AMBOY - Approval was given to the 2013 fiscal year budget at last week’s District 272 Board of Education meeting. During a budget hearing preceding the Sept. 27 meeting held at Central School, Superintendent Jeff Thake said it is the same old story with uncertainty in state funding continuing for schools. The continued decrease in funding this year, which amounted to 11 percent less in general state aid and 42 percent less in transportation, caused the district to spend in excess of $300,000 from education fund balances.
“We’re still in decent shape financially but it’s something we need to continue monitoring and act accordingly,” Thake said of the dwindling fund balances. “Relying on the state for funding is not going to be the best option for us in the future. Eventually, the state is going to say, ‘We don’t have any more money.’ That’s what we have to prepare for.”
Principal Joyce Schamberger, Amboy Junior High, said congratulated the 8th grade volleyball team, which placed second at the Montmorency Tournament.
In other school activities:
* The PTC met on Sept. 5. They are currently working on a candy-selling fundraiser, pie sales will begin in November and Market Day sales are held monthly.
* The Second Step program began on Sept. 5 with Deb Walter and Melissa McNinch of the Sauk Valley YWCA giving the presentation.
* Kathy Worton conducted hearing and vision tests on all 8th graders, new students and students in special education on Sept. 24 and 25.
* A counselor from Sinnissippi Centers will be at the junior high for several hours, one day a week, to provide counseling services.
In school improvement:
* The junior high staff watched a video on state mandated teacher training titled, "Making Sound Legal and Ethical Decisions."
* Mrs. Grenda reviewed for staff information on reporting bullying. Teachers were reminded of procedures to follow and the chain of command for discipline.
* Mrs. Wood gave a presentation on "Formative Assessment."
* Mr. Fassler spoke about a recently purchased Successful Reader program he is using for RtI reading classes.
* Mr. Full, dean of students and building coordinator for PBIS, spoke to staff about a PBIS initiative.
* On Sept. 13, Libby Wolfgram of OCEC (Ogle County Educational Cooperative), gave a presentation for the district’s paraprofessionals. She talked about autism, students in high school, and working with classroom teachers.
* Staff members met in content areas to discuss the Common Core Standards. Math and science teachers met with Amboy High School Principal Ron Gruber, English/language arts/social science met with Central School Principal Mary Ann Redshaw and Schamberger, physical education met with Mr. Full, and fine arts and music met with Mrs. Cleary.
In PBIS, Schamberger said September’s focus was on the issue of tardiness. She explained that so far this school year, 53 percent of all office referrals were due to students being tardy to class compared to last year when it was 35 percent. As an incentive, students who arrived on time in every class for one week were given full punch cards.
Principal Ron Gruber, Amboy High School, commended everyone for a contributing to a successful homecoming week, particularly the student council members and Amy Wittenauer who planned and carried out the various activities. Gruber also thanked office workers Lori Bickett and Doris Levan for their help during homecoming week. “There were a lot of people coming in and out with questions,” he said. “They did a good job of making sure everybody was at the right place at the right time.”
In other school activities:
* AHS will host the IHSA class AA Volleyball Regional Oct. 22-26. Gruber thanked George Schwamberger for agreeing to organize the event, which takes place the same week as parent-teacher conferences. Gruber said parent-teacher conferences will be held Thursday of that week, the same night as the championship game. “It will be a busy place that night but that’s a good thing,” he said.
* The National Guard visited AHS twice in September supplementing classroom instruction. Gruber said students experienced MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) in foods classes and they also tried out an inflatable obstacle course and National Guard motorcycle during PE classes. “The kids always enjoy that and we appreciate everything the National Guard does,” Gruber said.
In curriculum and school improvement:
* Gruber said after going through some “rough patches,” the Clippers, Set Sail! program is underway. The program’s team (Janet Nehring, Glenn Sauter, Amie Wiseman, Kim Sondgeroth, Erika Kelly, Jim Browne, Emily Rose, Amelia Hemmen, Cheryl Bonnell, Joe Drover and Sarah Landers) planned a field trip to BSA Camp Lowden on Oct. 1 for all freshman students focusing on team building and communication skills.
* During resource time, students are meeting in content area groups three days a week and last week, they started the "R Rules" curriculum to develop skills for success in high school.
* On Sept. 7, the district’s three principal’s attended an ROE sponsored Common Core Standards workshop for administrators. Gruber said the information was very valuable and they were able to share it with teachers during the Sept. 13 school improvement day and then follow up with discussions about classroom level implementation district-wide. He said it was good to see the K-12 perspective, especially in math, which builds on itself year after year. “Common Core calls for specific things being taught in specific grades. If we miss something, the students are going to be behind in that area,” Gruber said. “It was a good discussion and teachers were able to look at the progression of the Common Core.”
