Although it was a special meeting for the Litchfield School Board, it was a busy night, as they swore in three board members, hired a new high school boys basketball coach and viewed an update on the new second through fifth grade elementary school building on State Street.
President Julie Abel called the meeting to order and with no public comments, the board moved straight into election results. The board unanimously accepted the canvas of election results from the April consolidated election where incumbents Julie Abel, Ron Anglin and Gregg Hires were re-elected. Each took the oath of office.
Board member Valerie Cain was elected president pro tem, and presided over the election of board officers, including President Julie Abel, Vice President Ron Anglin and Secretary Valerie Cain. All were approved unanimously.
The board adjusted the agenda to accommodate several guests, and unanimously approved a lengthy personnel report.
The board accepted the resignation of Dan Stewart as eighth grade boys basketball coach, effective immediately, clerical aide Sue Billiter at the end of the school year and classroom aide Leandra Schaff at the end of the school year.
In preparations for summer, they hired several employees for the summer Make-It program, including teachers Maggie Kalaher, Kymee Muhme and Allison Rosentreter and aides Benjamin Walker and Paige Foss.
Tai Dobrinich and Cole Odle were approved as substitute custodians.
At the high school, husband and wife Lance and Brittany Boldt were hired, and they were present at the meeting with their children, Sidnee, Kenidee and Luke. The family is from Mt. Vernon. Lance will be teaching social science and will be the head boys basketball coach and Brittany will be teaching family and consumer science.
“We’re extremely pleased to have the Boldt family join the Purple Panthers,” said Superintendent Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau. “They will be a great addition to our community and our school district.”
As a final note in personnel, the board set May 20 as the date for the superintendent evaluation. All personnel motions were approved unanimously.
The board set a public hearing on Thursday, June 17, beginning at 6 p.m. at Sihler School to amend the budget for the current school year. Dr. Fuerstenau said that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the district had added expenses and revenues from federal grants.
Dr. Fuerstenau also welcomed Emily Spindler of FGM Architects back to the meeting. She presented an update on the second through fifth grade elementary school building on State Street. The new renderings included what the exterior walls would look like, however, no actual materials (like brick) have been selected yet.
Spindler said that working with Poettker Construction has been a blessing because they are already talking to sub-contractors and pricing materials for the project, which is expected to be sent out to bid in July.
Dr. Fuerstenau said the drawings the board were looking at show how the building will fit on the site. Spindler added they are planning for windows in every classroom and large windows in the stairwells.
Board member Gregg Hires asked if they were planning on white brick, and Dr. Fuerstenau said that no decisions had been made yet, but it would most likely not be white.
Abel asked if the designs could be updated on the district’s website, and Dr. Fuerstenau said they would be added once they were refined a bit more.
Board member David Belusko asked if the building would have a flat roof; that has caused the district lots of issues at the high school. Spindler said that while technically it’s called a flat roof, the roof itself will actually have a small slope to prevent some of those issues.
Board member Mike Fleming noted it was an attractive building and asked about security concerns. Spindler talked about where the doors would be and which ones would be accessible to the pubic.
Fleming also asked about maintenance issues, and Building and Grounds Coordinator Bob Witter said he had seen all the plans and felt it would work well for the district.
“We sure have come a long way from where we started,” said Dr. Fuerstenau. “It’s gonna get busy from here on out.”
The board will get another update at the May meeting.
In setting the board meetings for the coming year, the board made a change in the night they meet. Starting in July, the board will meet on the third Tuesday of each month, instead of the third Thursday of the month. This will allow for board members to attend city council meetings when needed and vice versa.
The meetings will be held on July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Dec. 21, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 15, April 19, May 17 and June 21. That includes quarterly updates from the Fogleman Trust in September, December, March and June and a budget hearing on Sept. 21.
The board also unanimously approved a contract with Embrace DS through June 30, 2022. The company will bill Medicaid for services the district provides to eligible students. Dr. Fuerstenau said it mainly applies to special education students and that Litchfield is one of the only districts in the area that hasn’t already made the switch to Embrace.
It allows employees to input data directly and submits Medicaid reimbursement, which helps to streamline the process. Dr. Fuerstenau said that Mid-State Special Education also uses Embrace DS.
In a final item of new business, the board approved membership into the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) for the coming year. Dr. Fuerstenau said the district is not happy about fees that will be charged to the district for members, including $1,350 the first year, $900 the second year, $800 the third year and $400 the fourth year.
“It’s kind of a racket,” Dr. Fuerstenau told the board. “But if our kids want to have the ability to compete, then we have to do it.”
Board member Gregg Hires expressed his displeasure as well, saying the kids are already suffering with no middle school track meets this year.
“They are operating out of fear not out of courage, and it’s hurting our kids,” Hires said.
Fleming said he feels the IHSA has a lack of leadership.
“I took a good look at their financial statements,” said Fleming. “They have severe financial problems. Long-term, something is going to have to change and they’re going in the wrong direction. It’s bad and it’s going to get a lot worse.”
Dr. Fuerstenau said he’s discussing the matter with other superintendents.
“But at this point, we want our kids to participate, so we have no choice,” said Dr. Fuerstenau.
The membership was approved with Hires voting no and Fleming voting present.
The meeting adjourned at 7 p.m. after nearly an hour. Board members will meet again on Thursday evening, May 20, beginning at 6 p.m. at Sihler School.