Welcome back to school and Happy New Year to everyone! As I get older, it seems each year passes more quickly than the previous one. However, when we do flip the calendar to the next page, it is a chance to reflect upon what transpired in the year that just passed, and what we hope to expect for the coming year. This edition of the Superintendent’s Corner will focus upon both of those views. That is, how our school year has progressed so far, and what we hope to accomplish before the year ends in late May.
CURRICULUM AT LIMESTONE WALTERS
This year has been a baseline year for many new items that have been implemented at Limestone Walters for the 2016 – 2017 school year. Our teachers are learning just as much as our students are. We are assessing what is effective and what can be improved. Here are some updates to those new initiatives.
- Google Chromebooks & Apple iPads – This year was our first year that we provided chromebooks for all grades 4 – 8, with our 5 – 8 students having the option to take them home. Our students have done a remarkable job with the responsibility of the chromebooks. We have had very few issues with only minor repairs. Apple iPads in grades K – 3 have been utilized a great deal and our students are enjoying them. These types of technology devices at all grade levels are just another way that teachers can deliver instruction to our students. The challenge for our staff is to find a balance between the use of technology and the other supplemental materials that they use to teach the state standards.
- My Math – Last spring our staff researched online math curriculums and recommended My Math for grades K – 8 for 2016 - 2017. I would also say that the delivery of this new instruction is a work in progress. Our teachers are blending what they have used in the past with the many features of My Math. One of the exciting new features that My Math offers is the online videos. Students and parents can access these videos to help gain a better understanding of a particular concept. Our teachers are becoming more familiar with the all the tools that My Math has to offer, and introducing our students to the new activities. Even though we have adopted a new math curriculum, what has not changed is our teachers’ focus to teach to the New Illinois Learning Standards.
- Increased Instructional Day – Our school day was increased by 20 minutes this year. We have used this time to provide additional supports for all students, from students that need additional instruction to students that need enrichment. We have used the extra time in grades K – 2 for guided reading groups. For grades 3 and 4, those students have been grouped together to provide small instructional groups in reading and math. In our junior high, we have combined grades 5 & 6, and 7 & 8 for their individualized instructional groups. One observation we have made is that we want to explore how to make these groups smaller in the junior high. We would like to make these groups smaller to improve the instruction. So, we are reviewing ways to better utilize staff to make that a reality.
PARTNERSHIP FOR ASSESSMENT OF READINESS FOR COLLEGE AND CAREERS (PARCC)
This year marks the third 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. This assessment window is March 6, 2017 through April 28, 2017. School districts may pick a 30 consecutive day window during this period to administer the assessment. At this time, Limestone Walters has not declared its 30 day window but I can tell you that it will be before we have our spring break. Our spring break this year is April 10 – 17, 2017. We will decide this window very soon and will keep everyone notified.
PEORIA COUNTY FACILITY SALES TAX
On the November 8, 2016 the Peoria County Facilities Sales Tax Referendum passed. Voters approved ½ % sales tax that would be earmarked specifically for school facilities. The dollars are allocated to school districts based upon their enrollment on the last day of September of the past year. For Limestone Walters, that student enrollment number was 200 on September 30, 2016. That number is higher than what was used for some preliminary numbers, which is good news for us. The tax goes into effect on July 1, 2017 and we will start receiving revenue in October of 2017. Early projections indicated Limestone Walters would receive approximately $58,000. However, that projection was based upon a full year but again the sales tax will not begin until July. There are a couple of factors that could influence the amount of sales tax that school districts receive. First, the Louisville Slugger Facility in North Peoria will operate on a full summer schedule this year so there might be an increase in projections from the tournaments and teams that will play in Peoria. The other factor that could counteract that increase is the number of people that are now shopping online. So, again, we will need to see how the ebb and flow of the sales tax makes it to our school. Regardless, the sales tax is now a revenue that we never had previously. It is a welcomed addition!!!
At Parent Information Night, it was shared that should the facility sales tax pass, the Board would look to add air conditioning to the classrooms and lower the property tax. At the December Board of Education meeting, the property tax levy was lowered by approximately 11 cents. It is anticipated that the 2016 tax rate for Limestone Walters will be $2.90 per $100 assessed evaluation. The previous rate in 2015 was approximately $3.01 per $100 assessed evaluation.
The Building Committee is currently in the process of reviewing options for air conditioning. Part of this review is to not only examine cost, but also consider what is the best, long-term solution for the district. One factor that we do know will need to happen will be an upgrade to our current electrical service. Adding air conditioning may be done in phases, similar to how the parking lot areas were improved, with the classrooms being the priority. In any event, as we move forward we will keep everyone updated.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, the greatest gift you can give your children is your time.
Tim Dotson, Superintendent