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Panel Report of the 2010 Joint Annual Conference

As it has for the past several years, IASB has posted selected panel reports that make up the Panel Reports of the Joint Annual Conference. The aim is to make some of the most vital information presented at the conference available to a wider audience of school board members and administrators.

With more than 100 panel sessions scheduled at the conference each year, no individual can hope to attend all of them. In navigating this document, you will be able to click on any of the panel titles to read the contents of the report on that particular session or you can simply scroll down to read all of the reports.

Among the reporters who drafted these session summaries were conference "interns," comprised of education administration students from several Illinois university graduate programs. Each intern was assigned to cover a panel selected for its lasting value to school leaders. Other reports have been prepared by members of the IASB communications staff.

The panels chosen were among those presented as part of the Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. The annual conference is the state's largest annual meeting of public school leaders. It features speakers, panel presentations, exhibits and informal discussions about a wide array of school leadership topics. The 2010 conference was held Nov. 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Sheraton Chicago Towers and Hotel, and the Swissotel, and attracted more than 10,000 school board members, administrators, exhibitors, school attorneys, and guests.

21 st Century Technology Skills for School Leaders

Addressing Public Relations Challenges

Board Superintendent Relationships

Complying with Legal Requirements in Disciplining Students

District Goal Setting and Planning Made Visible

Don’t be Pennywise and Pound Foolish: Communicating Financial News in Challenging Financial Times

Economic Development: Getting Through Hard Times

Got Food Allergy Management?

Legally Stumped

Light at the End of the Financial Tunnel: Revenue Enhancement Opportunities

Natural Disaster to New School via Walmart

RTI: Creating a Cultural Shift in High Schools

Rural Issues

School Finance: Revenue for the Novice

Superintendent Employment Contract

Superintendent Evaluation

The Ten Most Common Mistakes in Collective Bargaining

21 st Century Technology Skills for School Leaders

Kent Bugg, Superintendent, Coal City C.U. District 1

Richard J. Voltz, Associate Director/Professional Development, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Springfield

Shannon Smith and Nancy Brachbill , Consultants, Recess Technology Consulting

Jeannie Blane, teacher, Brimfield CUSD 309

Panelists toook turns assisting the audience in ways they could use technology to help administration and the classroom, including their top ten best ways to integrate technology.

 10.   Use Twitter to communicate with parents, students and community

Richard Voltz began with giving us his website because he warned us we were in for a ride. Voltz explained adults like technology as much as our children. He gave useful ideas on ways we could use this technology with communicating with parents. He suggested using Twitter. He even mentioned the district could use Twitter to engage parents as followers. Nancy Brachbill, daughter of the mother-daughter team, discussed how to create a wall,, and post notes on the computer. It was a very creative site. The students could also post pictures on this site after a field trip and write notes to accompany the picture.   Parents and administrators could visit the site and view the students’ work.

9. Use digital technology for teacher professional development

Voltz listens to books while he runs every day. He suggested giving a NANO to every teacher and recommended books they could listen to while running, walking etc. Teachers could then blog or write responses to every chapter. Shannon Smith then explained A teacher could get rid of spelling books and list the words online. Parents and students may have access to this site. It gives lessons, spelling tests and games on line.

8.   Give each junior their own URL

They could then be responsible for their own resumes. Voltz also had online resources. One site was . It boasted you can enter what you want to calculate or know about. It can be math, vocabulary or any other question you could have concerning school work. It even has a step by step computation to help tutor a student.

7.   Use technology for remedial instruction

Voltz discussed how to use remedial instruction for administrators. By joining the Northwest Evaluation Association there are many options that will assist administrators in the process of evaluation. Incorporating multimedia was the next topic Amanda suggested using to view topics studied. She showed many examples of educational videos from math to science.

6. Use podcasting

Podcasting was another form Voltz recommended. He mentioned administrators could do morning announcements through podcasting. To help with this podcasting, go to This is another free download. Smith described how to use Googledocs and Skype to enhance learning for the students. Skype is a way to video conference with other students and share communication on different topics. Googledocs is a format students can share written work online and receive help from students even in other states. They can work on one assignment together but be separated by many miles.

5. Computing for your school

Voltz advised students using an iPad as a textbook. The school could download textbooks and this would save money in the long run. He gave the site as a free math tutoring address. Brachbill then suggested Screen Capture Software, such as Jing, Camstudio, and Smartboard Recorder, all free downloads.

4. Use technology to check for understanding

Voltz recommended using technology for understanding. is a free site for 30 participants and it allows students to answer questions by texting. The Recess Technology Consulting team offered Glogster, a collaborative online learning tool for teachers and students to express their creativity and knowledge in the classroom.

3. Screencasting

Screencasting was briefly described for students who do not understand a concept the first time. This was another way of creatively inspiring students to learn. Reading fluency was addressed by describing creative ways to encourage students to read aloud. Some of the ways suggested were, Movie Maker, Audacity and Blabberize. These are all free downloads and are very unique ways to inspire students to read.

2. Drum roll please!

Voltz recommended letting students have their cell phones for many reasons but the main ones were: they can be used for planners, instead of calling students over speaker, text them and safety.

1.   Google Docs, Google forms and Google spreadsheets

Voltz had to run quickly through the last few ideas but left a website to view his ideas:

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Addressing Public Relations Challenges

Bill Clow, Director of Community Outreach, Harvard CUSD 50

Bridget McGuiggan, Community Relations Coordinator, Orland SD 135

Linda Dawson, Director, Editorial Services, IASB

Members of the Illinois chapter of the National School Public Relations Association fielded questions on public relations issue Sunday morning.

Areas of interest:

Coverage by media

Question: How do you get better — or any — media cover in rural areas?

Answer: Coverage doesn’t always have to mean mainstream media, like newspapers, radio and television. Try to alternate ways of getting your message out to local residents, through a website, Facebook or Twitter. You can also sit down with your superintendent and invite the media to talk about upcoming issues. Establish yourself as a resource to increase their knowledge of what’s going on in education, both in your local district and by providing commentary on how state and national issues affect your district. Help them connect as to why the community would care about your events and news. Also ask the media what areas interest them.

Question: What can the board do to support getting the district’s story out?

Answer: The first way is to create a public relations position in the district. When the board votes for the resources to hire a public relations specialist, they are trusting that person to do that job … to be aware of the events and people in the district that are newsworthy and to help coordinate the district’s message. Media relations should be a part of any board retreat, and the district should set policies that deal with public relations. Does the board have a policy as to who speaks for the district? Often it is the board president, but that person can designate someone else to speak if they have more expertise (i.e. letting a banker on the board talk about financial issues).

Angry parents/community

Question: What do you do about angry parents and a local blogger who seems to be negative about education in general?

