Education

A Chromebook is in the hands of nearly every District 118 student

A Belleville fifth grader in 2013 uses a Chromebook during an exercise combining language arts and science.
A Belleville fifth grader in 2013 uses a Chromebook during an exercise combining language arts and science. tvizer@bnd.com

Every child from the second through eighth grades at Belleville District 118 will have his or her own Chromebook after a vote from the school board Tuesday night.

“What it means is every child gets instruction right where they need it,” second-grade Union teacher Wendy Brewer told the board before the vote. “If the student is working under grade level, the program accommodates. I have a student three grade levels higher ... I finally have something different to say than, ‘go read a book.’”

Third graders and up have had the technology, the purchase adds all second-graders, adds a cart to every first-grade classroom, and six Chromebooks to each kindergarten, one for each center. Tracy Gray, assistant superintendent of curriculum, also told the board that it extends Chromebooks into special needs classrooms.

The Chromebooks will be paid for by a combination of Title I grants, IDEA grants and a gift from the Karch Foundation.

School of Character

Union School Principal Lori Taylor brought some of the teachers who helped the school achieve the National School of Character Award to invite the board members to an assembly on Nov. 24.

The assembly, like all Union Elementary assemblies, will be led by the students, Taylor said. She told the board a story about when the school was under consideration and had visitors to the school who talked to students and teachers.

“The visitors were very complimentary and very nice, saying, ‘Ms. Taylor, you have such great kids.’ They had asked the students about some character issues, such as what students do if they witness someone being picked on,” she said.

“One of the sixth grade girls told the visitors, ‘We do not have that here. We take care of that.’”

As a result of the reflection the school did during the evaluation process, they looked at after-school detention.

“The one thing we always heard was, if you’re going to make changes, make sure the changes have an impact on the kids,” teacher Kristen Turner told the board about the process.

The group of Taylor and teachers looked at the after-school detention program specifically, where students would “go to a teacher’s room ... they wouldn’t talk to anyone. We looked at that and said, ‘OK, what good is that doing?’” Turner said.

Instead, Union now has a “After School Reflection Meeting,” where the teacher knows why the student is there and has something prepared specifically for the student to address the behavior. She said students and parents like it, “it kind of turns into a counseling session.”

Turner told the board of one student she had who wasn’t turning in work or coming prepared to class. During her reflection meeting, the teacher made her a bright yellow checkoff sheet to help her remember her backpack, folder and homework.

“She’s never had a problem since,” Turner said. “Something as simple as that has changed her every morning.”

Finance

▪ Agreed to a resolution to estimate the tax levy. Assistant Superintendent Ryan Boike told the board that “we can levy whatever we want, we’re only going to capture whatever that Estimated Assessment Valuation goes up or down. If we estimate 3 percent and it only goes up one, we only get that one percent.”

The board approved the estimate, and after a 30-day public review will be asked to approve the levy itself.

▪ The board voted to increase the district’s cash bond, in an amount not to exceed $6.25 million. Boike told the board that the same “safety precaution” was done in 2011, but the option was never used.

▪ Agreed to take City Securities as the district’s financial adviser, a role the company has already done since the early 1990s but because of changes to federal law, now needs to be voted in.

▪ “We need a truck,” board member Gary Lawrence told the board, who went on to approve the $27,907 purchase of a 2015 GMC 2500HD from Lou Fusz GMC. Lawrence said it was the only bid the board received for the style of truck the district wanted: “It doesn’t come with leather or heated seats, it’s just a work truck. So nobody wants to sell it to us.”

District happenings

▪ The spelling bee is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at West Junior High.

▪ Band and chorale concerts are coming up Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 at West Junior High.

“It’s always fun (at the first concert) to listen ‘Hot Cross Buns’ by the primary band,” Klosterman said.

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