New Amboy Junior High project on standby as school board awaits final vote count


AMBOY – Disappointment was evident at the March 22 Amboy Board of Education meeting. With the apparent defeat of a referendum that would have allowed for construction of a new Amboy Junior High addition at Amboy High School, that disappointment was somewhat tempered by a willingness to press forward.

The proposal to issue a $15,800,000 School Building Bond was defeated by just 53 votes, 769-No to 716-Yes. Mindful that this is the unofficial count, board president Nicole Jones said the board can discuss future possibilities for the school, but they cannot take any action until the official results are announced in approximately 30 days.

Board member Katie Pratt said she felt it was important to at least talk about the referendum in the meantime and thanked members of 272 KIDS, a committee comprised of parents and community members who worked for several months to inform the public about the building project. “The issue would not have gone as far as it did without your work,” Pratt emphasized. “We made our case and I think we have to continue to make the case because it makes me nauseous to think of putting any money into a building that will keep being old.”

Pratt said she plans to continue discussing the new junior high addition with anyone who will listen. “That’s part of the issue, who wants to listen to what,” she commented. “Everybody just wants to hear what they want to hear.”

Members of 272 KIDS said they were “obviously disappointed” with the result but wanted to continue being involved in discussions when they are held again. They emphasized that if the referendum does not pass once the vote is official, they would support the board choosing to continue the fight.

In response, Pratt said one thing is certain, “We can’t stop talking about it. This is an issue that’s not going away. We can’t kick the can - that’s not going to solve it.”

Superintendent Jeff Thake said once they receive the official results, the board can begin making decisions and they will have until late July, early August to decide whether or not to put it on the November 2018 ballot. The district will also have to decide whether to keep the same plans or make changes. “We can tweak the design, whatever, but for now all we can do is discuss it,” he said.

Thake also praised the members of 272 KIDS. “I can’t speak highly enough of this group,” he said. “You were absolutely amazing, everything you did. As I said Tuesday night, the end result is an absolute disservice to all the time you spent and put yourselves out there. I can’t tell you how much we all appreciate it.”

Additionally, Thake responded to an article from 2016, which surfaced recently concerning the one percent sales tax and the ways in which that money was going to be used. “It sounded like we didn’t use the money the way I said we were going to and I want to clarify,” he said.

Thake said among the reasons for supporting the sales tax was for facility improvement for all three buildings including Amboy Junior High. At the same time, there was also discussion of the future of the junior high. In January 2017, the district sent a survey to the entire community asking if they would support a new building addition and 53 percent of respondents were in favor. “We decided to pursue general obligation bonds while making all necessary repairs in keeping with life safety at all buildings and in August 2017, we began taking the steps needed to get on the ballot in March,” Thake explained. “We have been receiving the sales tax since Nov. 17 in monthly installments of $28,800, used in accordance with the Illinois School Code.”

Last month, the sales tax was used to pay the balance of district’s bandwidth upgrade, which was necessary for the one to one learning environment. “These upgrades are the things that have given us the local, state and national attention that we’re receiving to this day,” Thake noted. “That’s how the funds have been used, in all three buildings.”

As for the junior high, Thake said when the survey indicated that the majority of people preferred a new building rather than staying in the 96-year-old school, which was deemed fiscally irresponsible by at least 716 people, the board’s focus shifted to the building project. In December 2017, the board passed a resolution to put the bond issue for new construction on the March primary ballot.

PRINCIPALS’ REPORTS

Principal Joshua Nichols, Amboy High School, congratulated the March Student of the Month Rayven Wehling.

Curriculum and School Improvement

*School Improvement days were held on March 5 and 19. Teachers and paraprofessionals were able to work with their personalized learning and department peers as well as work on implementing tech and curriculum in their classrooms. Mrs. Wiseman conducted a tech training at all three buildings.

*Nichols attended the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center webinar on March 7.

*The PSAT was administered to 8th graders on March 14.

School Activities

*Student Council hosted the Powder Buff volleyball game and the Morp Dance on March 2.

*Mrs. Cleary took 15 students to the Figge Museum in Davenport, Iowa on March 14.

*Spanish Honor Society hosted a movie night on March 14.

Music Department Report

*On March 3, students went to West Carroll High School in Savanna for the IHSA State Solo and Ensemble Music Contest and performed very well. Many students received a 1st place or Superior rating.AHS’s foreign exchangestudent received a 1st place on her solo, Lucas Blakereceived a perfect score on his vocal solo, and Sydney Friel received 1st place ratings in all three of her events.