Answer: Sometimes you can’t address everything, and there are only so many ways that you can respond when someone is angry. You have to hope that they call you before the story is picked up by the media. Always try to head off a dispute before it becomes a media issue. While there is no way to avoid some negative publicity, always try to be transparent and own up to problems. If you can’t respond to the specifics of a problem, talk about the larger policy issue and the general philosophy of the district instead of saying “no comment.” Districts now have the ability to get their own messages out with new media. Use a key communicator network to let the public know your “side.” Word of mouth is still the most powerful, so have your key communicators use it to your advantage.

Social Media

Question: What about Twitter and Facebook?

Answer: Social media look to be worth any risks of putting your message out in front of the public. Twitter and Facebook are free, relatively easy and they’re what the public is using. Twitter is a much smaller user group than Facebook and there is a character limitation on the message that you can put out. However, sometimes being limited to 140 characters can be good because it forces you to tailor your message. You can also use Twitter to tease people to your website. Twitter also is good for emergency communication, like when school is cancelled. You have options when it comes to Facebook. With a fan page, only someone from your district can post to the page. You can have a place for comments, or not allow them. While you don’t have to post all the time, it is good to have someone who will manage the page and check it daily to respond if you do allow comments. It’s all about transparency. If you’re putting issues out there, it’s transparent.

Other issues/suggestions for good PR

Virtual backpacks: Instead of sending flyers home with students in their backpack, create a virtual backpack on your website.

Getting people into the schools: Host an expo for all the organizations that serve your students, within the district and out in the community. Charge a small fee for those from outside the community to exhibit.

Alumni Hall of Fame: Make sure that your current students know about former students who have gone on to do great things. This can be as simple as pictures in the hall or an official “Hall of Fame” with a nomination process and an induction ceremony.

Bloggers: Be aware of anonymous bloggers in your community. Know what they are saying about your district. Provide answers to clarify positions that are erroneous, but don’t answer them directly.    

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Board Superintendent Relationships

Jeffrey Cohn, Director, Field Services, Illinois Association of School Boards, Lombard

Nettie Collins-Hart, Superintendent, Proviso THSD 209, Forest Park

Robert Cox, Member, Proviso THSD 209 Board of Education, Forest Park

Brian Cross , Member, Proviso THSD 209 Board of Education, Forest Park

Larry Heidemann , Member, Frankfort CCSD 157C Board of Education

Theresa Kelly, Member Proviso THSD 209 Board of Education, Forest Park

Brian Klene , Vice President, Frankfort CCSD 157C Board of Education

Thomas Hurlburt , Superintendent, Frankfort CCSD 157C.

Janet Gladu, Principal, Meredosia-Chambersburg CUSD 11, Meredosia.

Frankfort CCSD 157C strives to have a strong working relationship between the Board of Education and the superintendent. This relationship began with the superintendent search, with the support of IASB. The board engaged IASB two years before they needed a new superintendent to maximize board involvement and use of IASB resources. They questioned staff, community and stakeholders as to the desires and qualities sought in a new superintendent. The extensive process allowed Hulburt to observe the dynamics of the board and allowed interaction between all the board members and himself. It showed him the health of the board and the district prior to accepting the position. Throughout the search process, board members were able to reflect on their vision and mission statement for the district as well as what they desired from a new superintendent.

The board and the superintendent value team building activities, such as annual barbecues and retreat time. The board also has used IASB’s “Board Self-Evaluation” services. The board has a strong relationship with the superintendent that focuses on continual evaluation from within. The superintendent is evaluated on the goals that have been set previously in the year. The evaluation process allows the superintendent to see strengths and areas of concern while having continuous feedback from the board.

Proviso Township High School District 209 has also used tools and resources available through IASB. They feel that the “balcony-dance floor” concept is helpful in the relationship between the board and the superintendent. The board’s goal is to govern the district while watching over the system to accomplish the goals and vision. Board members meet individually with the superintendent to go over concerns. The superintendent meets with the board member through their preferred method of communication (i.e., phone, e-mail, person-to-person).

The superintendent provides board members with weekly updates of the school events and special recognitions given to staff and students. Communication is done through various methods including the board packet. If board members have a question regarding something in their board packet, they are asked to contact the superintendent before noon on the day of the board meeting. The superintendent will research the question and provide the board member with the answer. This alleviates most of the stress and pressure of board meetings and provides optimal communication. The board allows community input at board meetings, but limits this input to three minutes. There is no discussion of community input between the board and community member. The discussion occurs after the community members have spoken and the superintendent responds to the community member after the board meeting.

The superintendent-board relationship is critical to the overall function of the district. Each of the district representatives emphasized that appropriate communication provided a smooth relationship between the two entities.

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Complying with Legal Requirements in Disciplining Students

Michael J. Duggan, attorney, Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, Ltd., Chicago; Past Chairman and Member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Jay E Greeting, Attorney, Miller, Hall & Triggs, Peoria; Member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys;

M. Curt Richardson, Attorney, Miller, Hall & Triggs, Peoria; Member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Courtney Castelli, Assistant Principal, Columbia CUSD 4

General principles guide disciplining of students. When facing the question of expulsion, three types of conduct warrant this discipline measure: gross disobedience, gross misconduct and section 10-22 of the School Code. Gross disobedience or misconduct is an act or behavior that is prohibited by the district through policy and approved handbook. The courts have given guidance as to what is considered gross disobedience or misconduct. Expulsion has been proven justified by the Illinois courts when a student possesses illegal drugs including medications without a prescription, varying degrees of fighting and possession of a weapon.

Students and parents should be notified of disciplinary rules through communication in the district policy manual and school handbooks. Both of these sources should be consistent with each other and include a list of offenses warranting an expulsion and a “catch-all” statement. It also highly recommended that a written statement as to the meaning of gross disobedience be included.

Students who bring a weapon to school, related activity or event can be disciplined.   Many questions arise as to what constitutes a weapon. Most commonly, a weapon is considered a firearm, knife, brass knuckles, look-a-like objects or any object that can be used to cause bodily harm. The panel advises that districts use common sense when dealing with “look-a-likes.” The statute states that a student who brings a weapon should be suspended for “not less than one year.” However the statute further clarifies that a superintendent can modify the expulsion and the board of education can also modify the expulsion recommendation.

School boards should consider five factors in regards to student discipline. The top two considerations are the seriousness of the conduct and the student’s prior discipline record. In addition, the board must take into account the effect of the student’s behavior on the other students, the severity of the punishment and the interests of the child. For example, questions such as can the student receive an education at an alternative school?

There are procedural requirements for expulsion that must be adhered to. Parents must be requested to appear the hearing prior to expulsion. This request should be in writing. Even if the student is over 18, the notification should be sent to the parent since there is no exception listed in the statute. The request should be delivered by certified mail. The notice must include the place, time, purpose of the hearing, and specific acts of misconduct allegedly made by the student. A pre-deprivation hearing then takes place prior to any expulsion. The hearing is facilitated by the board of education or a hearing officer appointed by the board. The statute does not say who should or can be a hearing officer. However, common sense tells us that it should not be an administrator involved in the situation. Hearing officers appointed by the board can save time in large districts. Adequate time between notice and hearing should be afforded to allow for a defense. The student has the right to have an attorney at their expense and the right to introduce evidence, testimony and cross-examine witnesses.

