SEA & Cost-Saving Partnership with Memorial Health Care

image.jpgDear SEA Members,

At this week’s March 6th school board meeting, Superintendent Gill introduced a new partnership agreement between District 186 and Memorial Health Care Systems. The purpose of this partnership is to reduce SEA members’ out-of-pocket costs, improve and expand health services, and help keep premiums down.

The 186 Board of Education is expected to vote on this new partnership at the April 9th board meeting.

SEA Members:

  • will maintain their current insurance program and all associated benefits through Blue Cross Blue Shield.
  • are still free to see physicians outside of the Memorial Services.
  • must carry district insurance to access these benefits.

SEA members will receive a presentation of this new partnership with MHCS at our May 8th AR meeting. All members are welcome to attend.

Program summary:

  • Zero co-pay at all five Memorial Health Care Clinics. (Current co-pay is $25)
  • Free Virtual Care with SmartVisit 24/7. (Currently costs $40)
  • Nurse concierge service to assist with scheduling of appointments and making referrals. (Currently not available)
  • Free care coordination to align services and support members with more complex needs. (Currently not available)
  • 5 free health and wellness events per year.

Yours in Education,

Crysta Weitekamp
SEA President

Springfield Area Students Plan Actions To Address Gun Violence (, 3/6/18)

Student activists from Parkland, Florida, have toured the country speaking out about gun violence after a gunman killed 17 people at their school in February. They recently made a stop in Chicago and their cause has inspired students all over the country, including in the Springfield area.

About 20 students from a variety of local schools gathered at a table in the community room of a grocery store Monday evening. They discussed plans for a walk out and rally. A few adults representing activist groups that have organized events, including the women’s marches in Springfield, were on hand to help work out logistics, such as city permits.

Claire Farnsworth, an 18-year-old senior from Chatham, led the meeting. She got her introduction to activism after starting a petition about her school’s dress code last year. She found its limit on attire for females sexist. She went on to form a feminist club, and now, she’s also focused on addressing gun violence.

“Going anywhere honestly is a scary thing right now. For as long as I can remember, especially in high school, people have made school shooter jokes, which is kind of inappropriate, but that’s just the culture in which we live. The fact that you can joke about that because that’s so normal, it’s appalling and just distasteful. It’s just how we live. It’s just our culture.”

Farnsworth said she wants to get kids from all local schools at the table.

“There’s a lot of differences, not only culturally but demographically, and we want to make sure that everyone’s voices are being heard,” she said. “If not everyone’s involved, there’s no point in it.”

The ACLU’s Illinois chapter recently encouraged schools to respect free speech rights. Across the nation a student walk-out is planned for March 14, with rallies and marches to happen on March 24th.

ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg said schools should take advantage of letting students acquire hands-on experience when it comes to civic engagement, and teachers shouldn’t shy away from discussion about the realities of current events. “Protection of minority viewpoints and listening to other viewpoints with an open mind are really important skills for a school to teach its students,” said Glenberg.

A statement from Springfield’s District 186 indicates it will respect students’ rights to organize, and won’t punish students for participating, as long as they come to an agreed-upon set of guidelines with the administration. The district emphasized the events don’t reflect its endorsement of any specific cause.

“Our goal is to allow peaceful and safe participation and minimize disruption of the school day,” the statement reads. “It is our responsibility during these times to keep students safe and be thoughtful and objective listeners.”

The students at the meeting at the grocery store believe gun violence can be stemmed by adding regulations, but they’re aware they don’t represent all kids.

For Aria Bender, activism runs in the family – her mom helps lead a local Black Lives Matter group. Her school, Springfield High, has gone through numerous bomb threats in the past year or so. Bender said she wants to see more conversation and action around bullying because maybe that would mean fewer young people would ever lash out in violent ways in the first place. And she wants adults to take her and her peers seriously.

“I don’t want people to get the wrong idea – I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh they’re doing this to get out of class.’ I want them to see we’re doing this with a purpose, but I don’t want adults to use this as a way to punish us,” said Bender.

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2018 District 186 Staffing Timelines



Jan 25-Feb 26: Building Allocations

  1. Staffing allocations will go out to principals on January 25th.
  2. Staffing will be returned to HR by February 26.
  3. Staffing cuts result in displacements.
  4. Volunteers are considered first. If there are no volunteers, then displacements are made by seniority.

