Koehl gives parting view of district’s future

For the ProgressJuly 11, 2014 

Departing O’Fallon District 90 Superintendent Todd Koehl, Ed.D., said he appreciates the support he has received from the community during his nearly 10 years here and he is leaving town with a place in his heart that “will always bleed blue and gold.” Koehl also said he is leaving behind very little unfinished business.

He noted, “We changed over the teacher evaluation program as the state required and we instituted the other changes required by Senate Bill 7. We also got a good start on modifying the way we approach our curriculum to meet the Common Core standards.

“I want to make it clear we are not changing our curriculum,” he emphasized. “We are looking at our curriculum and determining what pieces of it match the skills that are required by Common Core.

“We have been working on Common Core for about two years. It has been a very slow transition because you can’t jump in over night,” he explained.

Noting the Common Core Standards are very skill based, Koehl said, “For two years we have been making subtle adjustments to realign our curriculum so it better fit what is going to be on the PARCC exam and so it matches the skills that are vertically articulated in the common core.

And then we have been making the subtle changes in teaching that will bring out those skills.”

He said, “I think one of the big items that could come down the road—and that we have started on—is a standards-based report card so you see student progress along a continuum versus As, Bs, Cs and Ds.

“It was exciting to have started that and it is something I would have liked to have worked on with the staff we have here,” Koehl said.

The departing superintendent then said redistricting—realigning attendance boundaries—is definitely something Dist. 90 will have to look at in the near future.

Noting for the past two school years District 90 has had to reshuffle students among its schools to balance class sizes and to relieve crowding in some buildings, Koehl said, “The district has to look at its building usage and the demographic distribution in its schools.

“When we completed the last redistricting (to accommodate the opening of Amelia Carriel Junior High School in 2008), we said we would do another after five years. It has now been six. We delayed a year simply because we felt with the campaign for the referendum (a failed attempt in April 2013 to gain voter approval for an increase in the district’s education fund tax rate) there was enough excitement that we should probably wait a year,” he explained.

Koehl noted the building facing the most urgent space issues is Marie Schaefer Elementary School. J.E. Hinchcliffe Elementary School, which is one of the smaller school buildings in the district, also is close to capacity. But LaVerna Evans, Delores Moye and Estelle Kampmeyer elementary schools “have spots where you could have a couple more classes.”

Koehl explained, “Schaefer is full and it continues to grow on the early childhood side and it continues to grow on the kindergarten through fifth grade side. So one of the things to look at in redistricting may be to determine if Schaefer is the best place for the early childhood program.

“But Schaefer works well for the early childhood program ... because it is centrally located and families really like it, and it has good playground structures for small students,” he said.

Koehl then said he thinks the buildings’ uses should remain the same after redistricting. But he added the final decision will depend upon those who will be drawing up the new attendance boundaries.

“If the board and the interim superintendent, or the board and the staff who work on the redistricting, believe they should be laid out differently, that is always on the table,” he said.

On the topic of funding, Koehl said he is satisfied with what he, the school board and staff have been able to achieve with finances despite the lack of state support.

“I think what we have done over the past two or three years between the board, myself and the entire staff is we have made the kind of reductions that have stabilized our funding issues so we can maintain a balanced budget,” he said.

“And we will be able to maintain our programs and we will be able to maintain the high quality of education and we will be able to maintain a balance budget,” he pointed out.

But, he noted, “Moving forward, if we want to expand anything, we will need different revenue sources.”

And it will need more support from the state, he said.

“The state is going to make some big decisions in the next six months that will deeply impact education either one way or another,” Koehl said.

“I am hoping it is in a positive direction and general state aid goes back to 100 percent. That will enable the district to build itself into something that is even better than it is right now.”

Koehl, who will take over as superintendent of Troy Community Consolidated District 30-C in Plainfield, Ill., on July 14, joined Dist. 90’s administrative staff as assistant superintendent, chief financial officer and director of operations in 2005. He has served in its top post since January 2010.

The Dist. 90 school board accepted his resignation during a special meeting June 19. His last day in O’Fallon will be July 11.

Koehl said his final days in the district will be devoted to orienting the interim superintendent to his new duties.

“I will be as much of a mentor as I can be in three days,” he said.

Koehl then said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this district and with the people of this community. I have had a lot of people say nice things about the district and about the things that have gone on and I am very appreciative of that.”

He added, “Part of my heart will always bleed blue and gold.”

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