In regard to cross-examining witnesses, it is the school board’s responsibility to have witnesses present at the hearing. Signed statements are not considered sufficient. The defense should be able to cross-examine the person. In some cases any victims associated with the offense can be required to testify especially if the expulsion is solely based upon hear-say.

Suspensions up to 10 days can be issued by the building level administration. The same standards as expulsion apply. Parents must receive notice of the suspension in writing and can appeal the disciplinary measure to the board. The appeal process varies from that of an expulsion. There can be a discussion of the issue with the board but a hearing does not take place. In-school suspension has the same requirements of notification if the term “suspension” is used. To avoid this, the district can change the wording to “in-school detention.” If the behavior issue is not related to academics the discipline measures cannot include academics. However, students can lose the privilege of participation in extra-curricular activities even if the misconduct takes place outside of school. This is because these activities are not considered a “right” of the student.

Schools are faced with new challenges in the progressive era of technology and social media. The right of a school to discipline students in relation to computers, Internet and cell phones depends on where the alleged misbehavior took place and how it impacts the schools. If there is no relationship or connection to the school, no matter how distasteful the act, then no discipline action can take place. If there is a nexus between the act and school, then the student can be punished. Schools are able to ban cell phones all together. Smartphones have capabilities of compromising the academic integrity of the learning environment. The school should take the following steps if they become aware of a “sexting” incident: take the phone, report images to the law immediately, and report discovery to the student, offender and parents.

New Jersey vs. T.L.O . provides the district guidelines on school searches. The 4 th Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures which encompasses those searchers conducted by schools. Schools can use a two-step analysis to determine the reasonableness of a search. First, is the search justified at its inception? Does the school expect the search to turn up something that will prove an act against school rules or the law? Is there reasonable suspicion? A school resource officer needs to have “reasonable suspicion” versus the standard of “probable cause” associated with outside police officers.  

School code states that students do not have privacy in lockers or items left in lockers. Lockers and desks are school property and therefore in joint control. There is no expectation of privacy. A district can use parking permits requiring the owner/driver acknowledge that a condition of receipt of the permit is the waiving of one’s rights of privacy on that vehicle.   Reasonable suspicion is needed in order to search a vehicle. Dogs can be used to search as long as a policy is adopted by the board.

Another area of privacy is drug testing of students. Athletes have less expectation of privacy than a typical student and they are accustomed to extra rules. The courts have stated that random drug testing can take place on athletes for these reasons. Participants in other activities can also be tested. The court has not addressed drug testing of the entire student body and it is not advised. Most school policies do not include discipline as a result of drug testing.  

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District Goal Setting and Planning Made Visible

Larry J. Dirks, Director, Field Services, IASB

Buck Carter, President, Clinton CUSD 15 Board of Education;

Wendy Fuchs , Member , Pontiac-Wm. Holliday SD 105 Board of Education, Fairview Heights

Jeff Holmes, Superintendent, CUSD 15

Mike Loftus, Superintendent, Pontiac-Wm. Holliday SD 105, Fairview Heights

Mary Lopinot, Member, Pontiac-Wm. Holliday SD 105 Board of Education, Fairview Heights

Gary Adkins, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Panel members described how their two districts have taken goal setting and planning to the next level by creating public documents and sharing them with their respective communities.

Documents shared publicly include:

  • District goals
  • District vision statement: a descriptive statement of what will be in place at a specified time in the future
  • District mission statement: a brief and specific description of what business the school system is in, and the reason it exists, including:
    • What needs the district is attempting to fill
    • For whom the district is endeavoring to fill those needs
    • Why the public needs to go on this journey

Moderator Larry Dirks informed the audience that boards often initiate planning sessions for the purpose of articulating district ends such as these, including information on district goals, and statements on vision and mission. Such sessions can range from a single-day process involving the school board and superintendent to multiple events or sessions with the close involvement, as well, of various community participants and stakeholders. IASB can act as a facilitator for such sessions.

Panelists shared copies of their vision and mission statements. The vision statement in Clinton CUSD 15, according to Superintendent Jeff Holmes, states: “The Clinton Community School District will be a dynamic community partner dedicated to adding value through learning and student success.”

Holmes said the district’s mission statement reads as follows: The Clinton Community School District provides a positive, supportive, and safe environment which empowers students to achieve academic, technical, and social/emotional growth to their fullest potential, thereby improving students’ lives and strengthening the community.

Board President Buck Carter noted that the intent of the Clinton school board, administration, faculty and staff is to constantly evaluate how the district operates. And, he added, the strategic plan acts as the district’s guide for the future.

Clinton CUSD 15 is nearing the end of the fourth year of its strategic plan, with its top priority being student achievement. He said the teaching staff is constantly working to find and implement interventions to prevent students from failing. “We are just beginning to see the results with an increase in achievement for students across all ability levels,” Holmes said.

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Don’t be Pennywise and Pound Foolish: Communicating Financial News in Challenging Financial Times

Bill Clow, Director of Community Outreach, Harvard CUSD 50

Bridget McGuiggan, Community Relations Coordinator, Orland SD 135

Allison Strupeck , Communications Services Supervisor, Community Unit School District 300

Mary Todoric , Director of Communications, Community High School District 128  

Linda Dawson, Director, Editorial Services, IASB

Explaining school finances is not easy, but it’s an area of high interest as far as the public is concerned because taxes are involved. School boards should care about whether their constituents — parents, taxpayers, employees, students and the media — understand school finances, because even though they don’t seem to care today, they may care tomorrow … and that could be the day you need to ask for a tax referendum.

There can never be just one message about school finances, because every district is unique. Use a communications professional to help craft a message that is designed to convey your district’s unique story and needs.

Orland SD 135 uses a variety of print publications to explain finances, including a “Budget at a Glance” document, newspaper articles, shareholders’ reports, letters to the staff and their website. “Budget at a Glance” is a quick snapshot of district finances that features school news first and then shows the relationship of finances to enrollment and instruction, as well as budget highlights. While text heavy on the cover, the shareholders’ report features two full pages of pictures of students and events that explain district programs in action. One often overlooked group is staff. Be sure to communicate an accurate financial picture to staff, what it means to them and who to contact if they have questions. All of these documents plus others are then posted on the district’s website.

CUSD 300 is now using a variety of electronic communications to get its financial news to district stakeholders, including websites, e-mails and e-newsletters, videos, streaming public meetings, social media and blogs. One button on the website leads to a page that offers “one-stop shopping for district financial information.” That includes the current budget, context for that budget, the current status of state payments, six questions for stakeholders to ask of their state legislators, links on how to contact those legislators with a map of their districts and a one-page summary of projected versus actual teacher layoffs and the impact on class sizes. Verbatim transcripts of budget discussions have helped quell rumors about the district’s financial picture because the exact words are there. The district also posted every e-mail to the board in the first four months of 2010 about the budget reduction process and the district’s response to those questions. D300 also is using social media (Facebook and Twitter) because it allows two-way communication instead of just sending things out. These options allowed the district answer questions quickly before rumors spread, as well as helping to follow what other Facebook users were saying about district finances.

