O'Fallon Progress

OTHS has more students in SWIC’s ‘Running Start’ program this year

O’Fallon Township High School Superintendent Darcy Benway
O’Fallon Township High School Superintendent Darcy Benway

During the Thursday, Dec. 15 District 203 School Board meeting, the board approved renewal with Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) for participation in the Running Start program.

OTHS has participated in a program offered to highly qualified high school juniors and seniors for three years now, according to District 203 Superintendent Dr. Darcy G. Benway.

The program allows high school juniors to enroll dually at his/her high school (or home school) while also enrolling at SWIC to obtain a transfer associate’s degree, such as an associate of arts, associate of science, associate of fine arts, or associate of engineering science. While courses are offered at all SWIC campuses in Belleville, Sam Wolf Granite City and Red Bud, specific programs and courses may be available only at the Belleville Campus.

Eligible students are selected during their sophomore year for enrollment in the program their junior and senior year; must be 16 years or older by the end of the semester in which they are enrolled or a junior or senior at OTHS and meet minimum testing requirements; must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher; must have a written endorsement from the principal or a counselor; and, have teacher approval for each course.

The number of participating students has risen to 32 in 2016-17, since last year’s 21 participants graduated with his or her high school diploma and an associates degree from SWIC, Benway said.

“It’s wonderful, especially for students who don’t have a specific degree tract in mind yet,” Steve Dirnbeck, board member, said.

There is no cost to District 203, as the student is responsible for paying the cost of tuition to SWIC directly.

“It’s a huge advantage when a student from OTHS who’s 18 can graduate and they are already halfway through college,” Dirnbeck said.

Benway said OTHS has dual credit offerings with St. Louis University, in St. Louis, Mo., where students can earn college credits and high school credits at the same time. More information regarding dual credit opportunities can be found in the student handbook on the OTHS web site.

Dual credit with SLU is offered in the following courses: Honors Chemistry II; Honors Biology II; Honors Calculus; Statistics; Honors U.S. History; Honors Physics I; Honors Expository Writing II; and Honors British Literature.

Dual Credit with SWIC is offered in the following courses: Psychology; Public Speaking; Advanced Applications (Excel/Access); Advanced Applications (Word/PowerPoint); Computer Programming; Construction; Marketing I and II; Welding Technology I and II; and Culinary Careers.

Students enrolled in the Air Force Junior ROTC program also have an opportunity to earn dual credit from the Adams State College in Colorado. Students enrolled in honors accounting have the opportunity to earn credit through Kansas State University through a qualifying exam. More information on dual-credit courses is available from the counselors and/or instructors of the dual credit courses.

In other business, the School Board also approved the district’s tax levy request of about $20 million, which includes nearly $5 million in planned debt payments. The total levy is expected to rise 4.7 percent. The equalized assessed value (EAV) of property within the district is expected to increase 5.3 percent, according to School Board documents.

Shiloh School District 85

The District 85 School Board approved all action items during the Monday, Dec. 19 meeting. Board member Marie Berry was absent.

The board approved a $3.2 million tax levy request, which includes the nearly $600,000 in planned debt payments, according to Superintendent Dale Sauer. Final tax rates aren’t determined until spring once property values are finalized.

The board also approved salaries for employees not under union representation.

In his report, Sauer said Wednesday, Jan. 4 was to be an institute day where he, administrators and staff were to conduct technology sessions, PARCC assessment and curriculum analysis and Response to Intervention (RTI) tier planning.

Sauer wishes to conduct a three-hour community engagement strategic planning session later this month, likely either on Saturday, Jan. 21 or Jan. 28. The idea is to involve various stakeholders in the district’s strategic planning. Those attending will be allowed to offer input on a variety of topics and issues.

The district will also have a “Coffee Chat” from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Hardee’s in O’Fallon, next to the Community Park off of U.S. Highway 50. The chat is another way to seek input from parent and community members. Board members and Sauer will be in attendance to listen to questions, concerns and to engage participants in casual conversation.

Following the sessions, Sauer anticipates the School Board conduct a retreat and use the community’s input for creating future goals. The administration will create action plans for the goals, and once finalized, Sauer said he hopes the board can take the plan’s final draft back to the community for additional input.

The next BOE meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17 at the Shiloh Middle School’s Media Center located at 1 Wildcat Cross in Shiloh. Executive sessions begin at 6:45 p.m., with open sessions to follow.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch