The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 13, 2013

School board members to hear plan to increase student attendance

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Danville District 118 school board members will hear Wednesday about an initiative to increase student attendance by developing a districtwide attendance plan.

The Leadership Matters Attendance Initiative, which would be grant funded, would help the district design an attendance plan that includes interventions and incentives.

Associate Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said student absenteeism has a major impact not only on lost instructional time resulting in poor student achievement but also in a loss of general state aid to the district.

According to the 2012 School Report Card, District 118 had an attendance rate of 93.4 percent with a student population of 6,207, meaning an average of 410 students were absent from school each day amounting to a loss of 2,458 hours of instruction each day.

During the year, this equated to 72,160 days of absences districtwide or 432,603 lost hours of instruction. In addition to lost instruction time, the district lost a significant amount of General State Aid since state funding is determined by student attendance. Increasing the attendance rate by 2 percent districtwide could result in an additional $500,000 in state aid, she said.

“We also know that graduate rates increase as attendance rates increase,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. “It will help students, parents, teachers and the community.”

“We’re in the 90s (for attendance), but we have a goal of 95 percent or higher per school building,” she said.

The proposed attendance plan would include developing a marketing plan with a catchy slogan and yard signs to remind students to go to school.

“It will be a blitz,” Superintendent Mark Denman said.

Teachers also would play a role in the attendance plan.

“Teachers are involved. They’ll be calling home (if a student is absent for a few days),” Desmoulin-Kherat said. “It’s developing that caring and relationship piece with the students.”

Also on Wednesday, school board members will:

Hear an update on the district’s five-year strategic plan that outlines goals and accomplishments from 2011-2016.

Denman called the strategic plan “the road map for the district.”

The plan covers academic achievement and curriculum; communication and marketing; facilities: infrastructure and technology; finances: funding and cost containment; human resources: staffing; parental involvement and community involvement; and safety and discipline.

Denman said the district is halfway through its goals for 2012-2014.

“We have completed reading and math alignment with Common Core and implemented standards-based report cards from kindergarten through second grade,” he said.

A standards-based report card has been developed for third through fifth grade and will be implemented in the fall.

“Writing will be a big focus for us this year,” Denman added about meeting another goal.

Implementing a longer school day is another goal that will be met this fall when elementary students will receive an additional 25 minutes of instructional time and DHS students will see a new 30-minute flex period.

Other goals met include increasing the graduation requirements for DHS seniors, pursuing a Junior ROTC program and changing the principal evaluations so a significant portion is based on student growth. Teacher evaluations will be changed similarly starting in 2015.

Also on tap this school year is completing the East Park Elementary School renovations, improving the curb appeal of every school building; continuing the implementation of nutrition program for students and parents/guardians that promote making healthy nutritional choices both at school and at home; updating all of the public address systems; using teacher evaluations to reward high performers and remediate and/or dismiss low performers; continuing technology training for faculty and staff; increasing the number of free after-school events at each school; and developing and implementing curriculum to teach children about conflict resolution and the prevention of violence.

Denman said any goals that haven’t been achieved, “economics are mostly the reason.”

Consider approving modified curriculum for the following DHS classes so they are aligned to the Common Core standards: freshman English, sophomore English, junior literature, GLOBAL senior English, minority literature, speech, advanced composition, journalism, algebra 2/trigonometry and algebra 2/trigonometry honors. 

Review a first reading of job descriptions for two new positions at DHS: secretary to transformation officer and DHS family liaison.

Desmoulin-Kherat said the positions are grant-funded and are requirements of the $6 million federal School Improvement Grant administered through the Illinois State Board of Education that the district recently learned it will receive over the next three years.

She said the family liaison will place a “huge emphasis on family communication, especially hard-to-reach families.”

Consider approving eight new positions at DHS, which include behavior interventionist, secondary literacy coach, secondary math coach, teacher leader high school, transformation officer, instructional teaching assistant and CAN/LPN special teaching assistant.

Desmoulin-Kherat said the transformation officer would serve as a liaison between the district and DHS.

She said the officer would oversee budgetary concerns and work collaboratively with the high school administration to ensure the school improvement plan is being followed.

“It’s a very important role that provides support to staff, principals and assistant principals at the high school,” she said.

Desmoulin-Kherat described the behavior interventionist as someone who could provide instruction and strategies to staff and parents to help improve the behavior of DHS students.

She said the secondary literacy and secondary math coaches would “provide support to teachers and assist with modeling and research.”

“The standards teachers must follow are new and they’re difficult,” Desmoulin-Kherat said.

Likewise, the teacher leader at the high school would be placed in a leadership role, she said.

“They will be well-versed in Common Core standards,” she said. “They will be experts and provide support in the content areas.”

Approve the 2013-2014 salaries for administrators, which includes 12 building administrators and five directors.

Approve the 2013-2014 salaries for non-union flat salaried employees, which covers 11 employees.

Coming up

District 118 school board members will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St.