Transparency is a key issue because districts need to communicate during times of crisis as well as when there’s not a crisis. Community High School District 128 in Lake County started a “Finance 101” class for its community. Because the district is currently in good financial shape, the community needed to know how they were planning for the future and when they might need a referendum, beyond what originally had been projected. The class gave overviews of the district’s strategic plan, the state’s financial practices and district long-range financial goals, as well as explaining how the district makes decisions. Ample time was allotted for participant questions. The session drew a standing-room only crowd, a second session was held a few months later and a new “Finance 102” class is planned.

Questions on specifics can be directed to:

Bridgett McGuiggan, Orland SD 135,

Allison Strupeck, CUSD 300,

Mary Todoric, CHSD 128,

Bill Clow, Harvard CUSD 50,

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Economic Development

Deanna Sullivan, Director Governmental Relations, Illinois Association of School Boards, Springfield

Honorable John Bradley, Chairman House Revenue Committee; Illinois State Representative, District 117, Marion

Stuart Whitt, Attorney, Whitt Law LLC Aurora, Member Illinois Council of School Attorneys, Aurora;

Tom Johnson , President, Taxpayers Federation of Illinois, Springfield

Janet Gladu, Principal, Meredosia-Chambersburg USD 11, Meredosia

Throughout Illinois, schools are struggling with the economic status of the state and country, which points pressure on the schools’ financial standing and availability of funding sources. Tom Johnson, of the Taxpayers Federation, stated that in 1950 Illinois was the fifth richest state in the nation, in 1980 Illinois was the ninth richest state. In 2009 we were the 16 th richest state. Only two other states have seen such drastic decline in their economic standing over the last 60 years: Michigan and Missouri. Illinois’ economic decline can be partially attributed to the decline in employment opportunities for residents both for farming and non-farming jobs. The economic status of the state is expected to continue to decline over the next three to five years before any sign of improvement.

To increase the economic development within a school districts boundary, districts can work with surrounding businesses. This has been done in Northern Illinois with the I-355 loop. Districts must realize that it takes long-term solutions to solve the long-term problems that the state is facing.

As school districts work with businesses, it naturally creates a bond between the two agencies. The speakers notated that districts can negotiate a distribution of TIF proceed as an impact fee to assist with district finances.

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Got Food Allergy Management?

Kimberly Small, Assistant General Counsel, IASB

Kirstin Miller, Co-founder, Parents of Children with Allergies of DuPage; Chair, Illinois Department of Public Health Food Allergy Management in Schools Guidelines Committee
Alex Simko, Student, Geneva High School, Geneva CUSD 304
Christine Szychlinski, Manager, Bunning Food Allergy Program, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago; Member, Illinois Department of Public Health Food Allergy Management in Schools Guidelines Committee

Jennifer Nelson, Director, Information Services, IASB

As of January 1, 2011, all school districts are required to have in place policies regarding food allergy management. This presentation informed attendees about the process used to create this policy and what it requires of districts and staff.

A committee consisting of experts in the field of food allergies, parents of children with severe allergies, representatives of teacher organizations, administration, school boards and the Illinois State Board of Education was created to draft a set of best practices or guidelines for this law. The guidelines require education and training of school personnel, procedures for responding to a reaction, an individualized health care plan (IHCP) or 504 plan and protocols to prevent exposure.

This committee consulted with two national organizations, the Food Allergy Initiative ( ) and FAAN, (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, ( ), and followed their suggestions for what should be included in the policy.

The guidelines for this policy are available through ISBE at

ANY food allergy reaction can be life-threatening. It is important for districts to be equipped and prepared to react to a reaction by a student. One in 25 school age children, or 6% of young children, have some form of a food allergy. The top eight most common food allergies are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish; the top three most common for children are milk, egg and peanut.


The diagnosis of a food allergy is very difficult to make; the only clear test is to feed the individual the food and see if there is a reaction. Blood based testing is available, but only 95% accurate. The only current treatment is avoidance — there is no cure.

Avoidance of the known allergen in the school environment is key to controlling the allergy. These environments include both in classroom work as well as field trips, to and from school, and extra-curricular activities.  

So why do allergy reactions occur in the school environment? Cross contamination of foods or mislabeled/unlabeled foods can occur. The developmental readiness of the child also is a factor; younger children need more supports in place to make sure they don't ingest the known allergen. Most accidents that occur at school do not occur in the cafeteria, as to be expected. Actually, they occur in the classrooms when something has been changed or something new is introduced.

The keys to avoidance of a reaction include identifying those children with allergies, having an emergency reaction plan for each child (which includes what foods cause reactions and what medications should be used in emergency situations) and acknowledging that risk is increased when guidelines or routines are broken or changed.  

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Legally Stumped

Heather Brickman, partner, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn

Stanley B. Eisenhammer, partner, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn

Nancy Krent, partner, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn

Jennifer Nelson, Director, Information Services, IASB

Attorneys from the school law firm of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn answered questions from school board members and administrators.  

The answers below are summaries and were given for information purposes only.   These answers should not be considered as legal advice.   Similar questions regarding specific circumstances should be directed to the district’s school attorney.

Moment of Silence

Question: What is the status with the moment of silence law in Illinois?

Answer: As of November 21, 2010, it is still in the court system. The District Court found that the moment of silence law was unconstitutional. The 7 th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, so that law is in effect as it was originally written.   However, there is a lot of gray area in the implementation of this law. For example, exactly how long is a moment?   Five seconds? 10 seconds? One minute? The law is not specific. Teachers and administrators are also not allowed to tell students what to do during this silent time (i.e. they can’t say “now it’s time to pray”). Teachers have to verbally announce that “it is time for our moment of silence.”   The attorneys expect that the Illinois State Board of Education will issue guidelines at some point on how to implement this moment of silence.

1% Sales Tax

Question:   Is the county board required to implement the 1% sales tax if the voters pass the referendum?  

Answer: The county board does not legally have to implement the 1% tax at all. It can also choose to only implement a portion of that 1% tax.  

Solicitation of Funds

Question: Can a school foundation (i.e. booster club) solicit funds on behalf of the district to build a sports complex?   What are the legal pitfalls? (The specific question was regarding a new football sports complex.)

Answer: Some questions that need to be asked of the foundation include if the group is controlled by the district (for example, does the foundation board include one or more board members) and is the group a qualified 501(c) (3). Another pitfall that needs to be avoided is causing a conflict with Title IX. This law requires equal funding for both male and female sports. If the sports complex is exclusively for male sports, there will be a conflict with Title IX and the Office of Civil Rights.  

