LIVE Champaign school board

CHAMPAIGN — This evening we will be reporting live from the Mellon Administrative Center, where the Champaign school board is expected to announce the proposed new site for Central High School.

You can follow along here and on Twitter.

The meeting is expected to begin at 5:30 p.m. Following an executive session, the open portion of the meeting is scheduled to start at about 6 p.m.

Among the other items scheduled to be discussed are an update on the 2013 property tax levy, a staffing request for the 2014-15 school year and the renewal of the lease at the Novak Academy.

8:10 p.m.

The board room is clearing out. Thanks for following along with our live reports this evening.

7:52 p.m.

The board voted 5-0 to officially select the high school site.

"I've been on the board for almost seven years now, and I got on board because of the whole high school issue," said board member Kristine Chalifoux. "I feel this is the best site in this community for this school, and it will serve us well. I am excited to put this step behind us. Our next step is to get back to what we do and educate kids."

"I, too, am excited this decision has been made," said board member Jamar Brown. "Now that we have this part, it is time for us to come together as a community and make sure this is the best facility in the state of Illinois for our students."

"It has been a challenge to get to this point," said school board president Laurie Bonnett. "It was not a decision that will provide a high school very quickly. We still have a lot of work ahead of us."

7:50 p.m.

The site will be 80 acres overall.

7:45 p.m.

The board has made a motion to approve a new high school site at Interstate Drive and Neil Street.

7:40 p.m.

The board voted 5-0 to extend its lease of the Novak Academy property through May 2015.

7:35 p.m.

The board voted 5-0 to approve adding a second assistant principal at Garden Hills Elementary School.

7:28 p.m.

The school board voted 5-0 to approve adding a portable trailer classroom in front of Centennial High School.

Assistant Superintendent of Achievement and Student Services Laura Taylor said the cost will be $50,000 the first year and about $20,000 a year thereafter.

7:26 p.m.

Matt Foster, executive director of business services for the school district, is talking about the 2013 tax levy.

He said the tax levy was 4.17 percent above the previous year.

We have not had to increase our resources as much as other school districts," he said.

7:10 p.m.

The audience is down to about 20 people. Ten people went home following the report on the ACTIONS program.

6:55 p.m.

Ken Kleber, executive director of human resources for the school district, talked about the district's progress in increasing diversity among the hiring of employees.

Kleber said the district created a new teacher mentor program to help new employees. Even though the state cut funding for mentoring, Kleber said the district has maintained the program.

The retention rate for teachers this year for Unit 4 was 80 percent, Kleber said.

The bulk of the teachers not retained this year, Kleber said, were white females, which Kleber said is the largest group among the teachers.

He said the district has increased the percentage of black and hispanic teachers hired this year.

"Obviously, we are headed in the right direction with these things," he said. "We want to continue to interview and hire from a diverse candidate pool that reflects the community."

He added the district would like to attract more male teachers in the future.

6:35 p.m.

School members are looking at a slide show of activities from the ACTIONS program for suspended students.

6:14 p.m.

Orlando Thomas, director of achievement and student services, is talking about the Alternative Center for Targeted Instruction and On-Going Support (ACTIONS) program.

He introduces staff members for the program to the school board.

The program was created by the discipline equity and advisory committee. While students are on suspension, they learn about social skills, and the staff gives the students specific feedback.

Examples of social skills learned by the suspended students include ignoring distractions and using self control.

If a student has been involved with fights, for example, he or she is given mediation provided by the Prairie Land Conflict Mediation Center. They learn about communication skills, conflict resolution, how to ask for help and standing up for themselves.

If a student is involved with drug-related offenses, he or she receives addiction services from the Prairie Center.

The district reports 72 percent of suspended students attended the program this past semester. Of these 69 percent have attended and had no subsequent suspension.

At the beginning of the year, the district targeted support for 89 sudents who had three or more suspensions during the 2012-13 school year. Reportedly 58 of the original 89 remain in the district.

Of these:

- 76 percent of the elementary students have had fewer than three suspensions this year.

- 80 percent of the middle school students have had fewer than three suspensions this year.

- 86 percent of the high school students have had fewer than three suspensions this year.

Four regular guest speakers focus on motivation and inspiration to the students.

When the students return to school, they write letters to administrators telling what they learned from the program.

6:12 p.m.

The application deadline for the open position on the school board is 4 p.m. this Friday.

6:11 p.m.

More people have turned out for the meeting. We now have about 30 people in the audience.

6:10 p.m.

We have learned that the Central yearbook has won several awards.

6:06 p.m.

Superintendent Judy Wiegand says the district has used four snow days so far.

"The bottom line is student safety," she says.

6 p.m.

The board is returning from executive session.

5:56 p.m.

So far about 20 people have turned out in the audience for tonight's school board meeting.

5:49 p.m.

School district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart tells us that classes have been canceled for Tuesday due to the weather.

5:30 p.m.

President Laurie Bonnett has called the meeting to order.

A planned discussion of the district's 10-year health/life safety survey has been delayed until the next meeting to give board members more time to read the report.

The board has gone into executive session.

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