Almost 40 local and state government officials descended upon the CCSD21 Community Service Center and Administrative Office on Saturday, Feb. 11, to learn about district initiatives from Superintendent Michael Connolly and other members of the administration.
The roughly one-hour breakfast included a short speech by Phil Pritzker, president of the board of education, as well as presentations from Connolly; Robert Gurney, assistant superintendent of human resources; Micheal DeBartolo, assistant superintendent of finance and operations; Dr. Beatrice Reyes Childress, assistant superintendent of equity and learning; and Kim Cline, assistant superintendent of support services and school safety.
In outlining the district’s mission and core values, Connolly highlighted the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, which includes a goal of providing a mindset for growth and improvement by using data, research, goal setting, progress monitoring and reporting.
Gurney’s presentation focused on student demographics, while Cline’s focused on the student support services aspect of the district. In his portion regarding district finances and facilities, DeBartolo mentioned that the district is fiscally responsible, as identified by the Illinois State Board of Education financial recognition score, but still has a great deal of need.
A district is in the highest category of financial strength, called “Financial Recognition,” if it achieves a score of 3.54 to 4.0. In fiscal year 2018, CCSD21 achieved a score of 3.55. That number rose to 3.8 for fiscal years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
DeBartolo listed a slight decline in enrollment, higher per pupil expenses when compared with peers, tightening in expenses versus revenues in the education fund, and more limited future debt capacity as weaknesses, while the economy and inflation, pending loss of ESSER revenue and longer term enrollment trends were listed as threats.
He ended his portion of the presentation by highlighting some of the district’s projects, including the renovation of school library and media centers, adding new classroom furniture, updating security camera locations in buildings, and replacing Riley and Field’s playgrounds.
Childress, mentioning plans for additional English Learners support, cited small group and one-on-one tutoring opportunities for students during the spring and summer, as well as summer school opportunities for this year. She also noted that hiring preference will be given to teachers who speak Spanish or Russian for literacy, math and EL interventionist positions. There are also plans for an expansion of the Russian language bilingual program to support the growing population and student needs.
In wrapping up the series of presentations, Connolly noted that the district is aware that all of these things are critical components to the success of students. “We have been very, very fortunate as a district to receive the kind of support we have received,” Connolly said, adding that a great deal of that support over the last couple of years has been made possible by the federal money that has come through the state, particularly because of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Those dollars are going to be going away, and actually have started to go away,” Connolly added. “So we see a need to continue this conversation, because as that federal money dries up, we still have those needs…those priorities…and how do we at the local level, at the state level, really prioritize our budgetary decision-making.”
Connolly concluded his speech mentioning there are no shortage of asks, and the district is aware of that: “We know there is a plethora of need and a scarcity of resources, but we just want to put in a plug for us and for our community, to say we’re doing things that are really making a difference and we want to continue doing those things.”
For more photos from the community leadership breakfast, go here.