President Justin Engelland led his report with an overview of the night’s key agenda items including:
- The District’s search for a new superintendent. “Selecting a new superintendent,” he said, “is one of the most important responsibilities of any Board of Education.” The goal, he said, is to do this task transparently and with community engagement and he thanked those who participated in a recent survey and took part in focus groups. That input, he said, “will shape where we go as a District.”
- Hiring an interim superintendent. This person, he said, will work from the end of March to the start of the new academic year in July. A joint committee of Districts 67 and 115 Board members has been assessing candidates, he said
- Expansion of in-person learning this school year. Before that topic was discussed later in the meeting, Mr. Engelland said the Board had received hundreds of emails. In looking back over the school year, he said, “our District has accomplished a lot, together.” And tonight, he added, “is another important discussion. I know not everyone feels the same way about it, but I do know everyone is aligned behind the same goal: How can we further improve supporting our kids in this challenging year?”
Superintendent Search Update
Board members Suzanne Sands and Jane Westerhold of search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) provided an update on the community engagement process as the District seeks a replacement for Superintendent Michael Simeck. Themes that have emerged so far will be presented at a joint Districts 67 and 115 Board meeting March 1. Input opportunities so far have included a community survey that 756 people, including 454 parents of current students, took part in; six community forums that drew 88 participants; focus groups with a range of attendees including community partners and students; and interviews with Board members. Next steps, Ms. Sands said, include the March 1 meeting, which will be open to the public and is where the interim superintendent contract will be signed and a March 9 meeting, which will be closed to the public and is where HYA will present a slate of candidates to the Boards. Finalists are to be chosen before Spring Break.
Superintendent’s Reopening Report
Superintendent Simeck’s report centered on five areas:
- What in-person learning will look like in the fall
- Current COVID-19 data
- New COVID-19 variants
- In-person learning options for this school year
For fall, he said, the District expects a full return to in-person learning. Planning is underway for that, with the senior administration expected to view the plan March 15. That’s happening as COVID-19 incidence rates are dropping. “Overall,” said Director of Student Services and School Improvement Dr. Michelle Shin, “things look really good.” Voluntary COVID-19 testing in District schools continues. The Superintendent also briefly discussed COVID-19 variants and that the District is watching the U.K. variant B.1.1.7, in particular. On the vaccination front, Mr. Simeck said the weather has affected vaccine supply, disrupting vaccination goals in Lake County. As of Feb. 15, he added, 56 percent of District staff surveyed had received their first dose.
Much of the report focused on options for a full return to in-person learning this year. Emphasizing that District staff, like many parents, wants children back in school full time, Director of Teaching and Learning Jeff McHugh noted that returning will require the District to “rebuild” school, just as it was rebuilt this year for the pandemic.
The overarching question as District staff looks at this issue, he said, is what is going to be best for the children. What District staff believes is best, said Mr. Simeck in his recommendation, is to complete the school year in the hybrid/AVA model while offering more in-person school time after Spring Break with a supervised remote learning option. Through that option, hybrid students could participate in online specials classes in a supervised space with other students at school buildings. School officials and Board members had a robust discussion on factors related to a full return to in-person learning including social distancing requirements, the percentage of District families who want their children in such a learning model, quarantine risks, students’ continuity with teachers and classmates, and consistency of instruction. Though no formal vote was taken, Mr. Simeck’s recommendation was supported by a majority of the Board. Mr. Engelland provided a summary of Board members’ directions for followup on the issue including their desire to expand in-school options for children after Spring Break; to collect community feedback; to provide supervised e-learning at school outside of a student’s regular school hours, making that accessible to all who want it; and to see a more complete plan from District administrators.
Chair Suzanne Sands began her report by saying that for the last six years, the District has been focused on work that drives its schools toward the Mission and Vision including the goal of “inspiring and empowering all students to maximize their growth as learners and develop a balanced sense of self, steadfast resiliency, and deep respect for others.” Even amid the pandemic, that work continues, she said. She added that the District has been implementing the SAEBRS, Social Emotional Learning screener this year for the first time. Results of that screener were shared at the committee meeting on Feb. 11. Stacey Weber, the District’s behavior coach, told the committee that when 80 percent or more of students score in the no-risk range it indicates a healthy system. In District 67, 93.4 percent of students scored in the no-risk range.
Finance & Operations Committee
Rob Lemke, committee chair, said the committee is scheduled to meet April 22 but may meet sooner.
Jeff Folker, committee chair, said the panel had not met since the last Board meeting.
Jeff Folker, committee chair, reported that he and Dewey Winebrenner from the District 115 Board met with shared services optimization consultant Nate Eklund about preparation of a project-ending recommendation to be presented to both School Boards, likely next month.
North Suburban Special Education District (NSSED) Liaison
Suzanne Sands said NSSED’s financial concerns continue because of factors linked to COVID-19, including ineligibility for pandemic-related funding.
Alice LeVert noted that the Board would vote later in the meeting on approval of joint Districts 67 and 115 legislative priorities.
APT Executive Liaison
Suzanne Sands said that the elementary school APT Boards hosted a joint meeting for parents with Dr. McHugh about education this school year.
Approved Everett Elementary School Principal Contract