Litchfield Board Makes Plans For Future

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The Litchfield School District is looking to the future and success of its students, as part of a couple of motions passed at the regular monthly Litchfield School Board meeting, held Thursday evening, Jan. 23, at Sihler School. All board members were present.

One of the first motions they approved unanimously was an intergovernmental agreement to form the Montgomery County School District Career and Technical Education Consortium. The Hillsboro and Nokomis school boards have already approved the agreement as well, and the the motion will be on the agenda when the Panhandle School Board meets on Monday night.

"We are excited about this opportunity," said Superintendent Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau. "The superintendents have been working on concepts."

He said the consortium will give the four school districts a chance to share resources, adding they plan to work with Lincoln Land Community College on dual credit classes.

"Right now, we are working on creating a common schedule among the four districts and analyzing high school schedules," Dr. Fuerstenau said. "We have a meeting in February to continue talks and are working to see what curriculum could be shared next year."

Among the classes talked about being shared are building trades, where Hillsboro and Litchfield already have programs, but could benefit by working together and health careers. Dr. Fuerstenau added that Litchfield also offers an auto mechanic program that could be a great resource to the other three districts.

In addition, they hope to eventually sit down with the superintendents involved in the Macoupin County School Consortium and look at bigger picture ways to work together on providing more opportunities for local students. 

"This is great for our kids," said Litchfield School Board President Julie Abel. "It's great to see other communities talking about working together."

Dr. Fuerstenau added that the consortium does not cost anything to participate. The superintendents feel that by sharing resources among the four districts more kids can take advantage of programs already in place.

The second motion unanimously passed was Vision 2020 which is the ongoing strategic plan for the district. 

Among the guiding statements are for students to be reading at grade level or above by third grade and to remain there for their school careers, demonstrate a mastery of algebra by the end of ninth grade, students will graduate college, career or military ready, students will participate in extra-curricular or co-curricular activities and that parents and students will have choices with educational opportunities.

The strategic plans also includes the district's mission to prepare students to be productive citizens and their vision that Litchfield is a destination district committed to excellence.

"The guiding statements are already underway with our staff," Dr. Fuerstenau told the board. "We can't just snap our fingers, but the guiding principles to work toward will help us get there."

He also updated the board on a newly launced iDream/iCreate program through the University of Illinois Extension, which offers students the chance to look at career options as early as kindergarten. Litchfield is the second school district in the state to launch this program in partnership with the Extension.

"The beauty is that community members are leading it," said Dr. Fuerstenau, giving praise to Valerie Belusko of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation for helping to spearhead the effort.

Dr. Fuerstenau also talked about other new programs and efforts to promote career readiness, including an eighth grade career fair and tour of local businesses, as well as an administration tour of the Marshall School District, which was the first to pilot the iDream/iCreate program three years ago.

"These are our guiding statements," said Dr. Fuerstenau. "But I think we can get there. We have great people in our district. And it's going to take effort by everyone, including the community too."

Other Business

Prior to the regular board meeting, the district hosted a public hearing on their intent to issue $750,000 in working cash bonds. With no public comment, the meeting lasted only two minutes and the district will move forward with the bond issuance.

Board members unanimously approved the monthly consent agenda, which included payment of bills and the monthly treasurer's report. Dr. Fuerstenau said that a $110,000 expenditure to QNS for switches and other technology equipment will be reimbursed to the district through the eRate program.

In his treasurer's report, Dr. Fuerstenau said they continue to receive funding from the state and are tracking along on schedule.

Under old business, the board approved quite a list of board policy updates from the Press Plus service. Dr. Fuerstenau said some of the policies have been tabled awaiting legal review and will be looked at next month.

In new business, the board authorized the district to apply for a $50,000 school maintenance grant from the Illinois State Board of Education. The grant must be matched by the school district, and Dr. Fuerstenau said funding would come from the capital improvement fund.

The project they are applying for is a grant for a replacement for the chiller at Litchfield Middle School and the district continues to work with Johnson Controls on the project. Dr. Fuerstenau said in most cases, districts are approved for the grant if they can show the need as well as the matching funds. They hope to have the chiller up and running by the time school starts in the fall.

Information Items

Dr. Fuerstenau presented the board with the monthly personnel report with no major changes, as well as other administrator reports.

Curriculum Director Jennifer Thompson said that snow days had thrown a wrench into professional development with the Capturing Kids Hearts program, but she was working to reschedule it.

Madison Park Elementary School Principal Adam Favre reported they got a $5,000 grant from Corteva for two mobile engineering-based labs for STEM teaching. He said one will be at Madison Park and one will be at Colt School. If the stations are put to good use, they will work to adding to the program as well, and applying for another grant from Corteva when they have the chance.

Citizens Agenda

During the Citizens Agenda, LHS Student Council President Ellen Fleming gave an update on things going on at the high school. She said that practices for this year's production of The Little Mermaid are underway, adding that performances will be held the last week of March. She said that the high school is currently hosting the Rick McGraw Invitational Basketball Tournament and that CEO students are planning a murder mystery dinner as their class business on Feb. 29.

Student Council will host a blood drive on Feb. 7, and will begin organizing a fundraiser to sell Grace license plates in honor of Grace Herschelman of Hillsboro next week.

In a few final notes, she reminded the board that senior night for girls basketball will be on Feb. 6, and that the high school will be hosting a penny wars to raise money for Team Pezold Strong in this year's Stamp Out Cancer fundraiser.

Personnel

The board unanimously approved the monthly personnel report before going into closed session. They would approve transportation route assignments and times as of Jan. 11.

Board members also named Eric Gray as head transportation mechanic for the school district and approved Britney Murphy as a volunteer coach to the high school cheerleading team, Jan Jenkins as a secretary at Russell School and Katie Steinbach as a clerical aide at Russell School.

The board also approved family medical leave for bus driver Roberta Williams and high school special education teacher Theresa Barton. They approved a letter of intent to retire from classroom aide Mary Beth Tiek at the end of the school year.

Following the personnel report, the board went into closed session for about an hour and a half. When they returned, the board unanimously approved the need for confidentiality in the minutes of closed session meetings from July 2019 to December 2019, and the board decided to keep them closed.

The meeting lasted just over two hours. Board members will meet again on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. in the Radius Room at Litchfield High School for a work session on district facilities. 

"This is the night we start the process to update our facilities," Dr. Fuerstenau said. "It will be an exciting night."

Their next regular, monthly meeting will be held on Thursday evening, Feb. 20, beginning at 6 p.m. at Sihler School.

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