The Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education unanimously approved proposed School Improvement Plans presented by administrators at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
The proposals were designed to align with the district’s three-year New Common Core Standards implementation plan.
Common Core is a set of statewide curricular standards aimed at preparing students for college and the workforce. It constitutes a single set of expectations for all students. All Illinois school districts must fully transition to Common Core by the 2013-2014 school year.
“The superintendent and staff have really worked very hard to lay out an implementation plan,” said board member Sean William Doyle. “Any time you have a dramatic change in the learning standards and so forth at the state level, it’s going to impact, obviously, districts that are trying to realign their curriculum with it.”
Under the New Common Core Standards, students in kindergarten through fourth grade will spend more time reading across the curriculum, with a focus on fluency and comprehension of nonfiction texts.
In math, extended written response learning will be emphasized. Students will learn inquiry and technological design during science, as well as hands-on exploration, method and labs.
Behavioral intervention to support student growth was also highlighted as part of the K-4 School Improvement Plan.
Schools for students in grades five through eight will emphasize staff development training, specifically aligning lessons with the Common Core Standards. Reading and comprehension strategies will also be a priority for schools serving older district students, as will an increased use of writing across the curriculum.
The 5-8 School Improvement Plan addressed the importance of anti-bullying efforts, specifically the creation of a bullying incident report phone line and the addition of a bullying report email link on school webpages.
During the Superintendent’s Report, Superintendent Barb Rains said that district principals are leading discussions about Common Core at monthly faculty meetings and that the district is currently halfway to implementing the Common Core. The next step of the implementation is developing a plan for Common Core resource allocation.
“Common Core will help strengthen the rigor of our curriculum,” said Rains. “It’s not surface or memorization anymore. It’s digging deep to get a deep understanding so that you can then apply what you’ve learned.”
During the Staff Report, district Director of Business and Transportation Susan Krautstrunk spoke briefly about a tentative tax levy.
Krautstrunk said that some of the district’s primary funding comes from tax levy dollars.
The board will hold a special meeting to discuss the levy on Nov. 3. They hope to pass an estimated tax levy resolution at the regular meeting on Nov. 14.
The tax levy adoption date is currently set for Dec. 12.
Board member Sean William Doyle led a discussion of district legal fees at Wednesday’s meeting.
Doyle specified that between July 2011 and June 2012, the district paid $72,578.86 in legal fees.
According to Doyle, approximately 40 percent of the fees were spent revisiting a concluded teacher investigation.
“It strikes me as a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Doyle. “These numbers are getting under my skin.”
Doyle also said that board Vice President Joy Murphy was in contact with the district attorney on 14 separate occasions, none of which were in compliance with board policy.
The issue was determined to require further discussion and was added to the agenda for a future board closed session.
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