Donnie Burklund

A longtime servant of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school system was given a long-overdue honor last Wednesday in front of a standing-room-only crowd, as Donnie Burklund, a retired PBL bus driver and former school board member, received a plaque of recognition for his service and a lifetime activity pass to PBL events from Superintendent Cliff McClure and the school board. He was treated to a standing ovation.

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PAXTON — A longtime servant of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school system was given a long-overdue honor Wednesday in front of a standing-room-only crowd, as Donnie Burklund, a retired PBL bus driver and former school board member, received a plaque of recognition for his service and a lifetime activity pass to PBL events from Superintendent Cliff McClure and the school board.

He was treated to a standing ovation.

In remarks given prior to the presentation of the plaque, McClure said that soon after he became principal of Clara Peterson Elementary School in the 1990s, he “came to realize pretty quick that Donnie was one of those bus drivers who always had the kids in mind.”

And as the years went by, McClure said that Burklund and fellow bus driver Mike Herriott were always proactive in trying to resolve any issues that would arise.

Throughout Burklund’s time working for PBL, McClure said that he exemplified the school district’s mission statement of “excellence through rigor, relevance and relationships” — especially the “relationships” piece of it.

“Donnie Burklund knocks ‘relationships’ out of the park — and not only with adults,” McClure said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a real discipline problem on Donnie Burklund’s bus.”

McClure said the work of bus drivers is often “taken for granted,” as some do not seem to realize just how difficult the job can be.

“They’ve got about 30 of your kids sitting in the back of their bus, so ... it’s not easy and we can’t take that lightly,” McClure said.

The plaque given to Burklund states that it is in “appreciation of your loyal service to the teachers, staff, students and parents.”

After accepting the plaque, Burklund thanked McClure, the school board and parents for their cooperation over the years.

“Thank you for everything that you people have done for me, too,” Burklund said. “The shoe’s on both feet here. We’ve got to have cooperation out of you people. If we don’t have cooperation out of you people and the parents, it makes our job tougher. If you can get along with them, get along with the faculty, it’s pretty smooth sailing.”

“You made it easy,” McClure replied.

Other business

Also at this week’s school board meeting:

➜ McClure provided an update on the Clara Peterson Elementary School renovation and expansion project and the demolition of the former PBL Eastlawn School building. McClure said the school renovation and expansion project was “down to a handful of punch-list items,” most of which are expected to be completed over the holiday break. Work still needing to be done includes the installation of a divider curtain in the gym in the recently built addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School, the installation of some rubber base molding, the installation of new bulletin boards in the hallways of the renovated portion of the school, and some touch-up painting, McClure said. The demolition of the former PBL Eastlawn School building, meanwhile, is progressing, McClure said, with foundation removal under way.

➜ McClure and board members Shawn Young, Dana Bergandine and Craig Loschen spoke about their recent participation in the Triple I Conference in Chicago. McClure said he attended sessions on “painless bargaining,” on “challenges rural schools are facing” and on “communication plans.” Bergandine said she attended a “first-time board member seminar” and a session on “identifying leaders.” Young said he attended a session on “middle school athletics” and one on pensions. Loschen said he attended the seminar on “painless bargaining” and a “general session.”

➜ McClure said the district’s policy review committee would be meeting “sometime soon” to discuss proposed revised or new policies. McClure said action on the policies could be taken by the board in January or February.

➜ Following a 1 1/2-minute public hearing on the district’s tax levy for 2019, the board voted unanimously to approve the levy. The levy shows an estimated tax rate of 6.0461 percent. If the rate holds when certified by the county clerk, it would mark the third year in a row the district’s rate has declined. The levy is based on an estimated equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of $179.995 million, up from $174.59 million in 2018 and $166 million in 2017. The levy shows an estimated $10.882 million to be collected from property owners in the district next summer, up from $10.69 this past summer and $10.29 million in 2018. The amount to be levied includes an estimated $2.178 million in bonds.

➜ The board approved the hiring of Courtney Piatt as a paraprofessional at Clara Peterson Elementary School.

➜ The board approved a proposed intergovernmental agreement between the school district and Ford County Sheriff's Office.

➜ The board received notification of the administrator and superintendent evaluation period. Once evaluations are completed, the board is expected to discuss the results in closed session during its January meeting.

➜ The board approved hardship and eligibility amendments to the district’s 403(b) plan for the purpose of maintaining Internal Revenue Service compliance.

➜ The board approved the district’s membership in the Illinois Rural & Small School Association for a fee of $400.

➜ The board approved the destruction of closed-session audio recordings that are 18 months or older.

➜ The board voted to accept a $600 donation from the Paxton Evangelical Covenant Church, a $50 anonymous donation for the PBL Backpack Program and donations of $100 each from Country Thyme Tea Room & Catering in Paxton and Ludlow Co-op for the high school’s FFA program.

➜ McClure said he would be changing the meeting date for the board’s February meeting from Feb. 12 to Feb. 13.

➜ McClure said the district would be hosting a regional training this spring at Clara Peterson Elementary School on data management.

➜ Jesse McFarland, director of the Ford County Special Education Cooperative, presented a report to the board. Among topics discussed was that the co-op received a clean audit; there are three new special-education staff members this school year, including one at the high school and two at Clara Peterson Elementary School; and that a new state law went into effect recently, requiring special-education staff to send draft copies of students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) to their parents at least three days prior to meeting with them.

➜ The board directed McClure to donate, sell or dispose of items deemed no longer useful to the district.