Mar 16-Apr 6: Displaced Process

  1. Displaced teachers are placed on a list in order of seniority.
  2. A master list of known vacancies will be shared with each displaced teacher.
  3. Displaced teachers shall contact principals of the buildings that have vacancies, either in person or by a phone call to learn about the position and to schedule a visit.
  4. Displaced teachers will select their top three choices of positions from the master vacancy list based on seniority and certification requirements.
  5. The SEA office will receive displaced choices and assign displaced teachers into positions based on seniority and certification.

“The Pool”

  • A displaced teacher may select to stay in the pool to select a vacant position.
  • After the last day of school, any teacher who remains in the “pool” will be placed in a position by the Director of Human Resources.

The RIF (Reduction in Force) Process

  • Done by district seniority.
  • RIF groupings – teachers with two or more ‘Needs to Improve’ evaluations will be RIF’d regardless of seniority.
  • Notified by registered mail 45 calendar days prior to the end of the school year.
  • Recall based on openings and seniority.

Apr 9-May 11: Voluntary Transfer

  • Positions available for voluntary transfer will be listed on the District Intranet for 4 days starting on April 11th and running through May 8th. This is updated daily.
  • Teachers interested in applying for a voluntary transfer need to apply electronically on the District Intranet.
  • A minimum of the 3 most senior teachers that apply for any position must be interviewed.

Additional Vacancies after Voluntary Transfer Process

  • Positions will be listed on the District 186 website through the third Friday in July.
  • Currently-employed teachers may apply for these positions after the second Friday in May.
  • There is no obligation to interview based on seniority.

ESP Procedures

  • The process is very similar to certified staff.
  • Occurs 1 month prior to the beginning of the school year.

‘Contract Fulfilled’

  • Released at the March 6th board meeting.
  • Hired prior to August 1.
  • Hired August 2 or after.
  • Update contact information with the district.

If you have questions, email SEA president, Crysta Weitekamp at or call her at 217-787-7060.

After-school programs on chopping block again (, 2/18/18)

Federally funded after-school programs that serve about 1,500 students in Springfield are once again on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.

This is the second year Trump has proposed axing the federal program known as 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Congress last year overturned the president’s request and restored $1.2 billion, keeping the sites open nationwide and in Springfield.

The administration argued there is no evidence the program has been effective, a claim leaders of the sites said simply was not true.

Bill Legge, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois, said last week he expects funding will remain.

“I’m not freaking out because we’ve been here,” Legge said. “This is one of the programs that is very well supported on both sides of the aisle.”

The federal program helps school districts, churches and nonprofit groups nationwide provide after-school programs for 1.7 million schoolchildren, predominantly from low-income households.

In Springfield, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Springfield Urban League use the federal funds to operate 20 after-school sites at District 186 schools, as well as at St. Patrick Catholic School and the local chapter of the NAACP’s back-to-school/after-school program at Calvary Academy.

Each site is open until 6:30 p.m. While there, students get help with their homework from certified teachers, a healthy snack and experience enrichment opportunities, such as garden club, dance lessons and playing basketball.

The federal program costs parents $40 per year, but waivers and reduced amounts are offered. It is one of two options available for Springfield parents for after-school supervision at schools.

The other, offered by the Springfield School District, is known as SCOPE. The district’s program, however, is more expensive, at $70 per week for full-time students.

Several parents last year said if 21st Century was eliminated, they would be forced to scramble to find child care and may be forced to quit their jobs.

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Good Deed: Foundation funding provided students great opportunity (, 2/16/18)

This past fall my fourth-grade students were awarded a science grant from the Springfield Public Schools Foundation. The Foundation offers a variety of grants to District 186 teachers.

This grant allowed us to purchase enough materials for both fourth-grade classes to dissect and learn about owl pellets. It was a great opportunity for young students to learn about basic science dissection. Each student was able to reconstruct their skeleton that came from inside the owl pellet. We shared this with families at our Math and Science night.

We would like to thank the Foundation for this opportunity. We couldn’t have done it without them! We invite you to visit our classroom website,, to see this project.

Shellie Brunsman

Fourth-grade teacher at Wilcox Elementary School


School District 186 officers surprise student facing hardships (, 2/12/18)

Many times, parents and teachers may not realize when a child is struggling.

One student at Southeast was having a hard time.

Now a viral District 186 post, reaching over 10,000 people within one day, shows how two school officers took money out of their own pockets to buy something special for that student.

Two Southeast High School officers, Andy Tinsley and Larry Hale, presented freshman Johnathon Wood with his very own Kindle.

“I was just so amazed,” Wood said. “They were so nice.”

But this kind gesture comes after hardship.

“He was down,”1st-year Resource Officer Andy Tinsley said. “He was just down in the dumps.”

