Champaign school board lists high school sites

Champaign school board lists high school sites

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9:17 p.m.

The school board just approved raises and changes in fringe benefits for administrators and what it calls “district support personnel.”


District support personnel will receive a 4.8 percent increase this year, retroactive to July 1 of this year. Their raises are tied to raises teachers received in their contract. The raises will cost the school district about $34,000, plus retirement contributions, according to school board documents.


Administrators will receive a 3 percent salary increase, retroactive to July 1. The school district said it will provide me a dollar amount of how much these will cost the district, but it wasn't available tonight.


The board also approved changes in fringe benefits for both of these classes of employees, to mirror approved contracts.

For district support staff, the changes mirror those in the new support staff union, including change in wording for health insurance, bereavement leave and a revised list of paid holidays.

Changes in administrators’ fringe benefit mirror those in the teachers’ new contract. Those changes include wording related to health and dental insurance, elimination of the health reimbursement account, revising death, disability and accident insurance wording, changes in wording related to bereavement leave, creation of a sick leave bank, a revised list of paid holidays and the elimination of cell phone reimbursement, with a one-time stipend for those who were receiving it.


Board member Lynn Stuckey voted against both the administrative raises and fringe benefits, saying cell phone plans are getting cheaper and she doesn't believe those who were receiving the reimbursement benefit should get a stipend instead.


Board heading back to second exec session soon.


8:56 p.m.

Running a little behind as my deadline for print stories is 9 p.m. (fun fact there, for all of you who care about the intricacies of newspaper publishing).

The board has approved its final tax levy, for about $82.7 million. Last year, the district asked for $79.5 million and received about $79.3 million.

According to school board documents, property taxes could go up about $73 for the owner of an $150,000 home.

The school board also approved about $5 million in property tax abatements, for construction debt it had when the school facilities sales tax passed. The board then promised it would do so with some money from the sales tax.

Now they're talking change orders for various elementary school renovations. Sounds like Bottenfield Elementary renovation is both on schedule, with a budget in good shape, so far.

Robeson Elementary, which is being completed in two summers, is also on schedule.

8:41 p.m.

The board just approved three dual-language kindergarten classrooms for next year, and one first-grade dual-language classroom, to be housed at old Carrie Busey building.

Program could eventually grow into a school, but that's not what the board approved tonight. Superintendent Judy Wiegand said that will require additional board approval.

In Champaign's dual-language program, the goal is to create classrooms made up of equal amounts of native English and Spanish speakers. They'll learn half the time in English and half the time in Spanish, with the goal of making those students bilingual and biliterate.


8:26 p.m.

Students in proposed dual-language classrooms in Champaign would learn 50 percent of time in English, 50 percent of time in Spanish. Students would be linguistic models for each other and are spending time with each other, and appreciating each others' cultures, said Maria Alanis, the district's director of English as a Second Language and bilingual education.

About 10 percent of the district's students are Latino, Alanis said, and this could grow into a K-8 program.

8:21 p.m.

Next up - report on and possible action on dual-language program. Find the presentation here. Board actually taking action on possibly creating three kindergarten classrooms tonight.

8:08 p.m.

What you need to know about Kenwood renovations: total budget is about $4.7 million (including about $288,000 for contingencies) and the board could approve bids in June, with construction to follow.

Like several other Champaign elementary school renovations, the project will be paid for with money from bonds sold that will be repaid with school facility sales tax money.

8 p.m.

Just got a list of the four sites the board is still considering, from a news release school district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart sent. She sits next to me at board meetings.

Board will tonight consider sites at:

- the northeast corner of Prospect Avenue and Olympian Drive

- the northwest corner of Prospect Avenue and Olympian Drive

- the southwest corner of Market Street and Olympian Drive

- north of the T intersection of Interstate Drive and Neil Street.

7:53 p.m.

Board just approved permanent hire of Cheryl Camacho as principal of Garden Hills Elementary next year. She's been the interim principal this year.

Next: a presentation about design of Kenwood Elementary,  which will be renovated next year. Kenwood students will attend school at the former Carrie Busey building next year and probably into the next year, as they're on a year-round schedule.


7:49 p.m.

New school board student ambassadors are weighing in now on new Central. Cedric Jones, who goes to Central, said it's a community where people know each other, and students there are proud of their heritage.

"To the people who may have second thoughts, I would tell them, why not give these students the best? Why not give them the top tier?" he said.

He quoted his grandmother: "There's no point in doing something if you're not going to do it right."


7:42 p.m.

Board member Jamar Brown said he wants to go over in public why Country Fair wouldn't work, as it seemed to have a lot of community support.

