The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Over the past year, the Illini West High School board has held strategic planning work sessions, prior to some of their regular meetings. A report from those work sessions was made at the board meeting Jan. 18.
One focus of the planning was how to improve student performance and life ready skills, a concern that came up on an earlier strategic planning survey.
A second goal from the sessions was to replace the six portable classroom buildings (12 classrooms) with permanent instructional space, for the security and convenience of students and staff.
To accomplish the first goal, the board approved buying the Leader in Me curriculum. It would be implemented through June of 2025. The program costs $38,000 for the first year, which will be covered with a several grants.
Principal Jim Short has worked with the School Improvement Plan committee to select the best program to help the students. He has begun presenting information to teachers at department meetings and answering questions about the curriculum.
The board approved using the Leader in Me, with a “no” vote from board president John Huston, who stated he preferred to wait until more teachers had an opportunity to review and comment on the program before the board took action.
The Leader in Me curriculum centers around four core values: life readiness, career readiness, college readiness and leadership readiness. The program helps students improve life skills they will use now and in the future, during college and their work years. It focuses on the students’ personal abilities and helps students work in teams with others.
The program includes reading materials for students, plus coaching for the staff who will present the training to students. The schedule would be changed to allow a period for teaching the curriculum to all students.
To accomplish the goal of eliminating the portable classrooms, the Illini West board has already joined other school boards in the county to request the regional superintendent place a sales tax question on the April 4 ballot.
If approved by voters, funds from this tax can be used by the school districts to improve security measures for schools including improvements to buildings and school resource officers.
The Illini West Board has long had concerns about doors that must be left unlocked so that students and staff can come and go from the portable classrooms. Ten of the 12 rooms are used as classrooms. Two are office space.
The board would work with Carthage Elementary School District to identify ways to add permanent space to their building, which is leased by Illini West. The board would decide the space needed to house the students and programs currently using the portables, and get cost estimates for replacing that space.
Superintendent Jay Harnack offered the board a financial report for the first half of the year. He pointed out several factors to consider for the future. Inflation and supply chain issues will continue to affect the current and future budget cycles.
Labor shortages are impacting wages and benefits. He expects budgets to tighten.
On the plus side, a $50,000 maintenance grant has been received for 2023, and the ESSR II and ESSR III grants are yet to be finalized. A budget amendment will be necessary to include these grants dollars later in the spring.
Overall, fund balances remain stable, and the district is in excellent financial condition, according to the report.
Following executive session, Kim Barr was hired as a custodian, effective Jan. 17. Kent Rambo was approved as a volunteer track coach.