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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

Charter school pact deadline looming fast


By Seth Hancock
  It is unclear when the Board of Education in School District U-46 will vote on the contract with the Elgin Math and Science Academy (EMSA) charter school as the deadline nears.
  The board was given an update on contract negotiations with EMSA at its meeting on Monday, June 5. EMSA’s charter was given initial approval in April “pending a mutually agreed upon contract by June 30.” The final scheduled board meeting before that deadline is Monday, June 19.
  Board member Jeanette Ward inquired if a contract would be voted on at the June 19 meeting and Miguel Rodriguez, chief legal officer, said “if the board is ready to vote, I don’t see why the board cannot vote” by that date.
  However, board member Traci Ellis hinted at a desire to possibly prolong the negotiations said she “wanted to make sure we don’t have some hard and fast” deadline and asked “is there some deadline legally?” Rodriguez said “that’s a decision that was made by the board” when the initial approval was granted, but it could be extended if the board chose to do so.
  Board member Veronica Noland said she “had the understanding that we decided on June 30… to give ourselves a deadline” and she “would be concerned if we start postponing a vote on a contract.”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the administration “will meet the resolution by having something by June 30” and he “would expect it to be by the June 19 meeting.” Board member Sue Kerr said June 26 is “an option” for a special meeting if the board wanted more time.
  The June 19 meeting will definitely include several votes including a middle school physical education curriculum. The total cost is $307,602, most of which goes towards the purchasing of heart-rate monitors with a price tag of $174,512.
  Tracey Jakaitis, student wellness coordinator, said the district is “moving away from a team sport model” and putting a focus on “fitness and individual student growth” with the proposal.
  Noland asked, based on her “own history,” if there will be cultural competency training for P.E. teachers.
  “I’m Hispanic. I come from a culture where I was completely discouraged from ever doing any kind of physical education at the ages that you’re talking about,” said Noland who added: “Now as an adult… trying to change habits that I developed as a student is extremely difficult.”
  Jakaitis said she had not researched cultural competency training within P.E. but said the focus on individuals will help all students.
  “This individualized technology would help students not feel like I have to be you and you, I can be me and what do I need to do,” Jakaitis said and added: “What’s really important to us is we need our elementary and middle school students to experience activities, a variety of activities.”
  Board member Phil Costello asked how this curriculum compared to other districts to which Jakaitis said her “experience is that the districts around us are still very much doing a sport model” as opposed to the individual focus in this proposal.
  Another curriculum proposal for secondary music will be voted upon. The Music First resource proposed would cost $14,231.
  There were also seven bids and 10 contracts proposed which will be voted on at the June 19 meeting, one of which being a five-year contract with Cenergistic that will be used to seek energy savings within the district. Cenergistic would be paid half of what the district saves, which the district approximates would be $4.4 million, plus $59,988 for software.
  Jeff King, chief operations officer, said the company will “look for inefficiencies that are occurring” and focus on “our three big utilities” being water, gas and electric bills.
  Ward asked how the savings are quantified and if they use current costs as a baseline, and King said “yes, they use this current year and probably look at at least one previous year” while also factoring in any changes to operations. King said a yearly update on savings could be provided to the board.
  Noland asked if the district used anything like this previously? King said the district used a company that was “more of a demand-response” while “this is much different. This is looking at our operations, how we currently do things and how we can improve things.”
  Also to be voted on will be renewal of membership with the Illinois Association of School Boards costing $41,339, to come out of the education fund if approved. Costello and Ward both opposed the renewal last year for not seeing the value in the organization and hinted they are still opposed as Ward said “I suggest it not be brought back on the consent agenda” to which Costello agreed.
  Both Costello and Ward have also previously opposed the district’s resolution on setting prevailing wages, and that annual resolution is also coming up for a vote. Both previously opposed the resolution because the district uses Illinois Department of Labor wage rates which are driven by union forces instead of U-46 doing its own wage survey which would be driven by market forces that may lead to savings for taxpayers.
  There were 11 expenditure items proposed that would be paid for out of the education fund if approved: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($75,000), Renaissance STAR360 ($202,558), K12 Insight ($240,000), Versifit Technologies ($89,260), Micro Focus ($101,877.50), CDW-G ($127,796), Sentinel ($121,083), PEX Learning ($630,000), Athletico Inc. ($780,000), Ombudsman ($293,250) and Beaird Group ($30,000).
  Through career and technical education improvement grants, two items were proposed: Alenco Tool Supply Co. ($67,850) and Praxair Distribution ($64,870). If approved, a $910,626 expenditure with P&M Distributors Inc. would come out of the food and nutrition fund and a $699,760 expenditure with Continental National American, Safety National and Alliant/Mesirow Insurance Services would come out of the tort fund.

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