*On March 9, 10 and 11, the AHS Music and Drama Departments put on the musical, “Annie.” Kreider Center clients saw a preview on March 6 followed by Central School and AJHS in the afternoon of March 9. When all three shows sold out, a fourth show was added on Sunday and a total of 1,605 tickets were sold for the four shows. Students from AHS, AJHS and Central School performed on stage, while other AHS students performed in the pit orchestra with Dr. Thake and AHS alumni. AHS students also worked backstage and on lighting, Mrs. Schwamberger worked the sound and parents helped on various committees.

*Twenty AHS band and chorus students were selected to participate in the NUIC Conference Honors Music Festival at Pearl City High School on March 16. They rehearsed with guest conductors all day and performed in a concert at 6 p.m. that evening. This is the one time that conference schools unite and work together, rather than competing, to present a concert as one unit. Mrs. Mekeel said she was extremely proud of her students, many of whom were involved in all three events.

FFA Report

*Section 2 Ag Business CDE: Eight members participated and two Amboy students were in the top 15 out of 92 total members in the section who participated.

*Section 2 Job Interview CDE, Creed Speaking CDE, and Public Speaking CDE: Margaret Vaessen, Matthew Dinwiddie and Aly Gascoigne participated and results are expected soon.

* Women Changing the Face of Agriculture: Six FFA members attended WCFA at U of I on March 9. They heard a keynote speaker, visited a college fair, spoke with females employed in the agriculture industry, and then participated in breakout sessions.

* Ag Construction: Students are working on building stools, which require making accurate cuts, drilling pocket holes, and following instructions. A number of students also came in before and after school to build a picnic table for the Sublette Toy Show.

* Welding: Students are becoming much more comfortable striking arcs and laying a bead and will be moving onto various joints and positions.

Principal Joyce Schamberger, Amboy Junior High and Central Elementary, said PARCC practice tests will be given to grades 3-8 and self-paced teachers are continuing to work on planning their curriculum.

PBIS

*Trustworthy was the character trait for the month. An all school assembly was held March 19. All grade level teams gave Student of the Month awards and Junior Beta awards. Girls’ basketball pins were also handed out. Third Quarter PBIS celebrations were held on March 23.

School Activities

*Track has begun with coaches Mr. Payne and Mrs. Bulfer.

*The 5th grade class won the Best Attendance Award at AJHS for February with a 94.31 percent attendance rate and the Central 3rdgrade classes won with a 93.65 percent. These classes earned a snack sponsored by the P.T.C. of their respective school.

*Report cards were sent home on March 16.

*National Breakfast Week was March 5-9 and both cafeterias featured “Breakfast for Lunch” all week. The event was quite popular with increased lunch counts.

*March 3 was set-up for the Pancake/French Toast and Sausage Breakfast, which was held on Sunday, March 4. This year 1,085 people were served.

*Congratulations to AJHS students who participated in the BVEC Art Show at Bureau Valley South in Buda. First place winners were Sydney Thomas/paper sculpture and Alexis Ketchum/mandala; second place, Alexa Morris/mandala, Olivia Costner/cat and Zoey Bulfer/self portrait; and third place,Emma Dinges/self portraitand Lauren Althaus/self portrait.

Upcoming Dates

April 7 - AEF Wine and Cheese Event (fundraiser)

April 9-13 - Grades 3-8 PARCC testing. Schedules to follow.

April 9 - Central School PTC meeting at 6:30 p.m.

April 20 - 8th grade trip to Springfield

April 27 - 4th grade trip to Medieval Times

April 27 - 5th Grade Ag Expo

May 2 & 8 – Kindergarten screening (by appointment)

May 2 - 3rd grade field trip to Midway Village

May 3 & 4 - 5th grade camp out

May 3 - 7th grade field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry and Art Institute of Chicago

May 7 - Lee County Sheriff’s Department Bike Safety Program K-4

May 9 - 6:30 p.m. 4th grade orientation at AJHS

May 11 - First grade field trip to Blackberry Farm

May 21 - 6th grade field trip to Navy Pier

May 22 & May 24 - PBIS trip to Woodhaven AJHS

May 24 - 8th Grade Night

OTHER BUSINESS

Approval of the 2018-19 school calendar was postponed until the April board meeting. Board member Elsa Payne requested the delay due to concerns about early dismissal days and two parents also addressed the board expressing similar concerns. The proposed calendar had been amended to keep the early dismissals the same as this year, every other Monday. An earlier proposed calendar had early dismissals scheduled for every Monday. Even with the change back to alternating Mondays, Payne said she wanted to be sure that teachers were supportive of that schedule and she requested a survey be sent to them.

The next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 26 at Amboy Junior High School.


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