By Michael Kloppenburg
For the Star-Gazette
The members of the A-C Central school board expressed irritation at the performance of A-C students on the latest round of statewide tests held in March at the October 16 meeting of the board. Elementary and junior high students’ results in reading and math only just met state standards in many classes and others fell below the standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam. Chairman Scot Atwood called the numbers “concerning.” The one bright spot was science, where A-C students consistently exceeded state standards. The performance of last year’s juniors on the ACT also did not impress the board.
Teachers, administrators, and board members all advanced possible culprits for the unsatisfactory results. High school/middle school Principal Bob Sanders and elementary principal Deb Rogers urged board members to take into account that with A-C’s small class sizes, one or two students could drastically sway the results.
Rogers also said A-C was receiving a lot of students moving in and out of the district during the year and it was impossible to know what academic foundation those students have. This did not satisfy the board. Scott Boston pointed out that the students moving in could cut both ways because some would be ahead of the A-C students academically. Jeremy Garner said that mobile students could not explain why half of a class might fail to meet expectations. Garner pointed to the reconfiguration of the classes as a possible part of the problem.
Teachers attending the meeting pointed to cuts in the Response To Intervention program, which identifies and provides assistance to struggling students. One area that was cut was reading RTI. One teacher urged the board to “watch the reading.”
Rogers said that the district has seen a major upswing in its poverty rate. She said that the poverty rate has climbed 20% in the last four years and 50% of her students are in poverty. District superintendent Tim Page also pointed to poverty.
“Socioeconomic status is the number one indicator of how well a student will perform,” said Page.
A web filter used by A-C to screen internet content is causing problems with corrupted data. Students are having problems completing projects reported technology supervisor Brendon DeJaynes. The school has also had problems contacting the manufacturer. Several board members expressed irritation at this problem.
The board voted to hire Robert Miller Grant Consulting to assist the district in finding and obtaining grants. Page said he had been in contact with other superintendents and they had given Robert Miller “rave reviews.” Despite some hesitation at the $2,900 refundable fee and the $600 nonrefundable travel expenses fee, the board voted to approve the payment to have the firm look into whether it could help A-C. Garner voted no.
The 2012 audit was presented to the board. The auditor described A-C’s finances as “in good shape.” The audit also found that average daily attendance at the district fell to 439 during the 2012 fiscal year from 455 the previous year. The board approved the audit.
The board discussed repairs to the Chandlerville buildings bleachers. Among other problems, several roll locks and lock tabs are broken. The bleachers also do not comply with the accessibility code. The architect’s estimate for repairs is $15,000-$20,000. The board also has to consider how this will fit in other work the building needs.
Also on the items of discussion was the street in Chandlerville that runs between the school playgrounds. Making Mechanic Street a one-way street could improve the flow of traffic at school dismissal.
Board members Garner and Tom Carlock have joined a committee charged with developing a five-year strategic plan for the district.
Superintendent Page reported that the school’s debt recovery program has been successful in collecting money owed to the district.
Board member Mark Cuba was appointed to be the A-C board’s delegate at the Illinois School Boards Conference.
Ty Kesselring was named high school student-of-the-month for September. His sister, Cheyenne, was named middle school student-of-the-month.