Another conflict with an outside group building a sports complex is that it might not fit with the districts’ needs or wants. The best way to manage this pitfall is to have the foundation donate the money for the project to the school and have the school build the building. That way it is compatible with the district’s needs.

Changes in Federal Health Care Law

Questions: What changes should school boards expect in terms of the new health care law?   What pitfalls and problems are anticipated?

Answer: The new health care law is a massive piece of legislation. Many sections of the law require additional regulatory guidance, which takes time. It becomes effective in stages so knowing the effective dates of different sections is important so notifications can go out in a timely manner to employees. It is essential for administrators to review their current plan documents and consult with their providers and attorneys so that the district is in compliance.  

Open Meetings Act and Committees

Question: Are committees of the board covered by the Open Meetings Act?

Answer: Yes. Committees are covered by the Open Meetings Act, no matter how many board members are on it. It has to post meeting dates, agendas and minutes the same as the whole board. However, if a superintendent appoints a committee and it reports directly to him/her, then it probably is not subject to OMA. It depends on the authority delegated and who the committee reports to. It is best to consult the board attorney for clarification.

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Light at the End of the Financial Tunnel: Revenue Enhancement Opportunities

Anne Noble, Senior Vice President, Stifel Nicholaus

Merry Rhoades, Partner, Tueth, Kenney, Cooper, Mohan and Jackstadt, P.C.

Bill Trankina , Superintendent, Rantoul City SD 137

Matt Seaton , Superintendent, Red Hill CUSD 10

Courtney Castelli, Assistant Principal, Columbia CUSD 4

Four key methods for enhancing school district revenue are: new-temporary funding, new-long term funding, maximizing district revenue, and accelerating anticipated funding. Districts should explore each of these potential opportunities as we continue to face difficult fiscal times. The goal is to avoid taking away existing programming that has proved to be beneficial to students or implementing new programming that will have to later be removed due to lack of adequate funding.

Districts have acquired significant financial obligations in mandated programs such as RtI. The panel recommends avoiding adding the cost of additional staff when implementing such programs. Funding sources such as ARRA monies were used by Red Hill CUSD 10 to make proactive purchases. The district focused on investment in remediation programs and technology to deliver the interventions.   In addition, training of existing staff on the new resources was funded through Title II funds.  

Ed Jobs Funds are one-time-use federal money that can be used for the purpose of employee compensation and benefits. For example, this reimbursement system can help a district retain, rehire or hire new employees. The panel recommended that districts use the money in a way that will benefit the organization long term since one cannot expect the money to be provided in following years.  

Exploring non-traditional funding sources such as grants and business support can provide additional dollars. The key is due diligence in obtaining funds in which the district is entitled. Bill Trankina suggests the “Google process” for seeking out potential grants. Often a simple internet search can provide a wealth of potential opportunities. Districts do not need to employ a special person to find and write the grants, instead focus on using existing people and capitalize on their areas of expertise. Another non-traditional approach is the act of transferring money to leverage funds.

The County School Facilities Sales Tax is a new funding source that has been a hot topic among many school officials. Illinois legislation was approved in 2007 to allow schools to seek additional funds outside of property taxes. Because the school district does not have the legal authority to issue a sales tax, it must go through the county. There are two ways to bring this issue to the voters: the county board can pass a resolution or the school districts within the county may pass the resolution. A simple majority is required for the resolution to pass. Regardless, certification of the question by the county board is a must. Once approved, the county board determines whether all of a portion of the sales tax will be imposed with a maximum of one percent. There are multiple benefits to districts. This is a permanent tax that can provide dependable revenue for a district’s budget.  

If the county school districts want to pursue a County School Facilities Tax, then it is important to pay heed to why other districts’ attempts have been unsuccessful.   Initiatives will fail if the county board was not included from the onset. It is ill-advised to bring the issue to the public first. Also, the districts in the county must put forth a consolidated effort when working toward this goal. A big hurdle lies within the politics. All entities that receive monies from the government are struggling for funding. There are several organizations fighting for the same pot of money. There is a continued struggle over who is going to get the available funds. Some districts have been able to successfully pass the resolution by being upfront about how they will use the newly generated funds. However, the district should be cautious about how they sell the issue to the public because there have been situations in which funding claims were made that were not fulfilled in the end.

Most school districts are aware of the various bonds available such as Build America Bonds, Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds, Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, and Qualified School Construction Bonds.   The district should research each bond in order to navigate which bonds they are qualified for, how gained monies can be used and the long-term financial impact of the bonds. For example, Qualified Zone Academy bonds are almost 100% interest free but the district must secure 10% private contributions. These funds cannot be used for new construction. On the other hand, Qualified School Construction Bonds can be used for new construction and are interest free.

Illinois school districts are faced with the question of what to do when they do not receive their funding on time. Unlike a business or individual, a school district cannot simply go to a bank and take out a loan. Tax Anticipation Warrants (TAW) are useful when dealing with a temporary cash flow issue. When the district finally receives the expected revenue then the warrants must be paid back. They are not considered part of the district’s indebtedness. It is highly advised to have legal counsel involved in this process. Like TAWs, State Aid Anticipation Certificates are not a part of the district’s debt limitations but they are harder to sell. Because the certificates must be paid by August 1, many districts are finding it difficult to use this funding source.   The district is gambling that the state will make their payments and often find they are obtaining new certificates to pay the old ones.

Lines of credit can be used in lieu of Tax Anticipation Warrants. The bank uses the district’s state aid and property tax dollars at security. Lines of credit can be issued on all levied funds and they do not limit where the monies can be used. The bank will expect the lines of credit to be repaid within 60 days of the district’s receipt of the property tax money. Like the previously mentioned sources, lines of credit do not contribute to a district’s indebtedness.

Finally, Teacher Orders can be used in desperate times. In this scenario, teachers are essentially given an IOU because the district does not have enough funds to cover their salaries. The teachers have to find a bank that will cash the order. Any money that comes into the district must be used to pay salaries.  

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Natural Disaster to New School via Walmart

Craig Doster, Superintendent, Ottawa ESD 141

Jane Goetz, Referendum Committee Chair, Ottawa ESD 141  

George Reigle ,Architect, GreenAssociates, Inc., Deerfield

Jama Wahl ,Principal, Ottawa ESD 141

Linda Dawson, Director, Editorial Services, IASB

In September 2008, flooding in the Ottawa area at the confluence of the Illinois and Fox rivers inundated Central Intermediate School, displacing 405 fifth- and sixth-grade students in Ottawa ESD 141 and beginning a chain of events that ultimately led to approval of a referendum for a new school.

Jama Wahl: This was not the first flood at Central, which was built in the 1950s as a state-of-the-art junior high school. Sandbaggers came to help, but the water kept rising over a two-day period, leaving the district with a school that was not usable. The initial plan housed half of the fifth-graders at Lincoln School and half at McKinley School, with the sixth graders at Sheppard. “We learned what it was like to be homeless, to be refugees,” she said. “This was very emotional for students. They were very concerned about the ‘not knowing,’ asking questions like, ‘Mrs. Wahl, whatever happened to my PE shoes?’”

