Champaign schools' mentoring supporters speak out
CHAMPAIGN – Kim Dalluge has seen her son struggle to fit in at school.
His autism makes it difficult for him to participate in sports or music, and he has problems with social skills.
But she has seen a big change in her son since he began meeting with a mentor a couple of years ago.
"He told me, he can tell (the mentor) things he could tell a big brother," Dalluge told the Champaign school board Monday night. "I've seen a huge difference in his self-confidence. He has a friend now, somebody he looks forward to seeing."
Dalluge was one of many people at Monday's school board meeting to support the CU One to One Mentoring Program. The program was up for discussion because the grant that pays for site coordinators to recruit, train and schedule mentors in the schools has expired, and the district must now pick up the cost if those positions are to continue.
Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd said the district will include money for the mentoring program in its budget for next year, but she said the district's mentor coordinator position will likely be expanded to include more responsibilities.
"We are not looking at cutting the program," she said. "It may look a little different to serve more and get more out of our district dollars."
Shepperd said the additional responsibilities likely would be establishing school-business partnerships, expanded volunteer recruitment and some public relations duties. She described the expanded position as a community outreach coordinator, and said it would be full-time.
Brenda Koester, the district's mentor coordinator, said the program has begun working on business partnerships, and she supports both that and expanding volunteer opportunities. She said she didnt know the specifics about how her position might be expanded.
Shepperd said Barkstall and Kenwood elementary schools do not now have site coordinators, and the district wants those schools served as well.
A number of people asked the district to keep the site coordinators who work with mentors and other volunteers in the schools.
"It's hard for me to imagine another way for the school district to receive such an influx of resources from community organizations," said Ann Bishop, a University of Illinois library science professor who works with Washington Elementary School on an after-school library program.
All of the board members said they supported the program.
"It's extremely clear that the board wants the (district) staff to bring a proposal that equals what we have," said board President Dave Tomlinson.
Board renews contract for resource officers
The board renewed the contract for its school resource officers for another year, at a cost of $220,306 for the next fiscal year.
The board heard the results of the kindergarten lottery under the district's schools of choice program. Deputy Superintendent Dorland Norris reported that 653 families participated in the March lottery, and 95 percent of them received one of their top three choices for the elementary school for their children. She said about 85 percent received their first choice.
Norris said five schools were overchosen, meaning more parents picked them as their top choice than the number of available seats: Barkstall, Bottenfield, Westview, South Side and Stratton.