The answer - it only had about 32 acres available, the utilities would have required reinforcement and it had a high cost associated with acquring the land. All the sites were scored on these factors (and many more) but because of these Country Fair fell down the list.

7:33 p.m.

Board members asking consultants about things like whether the school would need a practice and competition field for things like football, soccer, baseball and softball. Also discussing how many seats need to go with football field.

"I just think we all need to balance what we're asking for," board President Laurie Bonnett said.

Board member Lynn Stuckey is wondering if football will continue to grow, based on studies about head injuries, and whether insurance costs will prohibit it in the next 20 years. But, she said she understands why they need multiple fields: to prevent three teams in each sport from practicing from 3 p.m. til 10 p.m. and all over town again.


7:16 p.m.

Consultants working with board on site selection talking about how they arrived at estimates about needs for parking, acreage and the like.

One thing I haven't heard before: sounds like the board is considering four sites (that haven't been announced), not three.

Consultants recommending board have a backup or two, because of more studies that have to go into the site they choose tonight.

7:04 p.m.

Band director John Currey said safe sound levels are 100 decibels - he's measured them at 126 in his band room. A jet takes off at 125 decibels, and that noise level can cause hearing damage.

He said he hasn't complained about facilities because he doesn't want band numbers to go down, but the band is lacking in secure storage. Some band stuff is stored in basement at Central, covered in plastic because of the dust. Drum set is stored under a basement staircase, up on wood, because the area floods.

Wiegand said as far as student density goes, 45 percent of students lived north of Springfield Avenue last school year.

Next, presentation from consultants Gorski Reifsteck.


6:55 p.m.

Central Athletic Director John Woods and Director of Bands John Currey both addressed the board.

Woods addressed the time and miles students and coaches rack up traveling around Champaign-Urbana to practice and compete.

Currey said he's marched his marching band across major streets (University, Springfield, Green, John) to practice at McKinley Field. Said a bass drummer who couldn't see over his drum crashed into the back of a car once.

6:47 p.m
Principal Joe Williams and other administrators/faculty members will first discuss the challenges they face at current Central building.
Superintendent Judy Wiegand said they'll highlight that facility's transportation burden on parents and students now. She also said they surveyed Central ninth and 10th graders and 86 and 97 students from those classes, respectively, would participate in extracurriculars if facilities were on site.
"This is not just about athletics," Wiegand said, adding that research shows extracurricular involvement reflects in better grades in students.
6:38 p.m.
Board President Laurie Bonnett swearing in new student ambassadors, who will advise the board but not vote or attend executive sessions. They are Cedric Jones, Central High School; Grace Khachaturian, Centennial High School; and Shane Kelton of Novak Academy.
Next up: report on Central site selection.
6:31 p.m.
Board communications: board members say they've heard lots of community input about Central sites, and are taking those opinions into considerations as they choose a Central site.
"I wanted to reassure everyone, we may not addrees your concderns publicly, but we are definitely hearing you and appreciate everyone taking the time (to share their opinions)," said board member Kristine Chalifoux.
6:26 p.m.
Three public commenters, all on Central site selection. They're worried about fire service, safety along Market Street (if that's where the school ends up) because of semi-tractor traffic from Fed Ex Ground and whether taxpayers can afford a new high school on the edge of town.
Two of three commenters thanked the school board for their hard work.
6:09 p.m.
Board is going through awards won by its faculty, staff and students. Noteworthy: employees through the district's United Way Combined Charities Campaign donated $18,349 this year.
Next up, a video on academic achievement that is sure to be posted soon on the district's Vimeo page.
Then, public comment from an audience filling about three-quarters of seats in the audience.
6:04 p.m.
By the way, click here to see the board's agenda. You have to drill down a little bit, but it's full of information related to decisions the board will consider.
Board is coming back into meeting room now, and madrigals are singing.
6 p.m.
The board has a full agenda tonight, but it looks like the first order of business will be a quick performance from Central High School's madrigal choir. They sang for audience members as they warmed up during the board's executive session.
Audience is filling up as well, but it's not as full as I've seen it in the past.
Tonight’s meeting will be a busy one for Champaign school board members.
The board opened the meeting at 5:30 p.m. and will be in executive session until about 6 p.m.
Following that, the board will hear a report on possible Central High School sites and could act on a new dual-language program (which could become a 12th elementary school) and raises for employees who are not in either the teachers’ or support staff union, which both settled new contracts with the school district this fall.
We’ve written a lot about dual-language in Urbana schools. You can find those stories here, here, here, here and here.


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