Craig Doster: Getting students back in school quickly was a first priority in order to avoid a dip in average daily attendance for the district, so the stop-gap measures having students at other schools helped. But administration and the board realized that it was not ideal. At this point they were still hoping to get back into Central. However, in February 2009, the flooded school was condemned and the district knew it would need a longer-term solution. Be aware of financial resources (Federal Emergency Management Association, Illinois Emergency Management Association, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Capital Development Board and local government) and know the district’s insurance policies. The district was lucky enough to lease an abandoned Walmart in Ottawa. The building would provide enough space to house Central students for two years at a cost of $580,000, giving the board a little more time to make a decision on permanent facilities while consolidating all the Central students in one location again. However, because the Walmart was not actually in the Ottawa ESD 141 district, using it long term was not feasible.

George Reigle: Once the water receded, asbestos was discovered in the crawl space and the floors because it dissolved when it got wet. They also found bacteria in the dirt in the crawl space and mold in the wood on the first floor. Plus, Central had been built on the site of a coal degasification plant, and other chemicals were found on the school property. “This was going to take more than a mop and cleanup.” In choosing the Walmart for a temporary but long-term facility, architects wanted to retain the lighting and mechanical systems to save money. The floor space was subdivided for classrooms, an area for P.E. was housed in the loading dock area and a warehouse room was converted for music. The work was completed in six weeks. Discussion of building a levee like the high school was abandoned because it would come too close to the building. Elevating the building would leave it high and dry, but with no access during any flood.

Doster: After six months of negotiations, the district was able to purchase a 46-acre site adjacent to Sheppard School for $17,750 an acre, down from $50,000. His advice: “If you have the opportunity to purchase land, do it. It will be cheaper now than in the future.” Initial anticipated funding was $6.9 million from FEMA/IEMA; $4-14 million from ISBE construction grants, leaving a need of up to $18.5 million from taxpayers, since the district was not certain how much would be available from insurance and the sale of the Central School site. On December 15, 2009, the school board approved a resolution to ask voters for up to $18.5 million, with the agreement that the district would only issue bonds for what was actually needed after outside funding had been determined.

Jane Goetz: A referendum committee kicked off its campaign just six weeks before the February 2010 election. She was asked to chair the committee. They broke down the costs into something the community could understand. Property valued at $100,000 might expect an annual increase of $101 or just $2 a week, the equivalent of a soda. At $135,000, the tax increase would be equivalent to a DVD rental once a week. At $225,000, the increase would be like a $5.25 McDonald’s lunch once a week. The committee also reached out to key community stake holders representing trades people, educators, city government, financial planners, local businesses and, of course, the school board. They also reached out to community groups, like service organizations, unions and education organizations. “The good thing about a quick turnaround is that the opposition had little time to organize.”

Doster: The result was that Ottawa ESD 141 became the first district in the state to pass a tax referendum in just six weeks. Costs for the project were set at $22.5 million. The district now expects to receive $10.5 million from FEMA/IEMA; possibly $1.9 million from insurance; and $10.5 million from an ISBE construction grant. That leaves just $2-5 million that will be needed in bond sales of the originally approved $18.5 million.

Take aways:

  • Review and practice the district’s crisis management plan.
  • Know the district’s available resources and talents before a crisis occurs.
  • Think about how you would house students for a week or a month or a year if something happened to your facilities.
  • Know connections and resources that might exist within the board and administration, such as service organization funding opportunities, and from city, county, state and federal sources.
  • Maintain ongoing relationships with religious and civic leaders.
  • Know if your consultants (architectural and engineering) are staffed sufficiently to be of assistance during a crisis.
  • Maintain a good communications network with community and staff, and have a district spokesperson.
  • Document all aspects of an emergency from the first day.
  • Coordinate and maintain paperwork in one place.
  • Keep consistent pressure on state and federal agencies, and involve local legislators.
  • Make sure board members have support systems in place and that they are prepared and informed to be decisive as needed.

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RtI: Creating a Cultural Shift in High Schools

Paula Davis, Superintendent, Pekin CHSD 303

Melissa Bloom, Assistant Principal, Pekin CHSD 303  Danielle Owens, Assistant Principal, Pekin CHSD 303

Adam Bussard, Principal, Brownstown CUSD 201

Pekin Community High School has continued to fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress and the district is in Academic Watch Status Year 4, Corrective Action. The population in Pekin CUSD 303 has been changing and developing a broad range of students. The student population now consists from the wealthy to very low socio-economic families. Pekin has decided that it is time for them to pave their own way for Response to Intervention. Just “doing school” isn’t working, so now they are addressing what their students need to be successful.


Pekin Community High School developed the 3R philosophy: relationships, rigor and relevance. They quickly found that rigor and relevance can’t exist without first having successful relationships. As stated above, it is increasingly difficult to reach the broad spectrum of students. To help with student-teacher relationships, Pekin developed System of Support. The goal of this program was to keep students from falling through the cracks. Students were selected by faculty, and the faculty was then responsible for monitoring those students. The faculty looks at the students’ data, such as grades and attendance, and then problem solves to develop interventions for the students’ needs. The faculty also has the option to refer students to receive further assistance.

It was not enough to develop student-teacher relationships; Pekin has begun working on teacher-teacher relations as well. Pekin has developed Professional Learning Communities for departments, and has also created cross-curricular teams as well. To help the faculty further, Pekin has performed a book study on Under Resourced Learners by Ruby Payne and developed a new teacher orientation.


Pekin is still in the ongoing process of fixing the core curriculum to ensure that it is properly aligns with state standards as well as the ACT College Readiness Standards, and that it is the best for students. Pekin wanted to expand the curriculum to offer directed electives as well as core curriculum enrichment. Directed electives are being used to target students who are not able to meet benchmarks. Freshmen are placed in an English and math directed elective course if they have fallen below the benchmark, and it is designed to be skill based and catch up the students. Juniors receive core curriculum enrichment in reading and/or math. Students who are determined to be Tier II receive this intervention.


Pekin CUSD 303 uses the Education Planning Assessment System (EPAS) as a universal screener. Pekin is also using AimsWeb with their students to track data and student progress throughout the school year. Pekin feels that it is important to have this data and to use this data to help develop ownership amongst students and staff. This data also allows for Pekin to measure student growth and celebrate the successes throughout the year. To celebrate more than one year of growth, Pekin developed Student Achievement Recognition. This is a way to reward the students for their work and success. Pekin is striving to meet the needs of all their students, and they are attempting to fulfill this through researched based interventions and what they believe is good for their students.

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Rural Issues

Debbi Lowrance, Member, Robinson CUSD 2 Board of Education

Gary Adkins, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Rural school district leaders shared their ideas with their peers in an interactive, wide-ranging discussion of concerns and solutions.

Among the most-discussed items was providing a varied curriculum despite the financial woes currently besetting many school districts.

