President Chad Ruppert called the April 21 meeting of the Nokomis CUSD22 meeting to order at 7:30 with six board members along with Superintendent Scott Doerr, principals Reedy, McDowell, and assistant principal McDonald present, either in person or via Google Meets internet link. Member Carl Ray Fesser was absent.
As expected, the bulk of the meeting’s discussions centered on the effects of the COVID-19 shut down of the economy and schools, and the initial ramifications to be expected in the aftermath.
In his report to the board, Superintendent Doerr painted a bleak picture for the coming months. He reported the State of Illinois owes the district $224,316.46 as of March 31, and that he expects to receive possibly one more of the categorical payments due to the district this fiscal year. He said the state is anticipating a $42 billion deficit next fiscal year with revenue shortfalls of up to $8 billion. This, coupled with an anticipated high unemployment rate, seriously impact the state budget causing an estimated $3.2 billion shortfall for education funding. As a result, the impact on the district’s budget will be severe. He also reported that federal grant money due to the district was still being paid in a timely fashion. He also added that federal stimulus money would be available to districts, but would come with restrictions on how it could be spent.
Doerr presented the board with a copy of the tentative FY20 amended budget. It is not scheduled to be adopted until the June meeting, because they are working on amending some grants that may cause changes to be made in May, and there is a 30-day period required before it can be adopted.
He said he thought the budget looked good overall at this time, but that could change depending on how much money was actually received from the state in the next sixty days. Doerr said most of the account funds were in good shape with the exception of the transportation fund, which is short due to the purchase of a new van. However, he said there were reserves sufficient to cover the shortfall.
Doer reported that as of now, graduation is postponed. He said that he and Principal McDowell were working on alternative plans and that a survey had been sent to the senior class requesting their feedback on various options. As of the meeting, McDowell estimated half of the seniors had responded.
Moving on, Doerr reported the district is providing students with daily breakfast and lunch sacks. These meals are available regardless of the students’ status with regard to in-school lunches. He said the district was giving out an average of 176 breakfast and lunch meals each per day.
Doerr then gave the board an update on the summer projects planned to be undertaken. He said work on shutters for the library should begin in June. Bid packets for masonry work at Cornerstone would go out Monday, April 27, and he would be meeting with Illinois Paving next week to discuss the north parking lot job. He said there was still no estimate for north gym floor project. Work on the phone system update was pending the board’s acceptance of a bid later that evening in the new business portion of the meeting. Later during discussion of new business, member Jim Eisenbarth made a motion to approve the quote with CTI for a new district-wide phone system. The phone system would be upgraded from analog to digital, meaning all new instruments and wiring; including all outbuildings and garages, at a cost of $23,289.19. The motion was seconded by member Bauman and approved unanimously by the board on a roll call vote.
Board member Joe Gasparich asked Doerr and the rest of the board if they should consider postponing some of the summer projects due to the possible impending revenue problem. He added that while the phone system upgrade was a needed expenditure, he felt problems like the north gym floor could be tolerated if the funds could be better spent elsewhere. Acknowledging his concerns, Doerr explained that perhaps some projects like the gym floor might have to wait, but that others were funded by grants and that grant money must be spent for the intended reason it was awarded.
Lastly, in his report to the board, Doerr told them he was making administrative transfer appointments of Brandon Engelman to the junior high social studies position and Morgan Johnson to the junior high special education position.
Transitioning to new business, Dr. Doerr referenced the current FY20 calendar in confirming the last day of school is scheduled as May 28, however due to the fact remote learning planning days will be used for some of the days, students should have coursework completed by May 22. Doerr then presented the tentative FY21 calendar. In it, school starts Aug. 13 and 14 with two teacher institute days. The proposed calendar includes three days at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, three days around Easter for spring break, and has ten emergency days built in to it. On a motion by Eisenbarth and a second by Ben Tarter, the board present unanimously approved the tentative FY21 school calendar.
Joe Gasparich moved to approve a 2.5 percent salary increase for the support staff not covered in the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-2021 school year. The motion was seconded by Eisenbarth and passed by the board members present unanimously.
Tarter made a motion to extend the food service management contract with Aramark for the 2020-2021 school year. The motion was seconded by Gasparich, but failed five to one on a voice vote with Gasparich being the lone vote to extend.
Subsequently, Bauman made a motion to approve the invitation to bid the food service management contract for the 2020-2021 school year. The motion was seconded by Eisenbarth and approved unanimously by the members present.
The board also approved the continuing of athletic coops with the St. Louis Catholic grade school in the junior high sports of volleyball and boys and girls basketball for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. The motion, made by Gasparich and seconded by Tarter, passed unanimously on a voice vote.
Principals Reedy and McDowell supplemented their written reports to the board by both commending their teachers, staff, and students for their efforts during the shutdown. Reedy reported that his students are using a combination of e-learning and lesson packets, with older classes’ work being predominantly online. He also explained how a problem for some with no or poor internet could be overcome by going to a place with good internet to sync the lessons, then doing the work offline at home, and then turning them in the next time they sync to download the next lessons. He told the board the students seemed to be doing well and that there is an 80 percent participation rate, which is very good compared to other districts he had been in contact with.
McDowell concurred with Reedy’s opinion on student and staff performance. She added that she emails her students every day and that only six out of a possible 289 students were not participating.
Dr. Doerr wished to commend all the faculty and staff for their work on remote learning, help preparing and delivering meals, and their efforts to maintain the integrity of the district’s educational system. The board echoed Doerr’s sentiment, thanking everyone for their efforts and offering many positive comments.
McDonald reported that the IHSA had officially cancelled all spring sports tournaments and prohibited summer workouts at this time. He told the board the football conference meeting had been postponed indefinitely. McDonald also informed the board of a new IESA rule in which schools could be fined up to $250 per incident whenever coaches or players are ejected from games.
The board needed no closed session discussion of personnel matters, but did address some employment issues to conclude the open session. On a motion by Eisenbarth and second by Tarter, the board present unanimously approved the employment of Erica King as the freshman class sponsor and Hannah Riedle and Marissa Hartke as co-FFA sponsors for the 2020-2021 school year.
Bauman then made a motion to approve the posting of a Title 1 Aide (jr high/high school) position for the 2020-2021 school year and two summer intern workers. Seconded by Tarter, the motion passed unanimously in a vote of members present.
The board also unanimously approved to accept the letter of intent to retire at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 school year from Julie Friesland. The motion was made by Gasparich and seconded by Tarter.
At 8:59 p.m., Eisenbarth made a motion to adjourn, seconded by Gasparich, and passed on a voice vote.