Springfield teachers, District 186 reach tentative contract deal (SJ-R.com, 11/17/17)

A tentative agreement has been reached on a new contract between Springfield Public Schools and teachers.

The next step is for the union to vote to ratify the contract. That vote will be held before Monday’s school board meeting, Springfield Education Association President Crysta Weitekamp said.

If ratified, the school board would then vote on whether to approve the new agreement Monday.

As in the past, district and union officials aren’t releasing details of the contract, including its length or cost to the district, until the agreement is approved. Weitekamp said she believed there would be enough support from members, calling it a “good deal.”

Board President Adam Lopez declined to talk about the contract until Monday’s meeting.

Teachers in District 186 have been operating without a contract this school year as negotiations have dragged on longer than normal.

Weitekamp said that was due to the state budget impasse and uncertainty over whether a new funding formula would go into effect.

In February, the district and teachers agreed to a one-year deal covering the 2016-2017 school year that provided teachers with pay increases for longevity and more education. However, the contract did not include bumps in base salary. Teachers initially rejected the district’s offer before signing off in February. Details of the initial contract were not released, so it’s unclear what, if any, changes were made.

There is extra money in the District 186 budget to work with for pay increases.

In September, the school board approved a spending plan that included an $812,312 surplus before contract negotiations with teachers and other unions.

However, that budget did not factor in District 186 potentially receiving an extra $1 million in general state aid, according to some estimates, under the new funding formula.

Full Story: http://www.sj-r.com/news/20171117/springfield-teachers-district-186-reach-tentative-contract-deal

District 186 addressing problem of chronic truancy (SJ-R.com, 11/6/17)

One out of five students in Springfield Public Schools was considered a chronic truant last school year, newly released education data shows.

Data on chronic truancy was part of a presentation superintendent Jennifer Gill and her staff gave Monday updating the school board on recently released state education data.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, chronic truants are students who have nine or more unexcused absences throughout the school year.

In Springfield, the rate climbed from 17.7 percent in 2015-16 to 21 percent last school year. That’s higher than the state average of 11 percent.

In raw numbers provided Monday, 2,151 middle and high school students in Springfield were chronic truants in the 2016-17 school year. That’s up from 1,785 two school years ago.

Gill said chronic truancy is a problem the district is taking very seriously. She outlined several steps Monday the district is taking to address the problem.

But she also urged parents to make sure their child attends school.

“We really need to enlist the support of parents in getting their kids to school on time and throughout the entire day,” Gill said. “When students are chronic truants, it really puts them behind.”

Gill said Southeast High School added a truancy interventionist this year, giving the district two total (Lanphier High School already had one). The positions are paid for with federal Title I dollars.

A truancy interventionist calls and makes home visits when students don’t show up, but also works with the student to get back on track, she said.

“These are actual teachers on staff that help with truancy intervention and get kids in school and in the right programs,” Gill said.

In addition, Gill said, the district is pursuing a grant with the regional office of education to add interventionists at the middle schools. District 186 also has parent educators and outside mentors that work with students to help keep them in school and on track, she said.

Monday’s report also included information on attendance, graduation rate, test scores, percentage of freshman on track and number of students taking Advanced Placement courses.

All of the scores (with the exception of Advanced Placement) are available on illinoisreportcard.com.

Full Story: http://www.sj-r.com/news/20171106/gill-district-186-addressing-problem-of-chronic-truancy