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GIBSON CITY — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school board members learned at their Nov. 18 meeting that all three of the district’s schools have achieved a “commendable” summative designation, as given by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The commendable designation is second to “exemplary” in the four levels of designations given each year to differentiate school performance based on the state’s accountability system. The two lower designations are “underperforming” and “lowest performing.”

Commendable means the district has no subgroup performing at or below the level of all students, but whose students’ overall performance is not within the top 10 percent of schools statewide.

Superintendent Jeremy Darnell said this is the first year for this type of ISBE School Report Card, and it provides a “holistic, overall school ranking.”

While Darnell appreciates the district achieving a commendable designation for all three schools, the designation is “only one measure of what we do.” Darnell said the district is “still learning” about how to report all the criteria.

E-learning approved

Also at the meeting, board members approved a resolution, as first presented at the October meeting, allowing the district to avoid reducing official attendance days during times when schools need to be closed due to weather-related events.

Darnell said this could mean that up to five “snow days” would not have to be made up.

As outlined in materials previously presented to parents, the resolution provides that when “e-learning” is in effect, staff will prepare lesson plans and communicate offsite learning expectations of students, and all staff will meet district requirements for building maintenance, snow removal and other potential issues needing an onsite presence.

Darnell said this practice is newly allowed by state law, and this year will constitute a trial of the plan.

Other business

Also at the meeting:

➜ After a closed session, board members accepted the resignations of Cindy Petersen as GCMS High School tennis coach, Michelle Brennan as middle school science teacher and Allison Able as a paraprofessional at the elementary school.

➜ Board members approved tuition reimbursement for Brittan Shreffler, a reading specialist at the middle school.

➜ The board approved hiring Barb Burton as a paraprofessional at the elementary school.

➜ The board approved maternity leave for Erica Kostoff, high school English teacher, beginning about April 20.

➜ The board approved two volunteers: Taylor Leake, high school English teacher, as a volunteer coach for the GCMS High School dance team; and Caitlin Heap, an early childhood teacher, as a volunteer to assist the cheer squads.

➜ Russell Leigh with Russell Leigh & Associates of Hoopeston presented audit reports for the school year ending June 30, 2019. Darnell said the delays in receiving the annual reports were due to the firm’s workload and not to any information delays by the district office. Both the GCMS school district and the Ford County Special Education Cooperative received clean reports with no findings needing management attention.

➜ To better align job titles and job descriptions with current practice, board members approved updated job descriptions for the three unit office employees. Darnell said no staff was added, and no actual job duties were changed. Under the new job descriptions, Doris DeFries is the district’s finance manager, Beth Tabor is the accounts payable clerk and administrative assistant, and Lori Kristensen becomes director of human resources.

➜ The worker’s compensation insurance plan for 2020 was renewed through Insurance Providers Group of Gibson City with a 5.73 percent reduction in premiums because the district has made no claims since 2017.