One suggestion that was repeatedly broached was the implementation of zero-based budgeting. On this topic, panel attendees suggested:

  • Establishing new and definite procedures for purchases, and requiring proper forms and signatures on each form
  • Using a cost-benefit analysis approach that examines objectives, resources, and costs

Some other ideas:

Purchase Orders

  • Need purchase order number from bookkeeper

– Don’t use pre-printed purchase orders, numbers are generated by bookkeeper each year

– PO numbers begin with two digit number signifying the fiscal year to which they apply (i.e. 10-0001 FY10 first PO of the year, 11-0010 is FY11 tenth PO of the year)

  • Sometimes you have to say NO!

– Need to weigh the cost and benefit from the district level for purchases

  • What if a staff member buys things without going through correct procedures?

– May have to deny request for reimbursement if purchase is made without going through proper procedures

– Never reimburse any tax that may be paid by the teacher/staff member (check with auditor)


  • Look at needs for number of regular bus routes.

– Length of time for students riding bus on regular routes

– Number of students on bus

– Number of miles driving routes

– Could change reimbursement due to number of miles driven overall

– Lessen costs for staff/drivers

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School Finance: Revenue for the Novice

Mary Ann Brown, Finance Coordinator, Rockford District 205

Robert Bergland, Sr. Vice President, Hutchinson, Schockey, Erley & Co., Chicago

Cheryl Crates , Chief Financial Officer, CUSD 300, Carpentersville

David Lawson , Business Manager, Johnsburg CUSD 12

Stephen Miller , Sr. Financial Advisor, PMA Financial Network, Inc., Naperville

Kathy Zalewski , Comptroller, Evanston-Skokie SD 65, Evanston

Cathleen Weber, Assistant Principal Ridgeview CUSD 19

The three presenters provided a comprehensive review of revenue options for Illinois School Districts. Dave Lawson provided a comprehensive list of possible revenue sources and the impact each source can provide to school districts. He discussed how lawmakers are in a continuous process of changing the funding formula for general state aid and categorical funding. The impact of legislative changes may not be completely understood by lawmakers. Lawson encourages all school board members and administrators to become more involved in the political process.

Lawson provided an explanation regarding investments, student fees, corporate personal property replacement taxes, local property taxes, assessment process, review process for assessments, equalization, levy process, tax capped counties, tax extension, tax collection & distribution, and assessment appeals, including Circuit Court of appeals. An interesting element discussed by Lawson was the ability of school districts to apply fees to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditures. Historically, this has included textbook, classroom supplies, Drivers Education, athletic participation, student activities and parking permits. Districts have recently begun assessing a technology fee. Increased student use of technology requires a new way to increase the revenue for the increased expenditure.  

Robert Bergland provided a comprehensive explanation of the role of debt as means of revenue. He included the attributes of bonds and bond financing. Key concepts included defining a bond, debt service levy, new sources of revenue, referendum debt, debt service extension base (DSEB) for non-referendum bonds in tax capped districts, and bond rates. The costs of issuance (COI) and bond sale underwriting were briefly described.

State and federal revenues were discussed by panelist Cheryl Crates. The 10 th Amendment provides the state with the responsibility for anything not specifically addressed in the Constitution. Thus, school funding becomes the responsibility of the state. Illinois funding comes from three formulas: foundation, alternate method and flat grant.

Illinois funding is inherently unfair. Crates provided additional information on poverty grants (both old and new calculations), the poverty costs since 1999, and a comparison of state wide distribution of the poverty grant for 2007-2008 school year.

Although the Hold Harmless Grant no longer is available, the resulting cost of past revenue to districts was described to provide additional information on the causes of the financial conditions in Illinois.  

The focus of this portion of the presentation was the calculation of General Sate Aid. The complex calculations and worksheets included defining claimable and non-claimable students in the district, as well as defining student attendance days claimable.

The 2010-11 school year changes were listed including the reduction in categorical aid. Analysis of school funding shows that the best funding breakdown includes 70% state funding, 20% local funding and 10% federal funding. Unfortunately, current Illinois funding is 70% provided by local funds, 20% state funding, and 10% federal funds. The flat rate state income tax does not account for services bought by residents. Taxing purchased services would generate additional revenue.

The foundation formula is appropriated each year by legislature. Thus, this funding is not guaranteed and often unreliable. To reform school funding, legislators must increase the foundation level and implement new revenue sources. School districts need to increase their involvement in the political process to ensure distribution of the revenue. Suggestions for increasing revenue included increasing income tax and applying sales tax to personal services and entertainment.

Additional information will be provided at the February 11, 2011 academy in Downers Grove. Participants are encouraged to become actively engaged with the legislative process.

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Superintendent Employment Contract

Jeff Stawick, Superintendent, Steger District 194

Sara G. Boucek, Associate Director/Legal Counsel, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Springfield

Stanley B. Eisenhammer, Attorney, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Arlington Heights; Member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Cathleen Weber, Assistant Principal Ridgeview CUSD 19 & Illinois State University Doctoral Student

Panelists described themselves as friendly adversaries. The handout listed the elements of a superintendent contract that provide maximum protection to both the superintendent and the board of education (BOE). The employment contract should facilitate communication, expectations of each side of the relationship, as well as goals for evaluation of the superintendent.

Considerations should be given by both the superintendent and BOE to the expectations for a successful relationship. Prior to agreeing to a salary and compensation package, a discussion to outline the definitions of specific terms enhances and builds a mutually trusting relationship. Both panelists encouraged participants to openly discuss expectations, goals, compensation expectations, and each element of the employment contract.

Stanley Eisenhammer encouraged BOE members to be generous in the original contract to build a positive relationship with a new employee. The current financial restrictions set forth by legislators make it difficult to reward good employees. This restriction may cause a good superintendent to leave the district for additional financial compensation. The new health care reform act has restricted this compensation by requiring districts to provide equitable health care benefits to all employees.

Another essential need for the school district is hiring a law firm that has an employee benefit specialist in the firm. This person will have the knowledge to advice both the BOE and the superintendent in negotiating all elements of benefit package; both in the superintendent contract and union negotiation packages. The new Health Care Reform act requires health care benefits to be the same for both highly paid employees and lowest paid employees. This will require school districts to equalize the benefit packages of administrators to reflect similar health care payment benefits as other lower compensated employees. Adjustments to administrator salaries will need to be made to maintain current benefits.

Both presenters agreed that state requirements (School Code 23.8) of multi-year contracts must have goals written in the contract. This can limit the BOE ability to extend the multi-year contract prior to the expiration of the contract if the goals are not met. Both presenters agreed the goals need to be selected from a list they provide. Utilizing these types of goals will allow the BOE to renew a contract prior to the expiration.

