Unit 4 board sets public hearing on charter-school proposal

Unit 4 board sets public hearing on charter-school proposal

CHAMPAIGN — The Unit 4 school board will hold a public hearing about a newly proposed charter school in less than a month.

Under state law, the district had 40 days from the time founders of the North Champaign Academy submitted their application, which happened on Feb. 26, to add this event to the schedule.

"We anticipate the hearing date will be April 9, 2018, and we will formally notify the applicants in writing about this date and of the protocol for this process," President Chris Kloeppel said at Monday night's school board meeting. "Within 30 days of the hearing, the board will make a determination.

"We anticipate that decision will be made on April 23, 2018."

As proposed, the charter school would be located at 1400 W. Anthony Drive, target low-income, low-achieving students in Champaign and be funded largely by Unit 4.

In other news Monday:

— After agreeing to spend $3.4 million on a building that will house administrative staff and others, the board signed off on a $51,487 communications system for 502 W. Windsor Road.That cost covers a Toshiba IPedge system, including installation and warranty.

District staff are expected to move into the building later this year after those at the Columbia Center leave, clearing the way for Dr. Howard students and staff, who will use the center as a school during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years.

On the topic of 502 W. Windsor, Unit 4 Superintendent Susan Zola said the purchase was necessary for the district and that its usage will be long-term.

"We believe this is probably a 50-year move," Zola said. "This will serve the district in connecting our programs."

— The Windsor location was also part of another bid approved Monday night when the board OK'd a $51,597 bid to outfit several district buildings with network and wireless equipment from information technology company CDW-G. Other buildings that would receive the new equipment include the district's transportation, administration, curriculum and Columbia centers.

"I kind of look at this as something that we probably would have had to be doing regardless of having passed the referendum or not," Kloeppel said. "These are things that we as a district were going to do or be doing regardless of the passage of a referendum.

"I know in doing this in conjunction with the referendum, it feels like a waterfall effect, but we were coming up on a time when we needed to look at doing these things a little differently."

— Summer grounds workers can expect a boost in pay after board members approved raising laborers' wages from a "no longer competitive" rate of $9 per hour to $13 per hour.

"We believe this a much more market-based wage," said Unit 4 Human Resources Director Ken Kleber.

— Staff at Franklin Middle School will be the beneficiaries of $85,214 worth of professional development and resources from Northern Illinois University after the board approved the financial agreement.

The district plans to use funding from a five-year $9.6 million magnet grant to pay for the services NIU would provide, including multi-day training at a STEAM retreat in July as well as planning and observation visits for Franklin teachers.

"As we look to raise achievement, we're looking at some really creative ways to do that," said Angela Ward, Unit 4's assistant superintendent for achievement and equity. "This is a step forward. NIU will be on the ground with Franklin for the duration of the magnet grant."

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