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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

Academy, proposals set for District U-46 votes


By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 is proposing changes to its BEACON Academy curriculum at South Elgin High School which will be voted on by the Board of Education on Monday, July 23.
  The BEACON proposal comes at a total projected cost of $340,382 which will come from state and federal grant funds, and the board will also vote on five additional expenditure proposals costing $873,746. The items were presented on June 18.
  Kinasha Brown, career and technical education coordinator, said there are two changes encompassed in the South Elgin academy proposal including a name change to the Beacon Academy of Media and Digital Arts as well as an update to the curriculum.
  “This curriculum has been revised to align with requirements and characteristics of a magnet school program that include it being an honors level program, the eligibility to obtain college credit through AP courses and articulated credit, AP Capstone certificate and diploma designation as well and the industry recognized Adobe Premier Pro certification credential prior to students graduating,” Brown said.
  Included in the cost is between $200,000 and $250,000 for equipment, $50,000 for supplies and $152,146 for technology. The proposal stated that the board already approved $79,180 for equipment purchase as well as a technology purchase.
  A memo from Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, stated that an instructional council has seen the proposal and it liked that the “updated curriculum and resources aligned to industry recognized standards,” the “work towards magnet school status,” the “inclusion of work-based learning opportunities,” the “inclusion of the AP Capstone” and the “thoroughness of the research, documentation, presentation and representation of the committee.” The council found no concerns with the proposal.
  Brian Moran, South Elgin’s principal, said that the curriculum change includes two modifications. Currently juniors and senior courses at the academy are honors level and this change would make all courses honors from freshman year on, and the plan includes adding two AP Capstone courses in seminar and research.
  Christopher Boden, lead counselor, said the AP Capstone courses are “kind of their pinnacle program” which requires all teachers to receive professional development.
  Moran said the BEACON Academy has been in place at South Elgin since 2009, and “since that point we have not had any major upgrades in curriculum technology or equipment.”
  Board member Melissa Owens said: “I kind of feel like we’re approving a curriculum that we don’t know too much about because we have the title of the curriculum but we don’t really have anything about what the curriculum is actually intending.”
  Brown said she would send the program guide to Owens for review.
  Regarding the AP Capstone courses, Owens said “it does take up another elective within an already tight schedule,” but Boden said it could count towards the social studies requirement for graduation.
  Board member Sue Kerr said about the AP Capstone courses that “they look wonderful,” and board member Jeanette Ward said that the proposal overall “sounds great.”
  Included in the remaining expenditure proposals is one with Istation at a cost of $305,460, to be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through Title I funds, if approved. Istation is a “digital learning resource” for literacy intervention according to the proposal.
  Kerr asked how Istation was tested to which Celia Banks, coordinator for elementary literacy and libraries, said last year the district had 47 teachers volunteer to test the program and offer feedback.
  “Almost unanimously they all felt like the students were really engaged and enjoyed it because it’s set in a game-like format so that students are practicing their literacy skills in that manner,” said Banks who added that the program also offers good feedback to students who use it. She said some of the negatives given in the feedback was that there wasn’t enough technology in the classrooms, which she said should be alleviated with current planned technology purchases, and that there were challenges with scheduling use of Istation.
  Ward asked about Istation’s accessibility on devices which Banks said it is an application but “it works on all devices” and “can be downloaded” on desktop computers.
  A three-year license contract renewal with Jellyvision Lab, Inc. costing $182,700 (education, operations and maintenance and transportation funds) will be voted on by the board. Jellyvision has been used by the district since 2013 and provides “personalized benefits decision support via a virtual benefits counselor, ‘Alex’” to employees according to the proposal.
  Kerr asked if employees can use the tool throughout the year and Beth Berg, coordinator of employee benefits, said “all of the employees, as part of their on-boarding, are encouraged to use the tool” and “we often point people to the tool throughout the year.”
  A proposal to be voted on with Ed Tech would cost $170,000 (Title II grant funds) for professional development that would “support implementation of technology in the classroom” the proposal stated.
  A proposal costing $143,496 (operations and maintenance fund) with Team Reil Inc. would go towards a playground project at Wayne Elementary School. The Village of Wayne provided about $100,000 for the project.
  Kerr said that parent groups often in the past raised money for playground work and asked: “Is that over? Are we finally going to take those over?”
  “Well, we kind of have an equity issues with our schools where some are better at raising, or can raise funds, some do not,” said Jeff King, chief operating officer. “So we decided to embark this last spring on evaluating all of our playgrounds and making a determination should we start stepping in and doing replacements.”
  Ward said that there’s a “special love” from her family for the Wayne Elementary School playground where her children have attended school. She asked about what equipment would be torn down and replaced and King said “some of it is coming down because it is not in great shape, some pieces of it,” but he did not know specifically what would be replaced.
  The board will also vote on a proposal with Workforce Software costing $72,090 (education fund). The expenditure would go towards a software update for the districts payroll system.

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