Unit 4 board wants 'soft' implementation of 'P-card' policies during review

Unit 4 board wants 'soft' implementation of 'P-card' policies during review

CHAMPAIGN — Unit 4 school board members will continue to read and revise newly drafted policies on the use of district-issued credit cards, but in the meantime, they agreed that the district should adopt a "soft" implementation of what's currently in the drafts.

Prior to drafts being heard formally for the first time Monday night, no formal policy regarding the use of district credit cards — and the funds behind them — existed.

The three new policies cover auditing and accounting credit-card purchases, the use and distribution of such cards and guidelines for when employees should prepay expenses or expect reimbursement from the district — but none were eligible for a vote Monday because they're still in draft form and require further review.

Regardless, board members agreed the district should generally operate as though such policies were already in place.

Superintendent Susan Zola assured the board that employees would "continue to be really thoughtful of your guidance."

The new language regulates use of the cards, prohibiting certain purchases or vendors and limiting others; gives the district's business office oversight of the cards and their users; and builds in the possibility of a random board audit of credit-card purchases or users. A new agreement between the district and each cardholder is also part of the process — previously, the cardholder agreement was between the company issuing the cards and the signer.

The policies will continue to undergo revisions, which could include, per board member Heather Vazquez, having cardholders re-sign their agreements annually, "as is habit of other employers our size."

Also up for board consideration is a partnership between the district and the city that would provide intensive wraparound services to African American families. A response to the ongoing "crisis" of gun violence in Champaign, city and school officials detailed for the board the goals of the Youth and Family Empowerment Initiative, which is aimed at helping nearly 213 identified African American youth and their families via peer-to-peer mentorship, job hunting, food or housing insecurity, mental health or whatever the families might need.

Officials detailed for the board the need for the city and district to work collaboratively. Orlando Thomas, the district's director of achievement and student services, said the services needed for some students require "an intense level of support that the district cannot provide."

While the district might not be able to provide those needed services, Champaign Community Relations Manager Tracy Parsons noted that other "community partners" are already ready to start providing them to identified families.

In the future, identifying other families in need of the comprehensive wraparound services that the initiative would provide could be easier for the district at times, according to Assistant Superintendent Angela Ward.

"They hit our system first," she said.

It's integral that families, not just individual students, be involved, Parsons said, because "you can't serve youth without helping their families this becomes a comprehensive approach."

Ward noted that wraparound services do exist elsewhere in the city and district but can be limited by a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Because the initiative would have someone directing assessments of students and families and "family-advocate support specialists" creating case plans for "entire families," the services would be uniquely individualized.

Members of the initiative asked the board to consider up to $250,000 in funding, which the city would match. Details to still be worked out include which staffers would be employed by the city versus the district and which specific "community partners" would formally be part of the project, though Parsons said already "partners are calling to see how they can get involved."

In other board news:

— Members approved a resolution that urges the Illinois Association of School Boards to support legislative changes to the Illinois School Code that prevent districts from selecting vendors or bidders for contract work based on diversity goals.

— The pay scale for substitute teachers in the district was raised after a unanimous board vote. Regular substitute teachers will now make $55 (up from $50) per half-day and $110 per full day (up from $100).

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