“He would push me around,” Johnathon said. “Call me names [and] talk about my family.”

He reached out to the officers saying he was getting bullied in school.

“How hard bullying is and it just brought me and them closer,” Wood said. “And we talked about like, how I like reading. We just stuck together and we’ve just been bonding ever since.”

According to, reports are going up, which may be due to raising awareness.

But for Johnathon, there was more.

“He said his mom went to work from 5 am to 5 pm every day,” Tinsley said. “He was just so proud of her and he worried all the time.”

“We began to get a little picture of what this kid was going through and our hearts went out to him,” Southeast High School Security Officer Larry Hale said.

Johnathon’s escape is reading books. He went through 5-6 books a week.

“An escape and peace of mind,” Johnathon said.

District 186 officials say students can struggle.

“Whether academically, socially, emotionally,” Public Relations Marketing Coordinator for District 186 Bree Hankins said. “When they have issues, we’re just glad we have so many caring adults. There’s a wealth of support there for all of our students.”

“Over my 24 years here,” Hale said. “And 30 years coaching basketball… hundreds [and] hundreds of kids.”

Hale has helped out many kids who confide in him with their struggles.

“Have a good heart,” Tinsley said. “Good things happen.”

“I didn’t think they would get me that,” Johnathon said. “It’s been making my day. I’ve been smiling ever since.”

Johnathon said he plans on going to Harvard to become a book writer or engineer.

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Congratulations to Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year!

“I really want to make my profession proud, and I really want to advocate, not only for students, but for teachers as well. I absolutely think it’s the most important job in the world, but it is a challenging job, and I want to be someone who brings attention to all that teachers do.” Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year 2017

186 educators: enjoy your well-earned break!

UIS Perspectives: Educating leaders in education (, 12/16/17)

What makes successful K-12 schools tick? A recent study cited by Education Pioneers, a nationwide school improvement project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concluded school leadership is a critical factor. Along with excellent teachers, outstanding principals and superintendents have significant impact on how well students learn in school.

That impact is the reason that, in addition to preparing highly-qualified K-12 teachers, UIS offers graduate programs in Educational Leadership that prepare principals, superintendents and other school personnel for leadership roles in schools throughout central Illinois and beyond.

Scott Day, a faculty member at UIS for 20 years (and winner of the 2017 Faculty Excellence Award), leads the Educational Leadership program. “What attracts students to our program,” says Day, “is top-notch faculty with extensive experience working as principals and superintendents.”

“Our graduates always say how well prepared they feel for the job based on the program’s course projects and the extensive internship requirement,” he continues. “The professional preparation is about as realistic as you can get — and that is the key to our (and our graduates’) success.”

Hanfu Mi, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, agrees: “Faculty who teach in the Educational Leadership program have not only had careers as successful principals and superintendents, they also remain connected to people and issues of importance in K-12 in Illinois — engaging in research, service and other professional activities that keep them informed of exactly what is going on in the schools across the state.”

“Dr. Day is a good example of that connectivity,” Dean Mi continues. “He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Illinois Principals Association and spends significant time each semester in the schools, mentoring current graduate students (most of whom are also full-time teachers) and advising alums who continue to stay connected to the faculty long after they complete the program.”

Jennifer Gill, Superintendent of Springfield Public School District 186, is one of those alums. Gill was born and raised in Springfield, where she graduated from Springfield High School and later taught at Wanless Elementary School, one of 23 elementary schools in the district. “I chose the University of Illinois at Springfield for my Masters Degree in Educational Administration due to strong recommendations from educators in my community,” says Gill. “I quickly realized the opportunity to learn from professors who were practitioners as well as those who were grounded in educational research was the blend of support for which I was looking.”

Dr. Gill later returned to UIS for her Superintendent’s licensure and the Chief School Business Endorsement, working with a cohort of fellow educators with whom she maintains valuable professional relationships today.

Superintendent Gill is not the only UIS Educational Leadership alum in District 186. In fact, more than 60% of the principals employed in the Springfield Public Schools today are proud graduates of the program. Another alum is Lyn Williams, who became principal of Southeast High School this fall after serving 11 years in other roles in the district, most recently as Assistant Principal at Lanphier High School.

“Finding a graduate program that provided me with research-based instruction and real-life relevance was my priority when choosing both a principalship program and a superintendency program,” says Williams. “The expertise of my instructors at UIS allows for class time to be spent problem-solving around real-world case studies and the discussion is filled with dynamic analysis and insight that is second to none.”

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