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U-46 Board discusses, set to vote on proposals

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will vote on $841,030 in expenditure proposals as well as several other items at its upcoming meeting on Monday, June 3. The items were presented on May 20.
  The board spent a majority of the time discussing concerns over the district choosing the lowest bidders to how to redistribute more taxpayer dollars to social programs that the government school is not required to provide.
  One of the items is $173,838 to the Boys and Girls Club which, if approved, would be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through Title I funds. This would go towards eight weeks of summer camp for 125 students deemed “low-income” or “at-risk” based on being in a Title I designated school.
  The camp would include “academic and social and emotional enrichment opportunities,” according to the proposal.
  Board member Melissa Owens expressed concerns with “equity of access” as it only applies to students at Title I schools and there are poor kids in other schools according to her.
  “So any student that is in a building that is not a Title I school does not have access to these even if they are, would be considered low-income or at-risk?” Owens asked.
  “Correct, we only service Title I schools with Title I dollars,” said Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, who said federal requirements are that the district target funds to schools with 75 percent or higher low-income students, but “we actually drop that percentage in U-46 all the way down to 60 percent to continue to pick up additional schools.”
  “I thought that the federal threshold was 40 percent. It’s higher than that?” asked Owens who also asked: “We cannot provide targeted assistance to students that are outside of those Title I buildings?”
  Shrode said 75 percent is the requirement and 40 percent is what a district can drop to, “but we also have to keep the amount that we give to our current required schools at the same level and so we couldn’t service all of our schools all the way down to 40 percent which is what federal government now allows it, doesn’t require but allows, because we wouldn’t be able to continue consistent funding in the buildings that we’re required to serve.”
  Owens said she’s “not at all disagreeing with the principle” of stripping parental authority from some families, but “we have pockets of poverty all throughout this district.”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said “low-income” students in non-Title I students are more privileged than those at Title I schools and “the equity really comes into play when you’re talking about schools that don’t have, they have such a concentration of poverty that it’s just not likely” those students will have access to summer camp.
  Owens asked how students will be selected to which Shrode said the Boys and Girls Club will select the 125 students it feels are most in need. Shrode said “there is transportation” as well to the Boys and Girls Club facility when asked by board member Veronica Noland.
  Also, to be voted on is a $168,337 (operations and maintenance fund) with Rogers Flooring, Inc. for carpet tile and VCT floor installation as well as some moisture mitigation at 10 district schools. There were two bids, the other coming in at $356,432.
  Noland claimed she received calls with concerns about the bids and said: “The winning bid is more than half the cost. Concerns brought to my attention were how could they be so dramatically different… but also recommendations and the process.”
  Owens and board member Kate Thommes were also concerned that the taxpayers would be paying for a lower bidder.
  “This vendor in particular is a qualified vendor,” said Sheila Downs, director of plan operations, who noted Rogers does pay prevailing wages and certified payroll is given to the district. “We verified that, but we’ve also done work with them in the past”
  Owens said: “If we’ve found them to be a credible bidder then that’s fine, but what is our recourse… if a vendor comes in, does the work that we’ve asked them to do and it fails sooner than it should have failed?”
  Bruce Phelps, senior business official, said that “by the vendor accepting the bid, they’re accepting our terms” and there is “legal recourse” if the work is not done properly.
  Owens continued: “But what if a problem presents itself after the job is completed?” Phelps said “there’s a warranty period” and Downs adding “both workmanship as well as product warranties” and the district has done “substantial work with Rogers, and they stand behind their product.”
  Phelps had to note that U-46 does not operate this private business and “each company has a different profit margin” and “we only are required that the vendor pays prevailing wage and that applies benefits to their employees” as Thommes continued to press the issue.
  The board will also be asked to vote on a $40,000 (education fund) expenditure to renew membership with the lobbyist group Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) which has been a controversial item under the previous board. Both former board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward have opposed the membership because of little value seen from the group.
  Sue Kerr, the board’s president, noted that they can have two legislative updates a year from the IASB which Sanders said: “Because of the size of U-46, they have offered to at least present twice a member of their staff’s government relations department.”
  From the education fund are a two-year contract renewal with Futures in Rehabilitation Management, Inc. costing $175,000, a $23,000 increase, criminal background checks for personnel as well as a contract renewal with HERO by School mint costing $64,458, up $233, for student behavior tracking.
  Three items from the operations and maintenance fund are $138,497 with Stalker Sports Floors for gym floor sanding and finishing at Bartlett and South Elgin high schools and South Elgin’s Kenyon Woods Middle School and two asbestos abatement projects with Cove Remediation at Bartlett’s Eastview Middle School ($45,000) and Elgin’s McKinley Elementary School ($35,900).
  The board will vote on the physical education exemptions terms and conditions for the 2019-2020 school year, a resolution for the display and public hearing for the Fiscal Year 2020 Northern Kane County Regional Vocational System (NKCRVS) budget and a U-46 retirement committee charter. The NKCRVS budget will be presented on June 17, a public hearing will be July 15 and a final vote is scheduled for Aug. 12.




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