School Board Examines Results From Report Card

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Students at the four schools in the Hillsboro School District by and large performed better than state averages in English language arts and to a lesser degree science, but primarily below state averages in math, members of the school board learned during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the unit office.

The information came during a presentation on state school report cards.

According to Principal Patti Heyen, the percentage of Hillsboro High School students who meet state standards in English  language arts is higher than state average; the percentage of those who exceed is slightly lower.

"Math results aren't quite as pretty," the principal said of test results significantly below state average.  Science scores were also significantly lower, but next year that test will be given a year later when Hillsboro students have had both biology and physics classes and that should improve test scores.

Junior high students also performed better than state averages in English language arts and science, but under state averages in math, according to Principal Don VanGiesen.

"It's something we're going to work on," the principal said.  "We have very good math faculty.  They work tirelessly."

At Beckemeyer, students once again performed better than state average in English language arts and science, and right at state average in math, Principal Zach Frailey pointed out.

At Coffeen School, students performed below state averages in English language arts and math, and  slightly above in science, Principal Marci Gutierrez said. 

According to district curriculum director Hope McBrain, the school report card showed 1,692 students last year; 47 percent are low income and 19 percent have and individual education program (IEP).  Student mobility–the percentage of students moving into or out of the school district during the school year–remains nearly double the state average.

McBrain also reported on 30 vocational courses available at Hillsboro High School, 29 of which are Career and Technical Education (CTE) approved classes.

Vocational courses include child care, health careers, building trades, do it yourself, intro. to ag industry, ag mechanics and technology, horticulture production and management, ag plant science, ag animal science, wildlife conservation and management, family and consumer sciences, culinary arts and wellness, and nutritional and culinary arts.  Business and fine arts classes include CEO, accounting I and II, computer science principles, information processing, business concepts and technology, Hiltop yearbook, photography, advanced photography, and consumer education.  Hillsboro students may also take computer technology and networking, graphic design and commercial arts, office technology and business entrepreneur, auto body, auto mechanics, power mechanics and power sports, computer aided drafting, and welding and metal fabrication off campus through the Okaw Vocational program.

Board members approved a preliminary tax levy for the 2019–payable in 2020–tax year of $8.6 million. To keep the tax rate close to what it was last year, Superintendent David Powell suggested the board under-levy by a total of $200,000 in the IMRF, Social Security, and Tort funds.

"I do think it makes sense to under-levy to keep the tax rate from increasing," Powell said.

The total proposed levy represents a 2.28 percent increase over last year's $8.4 million levy, but anticipated increases in EAV could keep the tax rate study.

The superintendent reported that equalized assessed value of the Coffeen Power Station will decrease about $2.5 million per a previous negotiated agreement.  EAV for the remainder of the school district is anticipated to increase between $2.3 and $4.3 million.

The board will take final action on the levy at next month's meeting.

The Hillsboro School District operated about $75,000 in the black last year, but the education fund operated at a loss of $440,000 board members learned during a report from district auditor Andrea Suhre of Scheffel Boyle in Belleville.

"We gave you a clean opinion," Suhre said.  "All of your books are in good order."

The education fund deficit was covered by a $600,000 transfer from the working cash fund. The auditor reported that revenue was down slightly last year and expenses were up. She attributed the increase in expenses to $900,000 in capital projects paid from the $1.1 million annually generated by the school facilities sales tax.

The audit reported a total fund balance of $4 million, but most of that–all but $1.4 million–is restricted in its use.

The board will act on the audit at its December meeting.

Superintendent Powell supplied information from legal council regarding questions raised during the special meeting with the Litchfield School Board on the potential for district consolidation. That information included the deadlines for the board to put the issue on the ballot, as well as the deadline for voters to petition the initiative.

"We will continue to research this and keep you informed," Board President Greg Bellaver said.

As part of the consent agenda, the board passed its annual certification of pedestrian safety hazard areas, establishing bus transportation eligibility for students impacted.

Before adjourning, the board accepted resignations from Rem Dyas as junior high track coach, Jeff Eickhoff as high school golf coach, Michelle Roth as food service worker, and Veronica Groom as bus driver.

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