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Coal City school board discusses Dresden closing, superintendent search

The Coal City Community Unit School District No. 1 board discussed the announced closing of Dresden Station and the search for a new superintendent at Wednesday's board meeting.
The Coal City Community Unit School District No. 1 board discussed the announced closing of Dresden Station and the search for a new superintendent at Wednesday's board meeting.

COAL CITY — The Coal City Community Unit School District No. 1 board met Wednesday and the main topic of discussion was the announced closure of Dresden Generating Station. The station is scheduled by Exelon to close in November of 2021 and, it if closes, it will take away $16 million in revenue from the school district.

Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg said that he is doing all he can to be pro-active and try to keep the plant open.

"I keep telling the board, the community and our staff that we are doing everything we can to save the jobs and the tax revenue," Bugg said. "I have been talking with state legislators, I am on the Governor's energy work groups. The goal is to keep the plant open, not only for the revenue it brings to the district, but for the jobs for the people in the community."

Bugg also said that, although the hope is for the plant to remain open, the district must start preparing for the fact that it is scheduled to close.

"We are hoping for the best, but we know we have to prepare for the worst," Bugg said. "We have to make sure we have a financial plan ready if it does close. How do you account for the loss of $16 million? There's a lot of work to do.

"We can't just cut our way out of a $16 million loss and we can't just tax our way out of it, either. It is going to have to be a combination, and we have to have a strategic plan in place and ready to go if it does close. We obviously want the plant to remain open, but we can't put our heads in the sand and pretend it's not going to close. We have to be ready."

Bugg also updated the board on the return-to-school plan.

"We have been in school about seven weeks, and the only major hiccup we had was when we had to close the high school for two weeks because there were a couple cases we couldn't contact trace, so we had to assume it happened at the school."

Bugg said that the district has had 13 COVID-19 cases involving students. He said the last case was on Sept. 29 and the last one before that was Sept. 15.

"Some people said to me when we announced our plan that we would be out of school by Labor Day, and here we are seven weeks later and doing well," Bugg said. "Our teachers, administrators, staff and parents have done an outstanding job of keeping with our plan. There haven't been any issues with masks as far as the kids go.

"I am very proud of the community and the school district for how well they have been making this work."

Bugg also said that now that they are seven weeks into the plan, it is time to evaluate.

"We will be taking surveys and getting feedback on what is working and what we might need to address," he said. "Our teachers have been doing a great job of getting the kids outside when they can, but with colder weather coming, that's something we might have to look at."

The board also discussed the superintendent search, as Bugg plans to retire June 30, 2022.

"We have a contract with the IASB [Illinois Association of School Boards] and they are helping us with the search," Bugg said. "The board is wrestling with the Dresden closing and all that comes with that. What skills should the new superintendent have, when do we put the job out there, when do they hire someone.

"The board is going to move forward with the ISB's preliminary work and develop a profile of what they want, take some surveys and gather feedback. After that, they will decide when to post the job."

The board also recognized Jack Micetich for his award, as he was honored as the recipient of the Illinois Theatre Association’s 2020 Excellence Award in Secondary Education.

The board approved a managed service agreement, which Bugg said provides another level of technical support, and accepted a donation of 17 small engines from Kohler for the small engine class in the Industrial Arts program.

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