Although both Eisenhammer and Sara Boucek site communication as the essential element of any superintendent and BOE relationship, they also both stressed evaluation as an equally productive part of the relationship. Boucek pushed for superintendents to “never get in your final year of the contract.” This eliminates superintendent job security. Instead, Boucek suggested superintendents should push for evaluations at least once a year to gauge the relationship and communication being provided by the BOE. Eisenhammer indicated that a BOE that is looking for a new evaluation instrument should look at the underlying issues existing in the relationship with the superintendent. By addressing those issues up front and honestly, the need for the new evaluation instrument may not be necessary.

The presenters reviewed upcoming changes to Illinois law regarding interim superintendents. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, districts are required to pay TRS for the superintendent. Thus, the superintendent must be a full-time employee and cannot be retired. If a retired superintendent is hired as an interim, the district must complete a waiver included with a plan to hire a full time/non-retired superintendent.

Termination clauses were discussed. Both panelists agreed the clause protects both the district and the employee. Due to financial hardships, BOE votes are not always unanimous. When opinions and voting become aggressive and personal, BOE should look to the services offered by the IASB to resolve the issues. The resulting cohesive group can move the district forward and provide opportunities for effective communication to take place. If the relationship between the superintendent and the BOE is strained, the Liquidation Clause of the contract becomes essential. This provision ends the relationship and provides the superintendent with compensation.

Boucek and Eisenhammer stressed the number one element of the superintendent and BOE relationship is communication. The services provided by IASA and law firms representing school districts are designed to facilitate communication and promote positive BOE and superintendent relationships.

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Superintendent Evaluation

Dean Langdon, Director, Field Services, IASB , Springfield

Jeannie Blane, teacher, Brimfield CUSD 309

Superintendent evaluations have been debated through the years. Dean Langdon has recommended keeping them simple and honest. He also advised to commit to an evaluation process. Boards need to collaborate and come up with the process together. Boards speak with one voice.

Some boards choose not to evaluate for various reasons. Time and energy is valuable and many boards have trouble finding either one. Some believe it is like “opening a can of worms.” Maybe they can squirm out of evaluating because they feel uncomfortable which in turns triggers conflict among the Board and Superintendent.

What does an effective school board do? They must clarify district purposes and define expectations. They should know what the community expects when they employ a superintendent. The board needs to delegate authority and make it clear what they expect of their new employee. Monitoring the district performance and taking responsibility is pertinent to the success of the district.

Why evaluate? For one it is required by state law. (105 ILCS 5/10-16.7) The school board shall evaluate the superintendent in his or her administration of school board policies and his or her stewardship of the assets of the district. It is also a board policy and a contractual obligation. This evaluation is also an opportunity to provide feedback and open a line of communication.

Langdon gave eight steps to developing a superintendent evaluation process. The first is to state goals and expectations. The next is to review existing documents, then agree on expectations and indicators. In all this, the school board needs to examine their performance and get everything in writing. This means they need to compile a single document that contains all their goals, assessments, schedules, reports, and evaluations. Filling out progress reports is beneficial to the board since it will compile much needed data. The actual evaluation of the superintendent should include many steps. One is the superintendent should conduct a self-evaluation. Board members should then evaluate using the agreed-upon instrument. The board president then meets with the Superintendent to privately share the report. The next step is for the board and superintendent meet as a whole to finalize the evaluation. Finally the board needs to focus on the future.

Langdon gave many suggestions and left wiggle room for everyone to make their own plans to fit their needs. Remember the Board speaks with one voice.  

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The Ten Most Common Mistakes in Collective Bargaining

Brad Colwell, J.D., Ph.D., Dean, College of Education & Human Development, Bowling Green State University

Norman Durflinger, Ph.D., Director, Center of Study of Education Policy, Illinois State University, Normal

Adam Bussard, Principal, Brownstown CUSD 201

The information delivered in this panel session mainly pertained to traditional bargaining. The first common mistake was described as forgetting that the ultimate goal is to come to a settlement. All too often, both sides set a goal, whether it is for a certain percent raise and/or specific language, before the negotiation begins. The majority of the time, both sides end up moving off that target into a compromise. This leads to movement at the wrong times during negotiations which leads to tension among the bargaining parties.

It is important to remember that it is not about winning or losing, but the union feels as if it’s their right to receive either money and/or language, and the board will feel as if they have been stretched.

Ignoring the importance of communication within the bargaining team and the board is another mistake. All board members should not receive a summary of each negotiating meeting immediately following the meeting, but an overview of the bargaining should be given at the monthly board meeting. Communication among members of the bargaining team should not take place at the table, but rather in a caucus. The bargaining team should select one member to be the spokesman at the table to ensure that emotional statements or mistakes are not made.

Ignoring and not communicating with the media and other stakeholders is a common mistake in collective bargaining. It is essential for the board to select one spokesman to address the media. This should eliminate possibilities of incorrect information being delivered to the media. The media can make or break bargaining. It is suggested that the attorney be the selected spokesman because he/she will leave town following bargaining. The superintendent is going to have to bring everyone back together.

Not learning or using effective table strategies is another mistake made in collective bargaining. It is essential that bargaining teams do not concede and counter their own offer. Be sure to get something out of a proposal and all items being bargained need to be stated in the initial proposal. Additional items should not be allowed to be discussed or proposed. Regressive bargaining in a punitive way will be seen as an unfair labor practice, but bargaining in good faith doesn’t mean that you can’t say no. It is recommended that the IEA/IFT representative is in attendance for all bargaining meetings to ensure no misinterpretations or confusion with terminology.

The fifth common mistake is failing to do pre-bargaining homework. All members of the bargaining team should read the entire contract. Costing all proposals is essential because most negotiated items cost in one way or another. It is beneficial to know what neighboring districts have agreed to in their most recent collective bargaining. The bargaining team should develop and prioritize a negotiation plan to determine what items they want to go to the mat over.

Letting emotions get the best of you can be a detrimental mistake in collective bargaining. It is important not to take the negotiations personally and not to personally attack anyone throughout bargaining. It is important not to show any emotion at the bargaining table; emotions should not be displayed until a caucus. It is also important to ensure that all members of the team are meaningful in some way. Each member may have a time to speak, but it should be choreographed by the spokesman.

It is often mistaken that language items do not have a cost. As previously stated, everything in collective bargaining has a cost in one way or another. It is beneficial to always communicate in total dollars throughout the bargaining process. The board should cost the language items so that the union can be informed about the cost to the district. Often times, the union is unaware of the additional costs.

Not listening to and not protecting administrators in collective bargaining is a detrimental mistake. Although superintendents and principals may not always be sitting at the bargaining table, it is important that they are reachable by the bargaining team. Whether the administrators are in attendance or not, the bargaining table is not the time to address an issue with an administrator. The spokesman needs to ensure that the dialogue at the bargaining table only pertains to the collective bargaining agreement.

Being unaware of the strategies for resolving disputes is the ninth common mistake made in collective bargaining. The bargaining team should not have a concern with going to mediation. The team should avoid interest arbitration because the team has no idea what decision will be made by the arbitrator. The biggest and final mistake of all is failing to distinguish between human relations and labor relations. At some point, everyone is going to have to come back together and educate students.

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