last Friday in December to receive tax funds next year.

In other business, the board:

- Approved early graduation for three students, Brittanie Bush, Cassidy Dusenberry and Bayley Torrence;

- Heard the third reading and adopted several board policy updates, and accepted the first reading of more policy changes;

- Accepted the resignation of Robert Duffy as a bus driver.