Principal Mary Ann Redshaw, Central School thanked First Federal Savings Bank and the Amboy Nursing Center for their generous donations of school supplies. “It’s very nice to have that community support,” she said.
In school improvement and curriculum:
* The PBIS committee, which includes Amber Grenda, Jamie Melin, Terry Weber, Jennifer Shafer, Emily Kastner, Wendy Rissman, Pamela Kurz and Kathy Mayer, met on Sept. 4. Redshaw said Central’s PBIS kick-off was held a little later than she had hoped but next year they plan to start earlier in the year. Quarterly events are being planned and Central staff members are now handing out Clipper Cash.
* The School Improvement Team consisting of Anna Willis, Laura Dickinson, Joanie Zimmerly, Mary Knowles and Linda Grady met on Sept. 10. One focus of the team will be looking for math curriculums that match the Common Core. Redshaw said the math books used at Central are no longer available to purchase, so they will begin looking for another math series to use next year.
* The Literacy Committee, which includes Terry Weber, Kathleen Russell, Sue Godsil, Amanda Henkel, Linda Klein, Lisa Moore, Joanie Zimmerly, Valarie Ackert, Lois Gillespie, Carol Schnaiter and Jim Murphy, met on Sept. 19. The committee will assist with ELA (English Language Arts) Common Core staff development and Family Literacy Night. Redshaw said the committee suggested having one family night per year and rotating between literacy, math and science. This year will be a Literacy Night tentatively set for Feb. 7. The committee also decided to incorporate a theme and have guest readers.
In school activities:
* School safety drills were conducted for fire and severe weather.
* Central's Problem Solving Team met and scheduled meetings for the remainder of the year. Members who attend most meetings include OCEC staff-Mike Papini, Bridget Wagner (school psychologist), Samantha Buss (school social worker), Lois Gillespie or Sue Godsil (special education), Kathy Mayer (speech pathologist), Amber Grenda (school counselor) and Redshaw.
* The process of staff evaluations has started for the 2012-13 school year.
Redshaw thanked all district staff and building secretaries for the extra help they provided during the transitional time in Central's office and in particular thanked Kim Vaessen and Billie Child for helping make the office run smoothly.
Thake commended the principals for using data to make decisions for improving student achievement. “Sometimes the data tells us things we might not necessarily want to hear or accept, but if this is what the data tells us, this is what we need to focus on,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the results we’re seeing.”
Thake said the district is in the very preliminary information-gathering stage for a “bring your own device” program in Amboy. Surveys were given to students in grades 5-12 to help determine how many have their own internet ready device. Administratively, Thake said they are reviewing handbook and board policies from other school districts that have already developed a bring your own device program, as well as digital citizenship, professional development initiatives and instructional strategies that can be incorporated into Amboy’s professional development programs.
“Mr. Hubbard has done an exceptional job of upgrading our infrastructure over the years,” Thake said, noting that the installation of fiber optics is expected to be complete in the near future. “We already have staff who are incorporating student electronic devices in their instruction. Kids have them and it just makes perfect sense [to determine] how we can actually use them appropriately and productively in the classroom.”
Thake said the district is looking forward to this project but he noted that any type of electronic device program would start on a small scale and the first step is determining how many students have a device.
Thake reminded the board of the 1 percent sales tax referendum that will be on the ballot in Lee County this November. He emphasized that the sales tax would be county-wide and all schools in Lee County would benefit from the revenue, which would be disbursed based on enrollment. Use of the money would be restricted to building operation and maintenance, an area of considerable need in Amboy with three aging school buildings. A board presentation given in May regarding the work needed at AJHS showed that it would be more fiscally responsible for the district to keep the existing junior high and plan the necessary upgrades starting with replacement of the roof.
“That is what the 1 percent sales tax revenue would be applied toward,” he said. “It would be great to receive these revenues.”
Individuals interested in running for school board in next April’s election may pick up packets at the district office. The three-month period for circulating petitions began on Sept. 25 and ends on Dec. 24. Petitions must be filed at the district office between Dec. 17 and Dec. 24. Five Amboy School Board seats are up for election.
Following closed session, the board approved an agreement between Amboy Junior Tackle and Amboy School District 272, in which junior tackle home games will be played at Amboy High School and in return, junior tackle will assist the district with maintenance of the high school football facility.
They also approved Amy Pohl as assistant head cook at Amboy Junior High effective Aug. 10, 2012.
The next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at Amboy High School.