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Parents, students, teachers asked to take state survey

MINOOKA — Parents of Minooka Grade School District 201 students are being asked to respond to an online survey, which will provide reliable information about school effectiveness and improvement that can’t be captured through testing alone.

The survey originated at the University of Chicago as a tool for improvement in the Chicago Public School system. It is based on 20 years of research by the University’s Consortium on Chicago School Research. Recent state legislation has made it available to teachers, parents and students.

While it’s not a requirement that parents or students take the survey, teachers in District 201 will be required to do so, said Superintendent Al Gegenheimer.

Gegenheimer was to meet with educators during this past week to discuss whether to have students in grades six through eight take the 20-minute survey during the school day.

While there are concerns about taking time out from academics, the survey could become an annual requirement in the future, Gegenheimer said.

“I know teachers have a busy school day. (But) I would like for students to get a leg up on it,” Gegenheimer said.

Researchers have determined five essential components for the success of a school: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environments and ambitious instruction.

Those who take the survey, called Illinois 5Essentials, are asked questions regarding their thoughts on how their school rates in these areas. Schools that  score high on the components are 10 times more likely to demonstrate improved student learning, Gegenheimer said.

The state of Illinois has assured school districts that parents who take the survey will have their identity and survey responses kept confidential and that input will never be connected to a specific child.
Results of the survey will be reported on the district’s next school report card.

Gegenheimer said he is confident District 201 will have positive results from the survey.

“We already know we have these positive (components),” Gegenheimer said. “We win the Bright Star Award annually; our students are in the top 21 percent of the state of Illinois. That’s a credit to the parents, our teaching staff and our students.”

Parents will be receiving a letter from the school district shortly with more information on the survey and where to go to take it.

Grade school disputes bill from village

A bill Minooka Grade School District received from the village of Minooka is being disputed and all but one school board member present at a meeting this past week agreed to notify the village through a letter.

Both the grade school district and Minooka High School District 111 received bills in the amount of $1,500 for attorney/engineering services related to the new transportation facility co-owned by the school districts.

According to Superintendent Al Gegenheimer, the fee in question is related to the annexation of the property and the district didn’t own the property when the fees were incurred.

“We have a great relationship with the village and we plan to continue that,” Gegenheimer said. “We are not interested in paying this bill, it is not our bill.”

The bill was returned to the village twice asking that the fee be waive, but the school district was billed again, Gegenheimer said. He has since drafted a letter from the full board asking for the cost to the district be waived.

Board member Doug Martin called the letter unprofessional and asked his name be removed from it.

“I suspect when the village gets this letter our relationship will go down a notch,” Martin said.

The $1,500 would be better spent on books for the students, Gegenheimer said.
“We are already in a deficit spending position.”

Part time Special Education position added

At Wednesday’s regular meeting, the board of education approved the creation of a part-time special education position for the early childhood program.

The program currently has four full-time educators who teach eight sections – morning and afternoon. As of January, there was only one opening in the program and a second spot opened up when a student left the area.

Four children are scheduled for early intervention screenings in Minooka and may qualify for the program. Additional screenings are scheduled in Coal City, Gardner, Minooka and Morris between now and April, said Special Education Director Tiffany Staab.

According to the state-mandated teacher-student ratio, one more part time teacher will create room for five additional students in the program, said Staab. Ten students would require a teacher’s aide to assist and 20 students would require opening an afternoon session as well.

“Right now I am asking for a part time position,” Staab said.

With early intervention, some students could possibly not need as many special education services throughout their educational career, or transition out and not need any, said Staab.

District loans tech associate to Rockdale

The board approved an intergovernmental agreement with Rockdale School District, which will be sharing one of Minooka 201’s technology associates.

Rockdale sought some assistance from Minooka in updating technology and was impressed with the level students at District 201 have, Gegenheimer said.

By shifting around the working time and loaning one of the district’s tech people to Rockdale on a part-time basis, Minooka will save about $8,500 this year, said Gegenheimer.

Another contract with the Rockdale district next year would add another $17,000, he said.

“We can incorporate it as part of our deficit reduction plan,” Gegenheimer said.

Technology associate Andrew Huffman from Aux Sable Elementary School started doing the work for Rockdale part time earlier this month.

“He’s doing a great job there and does a great job for us,” said Gegenheimer. “Kudos to Mr. (Aaron) Souza (network manager), he’s the one making this work.”

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