Dennis School advocates ask council for new building plan | Education

DECATUR — Several members of the community appeared before the Decatur Public Schools Board on Tuesday to advocate for continued consideration of a new building for Dennis School.

Parent Rene Hinkle said she felt the board had let Dennis down after a discussion at Monday’s finance committee meeting, in which board members said no site for a new school was available and that considerable discussion time was spent on the idea of ​​building a new American Dreamer STEM Academy instead. The district’s plan to build a new Dennis School in Lincoln Park was abandoned when the Decatur Park District refused to sell the land to the school district.

“We know how (American Dreamer) feels because we’ve had a thriving athletic program in college without a proper gym for 10 years now, ever since my son was in the very first graduating class of college,” Hinkle said. .

Like American Dreamer, Hinkle said, Dennis doesn’t have a proper gym for college workouts and games, instead using a gym at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Her 12-year-old daughter told her she wanted to train and play in her own building. The project-based learning model used at the school depends on collaboration between older and younger students, which is not possible with students spread across Dennis’ Mosaic and Kaleidoscope campuses.

Phil Wineke, who taught Dennis for six years, said the school’s partnership with Millikin University is important to the school’s success and student education. Classes are given on the landings of the stairs and in the cupboards because there is not enough space.

“Staff, students and families have made it work knowing our time will come, and now again we have fallen to the bottom of the list because the board wasted opportunities and left us dry when we express our problems,” he said.

“Build a school for the future,” said Sara Nave, who also teaches Dennis. “At the end of the day, what’s best for students is that their school supports learning and gives them the opportunity to thrive.”

No formal decision has been made by the board regarding Dennis or American Dreamer and the issue of building a new school was not on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

In other business, the board approved a contract with Deanne Hillman to serve as acting director of human resources for 120 days between Aug. 1 and June 30 at a rate of $611.21 per day. Hillman is retired and will not receive health insurance benefits or pension contributions due to his part-time status.

The board also approved the hiring of Benjamin West as assistant principal of Hope Academy. West graduated from Millikin University with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Eastern Illinois University.

Elizabeth Williams has been appointed vice-principal of MacArthur High School. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University in Career and Technical Education and Instructional Leadership.

Salary increases of 2.25% were approved for all directors, plus their ¾% increase year over year for a total of 3%, at a total annual cost of $6,261,000 for all directors’ salaries. This does not include Hillman. Three administrative positions are vacant: a permanent director of human resources, a director of teaching and learning and a director of safety, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Administrative support positions will also receive a 2.25% increase and a ¾% increase year over year for a total of 3%, as well as a 3% increase for work coaches, parents/home educators, school/family liaisons and nurses paid by the hour.

The board approved the hiring of a demographer for the district to produce a study to project long-term student enrollment. The last such study was done in 2017. The cost is said to be $30,000.

During the discussion on the topic, Superintendent Rochelle Clark said previous demographics study indicated student enrollment would drop to between 7,500 and 8,000 students in 2023, but the district has already hit that number a year later. early. Her concern, she told the council, is that without another study, it is impossible to plan for the district’s needs in personnel, buildings and materials for the next few years.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter