In the Board’s first meeting with Dr. Constance Collins in the interim superintendent role, President Justin Engelland noted that she was off to a fast start as indicated by the night’s busy agenda. Topics for the Board at this meeting included the District’s new supervised remote learning program, expanded summer school offerings, and the planning for a return to five-day, full-day in-person learning in the fall.
“It’s exciting,” he said, “to be planning for a return to a more normal year.”
Not on the agenda but getting attention from Mr. Engelland was the previously announced hiring of new superintendent Dr. Matthew Montgomery for Districts 67 and 115.
“I want to thank everyone in the community for your engagement and input as part of this process,” he said. “A highlight for me was the community candidate forum last month. Watching all the questions from various parent and student leaders in the community who deeply care about our schools and generously give their time and their talents to make them better reflected why Lake Forest is such a special community to raise kids.”
“I would argue that there has never been a year when our community has been more engaged with our schools and more aware of how central they are to our lives than this year,” Mr. Engelland added.
“My hope,” he said, “is that as we prepare to welcome Matt and his family to Lake Forest and we set our sights on what’s next for our District, that this level of engagement and connection becomes our new normal. It’s only going to make our schools better.”
Dr. Collins told the Board that her team has already been working with Dr. Montgomery. Her report included updates on her visits to the District elementary schools, the search for a new Buildings and Grounds director (finalist interviews are taking place), and events (including The Spirit of 67 Foundation’s recent Grant Day) and initiatives (including the tri-district Project F_LL, which aims to get food to Lake County families in need). The District also received $707,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funding under the CARES Act, she said.
Community residents who called in thanked Board members Jeff Folker and Robert Lemke for their service; this was their last regular Board meeting as they did not seek re-election on April 6. Another called asked that the Board make programs, like supervised remote learning and summer school, available to all students, without wait lists.
Superintendent’s Reopening Report
After an update on COVID-19 statistics and vaccine updates — including the popup vaccine clinic held at Deer Path Middle School on April 18 in conjunction with LF/LB Vaccine Buddies — Dr. Collins told the Board that District staff is planning a full return to in-person learning in the fall. Other updates included:
Supervised Remote Learning: Interest among families has increased significantly for this program, which provides a supervised in-school space for students to do remote learning, Cherokee Principal Luke Livingston told the Board. The District is working to increase the number of students it can accommodate in this option, which began April 19 and has led to a wait list in some schools. Cost for the program, he said, is at $63,100, which includes supervision, transportation, and technology expenses.
2021-22 District 67 Planning Committee: The committee, made up of multiple stakeholders, including parents, is working on how school will look in the fall as the District plans a full return to in-person learning. The goal is for parents and staff to know what to expect for next year by the time students finish this school year.
Summer School: With interest in summer school heightened after a school year upended by the pandemic, District 67 is increasing the number of core classes it plans to offer, is hiring additional staff, and is furthering inclusive practices, said D67 Summer School Principal Megan Eigenrauch. In a usual year, about 150 students attend summer school, she said. This year parents of more than 600 students have expressed interest. Registration continues until May 5 for the June and August sessions and the District is working to whittle down the wait list.
SAEBERS: An overview of the District’s implementation of the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener was provided by Kate Cavanaugh, Executive Director of Student Services, and Stacey Weber, District Behavior Coach. Among highlights Ms. Weber shared was that more than 80% of District students are successful with SEL. The spring SAEBERS benchmark is under way.
Chair Suzanne Sands shared updates from the committee’s March 11 meeting including new social studies curriculum developed in response to an Illinois law requiring public schools to include instruction and adopt instructional materials that accurately portray the political, economic, and social contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. She also shared a video that explained, she said, why inclusive practices are so important.
Finance & Operations Committee
Rob Lemke, committee chair, said the committee had not met since the last Board meeting.
Jeff Folker, committee chair, said the committee had not met since the last Board meeting. He pointed out that the committee is responsible for the Board Operating Procedures Manual and with the superintendent-hiring section of that manual unfinished, he proposed that Suzanne Sands complete that work.
Shared Services, Optimization and Compensation Committee
Jeff Folker, committee chair, said the joint committee met April 6 and created recommendations for the incoming Boards. Those included both boards committing to making shared services (in which employees work for both Lake Forest school districts) succeed and a suggestion that the Boards budget for an outside consultant who can provide an objective perspective on shared services. Shared services, he noted, is not a perfect solution, but the financial benefits “cannot be denied.”
North Suburban Special Education District (NSSED) Liaison
Suzanne Sands’s report included the news that school Districts had agreed to help cover NSSED’s COVID-19-related expenses. NSSED was not eligible for CARES Act COVID-19 funding.
Alice LeVert noted President Joe Biden’s proposal for a large education spending increase in his first federal budget.
Spirit of 67 Liaison
Richard Chun introduced Spirit of 67 Foundation President Kimberly Carris and Colleen Berto, the Spirit’s Vice President of Grants. They told the Board about the April 21 Grant Day, in which The Spirit of 67 Foundation awarded 18 grants representing nearly $140,000 in new funding for District 67 schools. These grants are in addition to the $180,000 in off-cycle grants (awarded outside of the usual grant sequence) given in October to help with learning amid the pandemic.
APT Executive Liaison
Suzanne Sands said Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week kicks off at all District schools Monday May 3 and APT committees have been hard at work on surprises for “our amazing teachers and staff.”