BY ELI FRANK —
The May 10 school board meeting featured a number of higher profile discussions and announcements, including a summary of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the announcement of the decision of which architecture firm to use for the district facilities update, a presentation on the preliminary budget for next year and updates to district language regarding testing opt-outs.
This was the first board meeting with Hilary DeBlois on the board, who was elected in April to fill Colin Plese’s seat after he decided to not seek another term. Because of the changes in composition, the board voted on new positions. In unanimous votes on all five nominations, Paru Shah was voted board president (previously board president), Ruth Treisman was voted board vice president (previously treasurer), Rodney Cain was voted board treasurer (previously board clerk), Joanne Lipo Zovic was voted board clerk (previously interim board member after Rob Reinhoffer’s resignation, but was elected to a full three-year term in April) and Hilary DeBlois was voted board member (just elected).
Jeff Cyganiak and Joe Patek presented the Youth Risk Behavior Survey results from this school year, with Patek stressing five points from the high school: the number of students who reported they had been offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property in the last 12 months has decreased. “This … is both a positive and negative for me,” Patek said. “It’s trending downward [since 2009] … which is a positive, but to me any time that number is not zero, is a negative.”
“To me, that means we’re continuing to promote an environment that’s comfortable,” Patek said, in highlighting that the number of students who openly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender has increased.
The district was recently recognized in a report by the Obama administration for having a strong, inclusive bathroom and transgender policy.
In the area of mental health, around three kids in each grade at SHS said they had been hospitalized for attempting suicide, up from 2009, from one to two kids to 12. “This is unacceptable,” Patek said.
Patek also reported that the number of students who reported having seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months, up from 2009.
“We’re taking a lot of steps to be conscious of this [at the high school],” Patek said.
Patek also expressed frustration at the results from a question on whether or not students felt they could talk to a member of the teaching staff if they have a problem. Results ranged from approximately 60% of freshmen answering affirmatively to 75% of seniors.
“The question is why aren’t we striving to get to 100% by senior year,” Patek said. “There’s no reason after somebody spends four years in our high school not one person can build a relationship with that kid.”
Regarding SIS, Cyganiak raised similar concerns about mental health and suicide. Cyganiak also said that he and members of the SIS staff viewed it as a positive that the number of eighth graders who reported using marijuana within the last 30 days has been steadily decreasing since 2011. In the elementary schools, Cyganiak highlighted that close to 90% of students feel their teachers care about them, up from past years, where it was around 80%.
“There’s a lot of positives [in the elementary school data],” Cyganiak said.
The number of elementary students who answered affirmatively to having made a plan to kill themselves in the past 12 months has significantly decreased from 2013, from nine percent to two percent.
“[It’s too high … [but] it’s progress in a very morbid way,” Patek said.
Complete results from the elementary schools can be found here, SIS here and SHS here. An executive summary of the results, including recommendations to the board in response to the survey results, can be found here.
Following up the presentation, Pat Miller, business manager, and Sachin Pandya, teacher and SEA representative, discussed changes to the teacher handbook. While most changes were simply to clarify language, as the last revision was done in 2012, a few substantial changes were made, which are summarized here.
Miller than presented a staffing update for next school year, which included a third counselor for SHS and one less K5 section and an additional MAC 3/4 teacher and ELL staff member at Lake Bluff. Other minor changes in staffing, which can be found here, were made.
With the school year winding down, Miller also shared the first in a series of preliminary budgets for next school year, which is available here. Both Miller and the board stressed that this is a rough estimate and will experience a number of alterations over the next few months.
Also as part of next year is early release Wednesdays returning to the elementary schools. Deb Stolz shared an outline of Recreation Department child care from 2:15-4:00 P.M. on early release Wednesdays, which has a reduced price of $3 and is a revamped program of what was offered in previous years.
Tim Joynt, director of curriculum and instruction, shared a look at next year’s assessment calendar with the board, in which the frequency of MAP tests has been decreased from three times a year to one time a year. Joynt also shared language on the district’s opt-out policy—which covers all assessments, both district and state mandated—which requires parents choosing to opt-out their child from any assessments to submit a written notice of the opt-out to the school principal. A listening session for the public with Joynt and Dr. Bryan Davis, superintendent, on testing in the district took place on Tuesday, May 17
It was also announced that Eppstein Uhen Architects would conduct the district-wide facilities assessment and produce a master plan for the maintenance of the district’s buildings. EUA was chosen from a pool of three architecture firms, with the facilities planning committee citing the firm’s ability to listen to suggestions and concerns as their reason for choosing EUA. More details on the decision and upcoming assessment are detailed in this executive summary.