AMBOY – Several items of business were discussed at the Amboy Board of Education meeting on June 13. Superintendent Joshua Nichols reported that enrollment for the 2018-19 school year was up from the previous year, partly due to the addition of preschool. Enrollment last year rose to 737, compared to 692 the year before. He noted that even without counting the preschool students, overall enrollment had increased. Nichols said he sees the growth as a good sign and hopes the upward trend will continue.
Nichols also reported that teacher negotiations began last week with “a very good” first meeting.
The board approved a 2018-19 amended school budget following a public hearing on the matter. Nichols explained some of the difficulties in preparing an accurate budget starting with the uncertainty of payments from the state.
“There have been years when we have not gotten our fourth categorical payment from the state - they promise it, but we don’t get it,” he said. “That’s why we always underestimate the revenue.”
Additionally, this year the federal government gave $20,000 more in Title payments than expected. “They told us what we would get then gave us an additional $20,000,” Nichols said, “you can’t plan on that. If you say we’re going to get $111,000 and then we get $132,000 in Title I, that’s a huge jump. Other districts get millions in Title money, but for us it’s a big deal and it skews our numbers.”
Board member Katie Pratt commented that at least the budget is being amended due to a surplus rather than a shortfall.
* The board approved the sale of $1,145,000 in General Obligation Bonds (Alternate Revenue Source) following a public hearing on the matter. The bonds are for improving the sites of and altering, repairing and equipping school buildings and facilities at Central School.
The hearing was the second of three required board actions for the board to be able to issue the $1,145,000 in sales tax alternate bonds. The first step was adopting the resolution and publishing a notice in the newspaper, which was done last month. After a seven-day waiting period, the district will be able to sell the bonds and sale information will be provided at the July board meeting.
* The board approved the 2019-20 student handbooks. Nichols explained that state laws are always changing and most handbook revisions are a direct response to legal issues. As an example, Nichols discussed the changes in the state’s marijuana law. Although Illinois’ 2013 medical marijuana law allowed children to take CBD oil or other cannabis derivatives for serious illnesses such as cancer, seizures, or multiple sclerosis, the law prohibited students from bringing their medication to school.
Last year, Ashley’s Law took effect in Illinois, allowing children who have medical marijuana IDs to take their medication at school, but it had to be given under the supervision of a parent, guardian or caretaker. The legislation was named after a 12-year-old in Schaumburg, who takes CBD oil to prevent seizures related to chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. For some parents, however, having to personally administer the medication during the day was difficult, if not impossible. Now, with this latest change in the law, medical marijuana can be given to students by the principal or school nurse.
* Approval was given for a lease with American Capital for 370 Lenovo Chromebooks. Nichols said by leasing, after three years the old devices are shipped back allowing Amboy students to have up-to-date Chromebooks. He also noted that the company sends parts and a repair person who helps teach students how to do some repairs on the computers. “If they can’t fix something on site, we box it up and send back to the company,” Nichols said.
* The board approved the sale/disposal of the high school’s greenhouse and contents. Nichols said the greenhouse is in disrepair and is located in an area that will soon be needed for construction of the new junior high. Rather than paying to have the structure demolished, he said a former student had expressed interest in taking the greenhouse. “No one else has asked about it and if there’s no other interest out there, that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “I would let him just take it so we can get rid of it.”
Nichols said a new greenhouse is being donated to the high school and will be located elsewhere on the property.
Following closed session, the board approved three-year contracts for the district’s three principals, Janet Crownhart, Amboy High School; Andrew Full, Amboy Junior High School; and Joyce Schamberger, Central Elementary School. They also approved a one-year contract for Katie Bulfer as dean of students for grades 5-12, effective Aug. 13 to June 30, 2020.
Newly hired teachers include Scotlyn Schabacker as social studies teacher at Amboy Junior High and Vanessa Goslin as K-8 art teacher, both for the 2019-20 schoolyear.
Several retirement resignations were accepted including Connie Hobbs as head cook and Mary Ehlers as a paraprofessional, both effective Aug. 1, and Allen Ringenberg as a custodian, effective Nov. 30, 2020.
The next regular board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16 at Amboy High School.