Winter is trying to “hang on” but I am encouraged with the warmer temperatures forecasted in the coming days that spring will be upon us soon. Spring means the days are longer, the temperature is warmer, and the baseball season is not too far away. Personally, spring also indicates golf season is near which means I have forgotten all of my bad swing habits over the winter. With this edition of the Superintendent’s Corner, I did want to provide a few more updates on what is happening at Limestone Walters. Amazingly, there is less than three months remaining in the 2017 – 2018 school year!
CURRICULUM AT LIMESTONE WALTERS
This year marks the second year of some new initiatives at Limestone Walters: extended time (20 minutes added to the school day), the My Math Series in all grades, and the 1-to-1 computing devices in grades 5 - 8. Our hope each and every year is to make improvements so instruction is better for students. With any new initiative, there is going to be a learning curve as to how to best implement to improve student achievement. The extended time, Response to Intervention (RtI), is working very well in grades K – 4. However, in grades 5 – 8 we have made some changes. We wanted to make the student instructional groups smaller, so we have hired additional staff to help provide supports. We also benchmarked our groups differently to help move students to grade level. With these changes we hope to see greater gains in student growth. As mentioned previously, this year is the second year for the My Math series and the teachers are becoming more familiar with all of the options that My Math possesses. We have had little issues with the chrome books. The students have done an extraordinary job of taking great care with them. Again, teachers are feeling more comfortable pushing out information using the chrome books and Google classroom.
Finally, we are also reviewing our four quarter plans for math and reading that we created two years ago. Every two years, in my opinion, is a good time to review our plans. So what are we reviewing? Do our four quarter plans address the standards in the correct quarter? Does our curriculum align vertically with each grade level? What resources do we have or need to have to teach to those standards? One goal I have regarding the four quarter plans is to develop a common template to be used at each grade level. My hope is that a common template of the four quarter plans will be easier for parents to follow as their children advance from grade to grade at Limestone Walters.
The finances of the state of Illinois are not always pleasant topics when it comes to school funding. With 2018 being an election year, I do not see that changing too much. However, one area where we have benefited greatly is the County Facilities Sales Tax (CFST). In November of 2016 the voters of Peoria County voted to approve a ½ cent sales tax that could be used only for school facilities. The tax took effect July 1, 2017. Listed below are the receipts we have received so far through the first five months:
- July, 2017 $4,837.67
- August, 2017 $5,174.46
- September, 2017 $5,103.14
- October, 2017 $4,917.47
- November, 2017 $5,328.24
Early projections with the CFST indicated that Limestone Walters would receive approximately $60,000 per year, and through the first five months it appears that projection is on course. The amount of revenue we receive is based upon our enrollment, and of course the shopping that takes place in Peoria County. The amounts per month fluctuate based on the time of year. For example, August shows an increase that is probably due to “back-to-school” shopping. November’s increase is most likely due to Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday. I am anticipating that December will see a larger amount due to the same reason. There is certainly an argument for shopping locally since those dollars, whether they are spent by Peoria County residents or by visitors to Peoria County, all attribute to the CFST that schools receive. As a reminder, the CFST can only be used for facilities. The funds cannot be used for salaries or any other purpose not associated with the upkeep of our facilities.
With the new CFST revenue, what does the Board intend to do with those funds? Since the CFST is a brand new revenue stream to the district that we have not had previously, the Board is taking a “wait and see” approach. That is, the Board would like to get a gauge of how accurate the potential projections may be for an annual basis. For future planning, knowing how much we can expect to receive from the CFST yearly will be very helpful for budgeting. However, for the summer of 2018 the Board did approve a project that includes abating some floor tile and adding new carpet in all the classrooms. The primary hall tile will also be replaced along with all of the current stair treads. The Board will use some of the CFST revenue, along with the Operations & Maintenance Fund and the Working Cash Fund to pay for this project. After this project is complete, the Board intends to develop a “long-range” plan for future facility projects that could be earmarked with the CFST funds.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)
This year marks the fourth year that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC as it is commonly referred, will be administered to school districts in Illinois. Students in grades 3 – 8 will be tested in ELA (English Language Arts) and Math. School districts may pick a 30 consecutive day window during this period to administer the assessment. The window for Limestone Walters will be March 19th through April 19th. Grade level testing times will be in this week’s newsletter.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at any time. You may reach me by phone at 697-3035 or by email at email@example.com.
Remember, the greatest gift you can give your children is your time.
Tim Dotson, Superintendent