School board approves tentative tax levy, discusses building security upgrades


AMBOY – A tentative tax levy and security upgrades were among the items discussed at the Amboy District 272 Board of Education meeting on Nov. 12. 

TENTATIVE TAX LEVY

During his tentative tax levy presentation, Superintendent Joshua Nichols showed historical data from the past 20 years. In that time, Lee County’s total EAV has steadily increased to its current level at $144,923,157. Although the EAV grew by 2.35 percent last year, he explained that the levy can only increase by 1.9 percent because Amboy is a tax cap district, which means the levy cannot increase by more than 5 percent or CPI (Consumer Price Index), whichever is lower. CPI for this levy is 1.9 percent. 

Property Values

• Residential property value increased by 2 percent to $58,957,114. 

• Farmland property value increased by 5.97 percent to $54,082,337.

• Mineral property (wind farms) decreased by 3.48 percent to $10,999,988. 

• Other declines were in Commercial property (0.78 percent to $14,279,448) and Industrial property (5.54 percent to $6,593,557). 

Over the past 20 years, General State Aid funding has fluctuated a great deal. In 2008, the Amboy School District received $2,647,411 in GSA, which was the highest amount of state funding in the past two decades. The following year, state funding dropped below $2 million and other than a slight bump in 2011, it steadily decreased each year. The lowest point was in 2016, when Amboy received only $548,675 from the state. 

When Illinois’ new Evidence Based Funding started in 2017, Amboy began seeing an increase in GSA. In 2019, the district expects to receive $848,835 from the state. Nichols said with this funding model, Amboy should never get less than $848,000 in General State Aid.

Nichols believes district-wide enrollment trends should stay about where they are, currently at 736. The highest enrollment in the past 20 years was 1062 students in 2001. Going forward, Nichols said the district should stay in the 680-720 range. He also noted that the Evidence Based Funding is calculated on student enrollment, which is reported each year on Oct. 1 and March 1. Previously, state funding was based on average daily attendance. 

ANNUAL CRISIS PLAN

The district’s Annual Crisis Plan was approved by the board. A review and update of the crisis plan took place during a meeting between district employees and the police, fire and sheriff’s departments on Oct. 10. Discussions included installation of a new type of secondary blocking device to barricade doors if there is an intruder. Nichols said the device can be put in place quickly and it immediately seals the door. Additionally, the cost is reasonable and the device is fire code compliant. After a sample is installed and tested, the board will be updated on possibly having it put in all of the buildings. 

Also discussed was the need to update the camera system in the school buildings. The cameras currently being used can only record a week or two of data. Because the newer system only records movement, Nichols said it can record about a month of data. He also noted that with a new system, the police and fire departments would be able to immediately access the recordings online, so if a call was made, they could see what was happening at the school prior to arrival. 

PRINCIPALS’ REPORTS

Amboy High School Principal Janet Crownhart congratulated November Student of the Month Sidney Corcoran.

Curriculum and School Improvement

• Mercy Health conducted a trauma training for all district staff about life saving measures after an armed intruder on Nov. 4.

• Liz Zinke received the Maggie and Amos Education Grant to purchase fidget toys and alternative seating for her classroom.

• On Oct. 28 during resource, students learned about the Whiteside Area Career Center field trip and Halo field trip, and then filled in their Xello Experiences. (Xello lists possible career pathways for students, lists the schooling they would need, the required skills, and suggests similar jobs they may consider.) 

School Activities

• Parent Teacher Conferences were held Oct. 24 and 25. Crownhart said 48 percent of students had a parent pick up their report cards, which is about the average attendance. 

• Guidance counselor Rob Wissinger took sophomore students to Whiteside Area Career Center on Nov. 4.

• Margaret Vaessen and Brock Loftus (LaMoille) made it to state for cross country.

• On Oct. 29, Marie Shaw, Dominic McClard and Haden McCoy, accompanied by Rob Wissinger, went to KSB in Dixon for the first meeting of a student focus group on vaping. Students from area schools are meeting and will work with KSB employees to develop education on the dangers of vaping targeted to high school students. 

• Ag teacher Deanna Drew took 14 students to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Oct. 30-Nov. 2. They attended workshops, sessions, the career show, and helped package food for Gleaner’s Food Bank.

• On Oct. 27, Mallory Powers was inducted into National Honor Society. Crownhart noted that this is a transitional year due to moving inductions to the fall instead of spring.

Building Activities

• Oct. 31, an armed intruder drill was held for students. Crownhart gave special thanks to Lt. Atwell of Lee Country and Officers Lester and Smith of the Amboy Police Department for their help.

• The fall play, “Clue” was presented Nov. 15, 16, and 17.

Principal Andrew Full, Amboy Junior High 

Curriculum and School Improvement

• On Oct. 18, teachers Scott Spangler, Katie Henkel, Ben Schott, and Katie Bulfer attended crisis prevention training in Byron at OCEC (Ogle County Educational Cooperative).

• On Oct. 30, the School Improvement Team met with Anji Garza to discuss IAR Data, IQF (Illinois Quality Framework), and updates.

• On Oct. 31, content level teachers met two periods of the day to discuss curriculum and alignment.

• On Nov. 4 during the SIP day, faculty and staff went through the Stop the Bleeding presentation. The ELA pilot committee discussed the pilot, content areas met to continue previous discussions, and the Special Education Department met with Christina Southwick of OCEC.

• On Nov. 5, the School Improvement Team met with Anji Garza to update the IQF and prepare it for board approval and submittal to the state.

PBIS

• Awards were handed out at the monthly SIP assembly on Nov. 4. They include: Clipper P.R.I.D.E., Students of the Month, Faculty/Staff Recognition, and Speech Awards/Performance. The band performed, cheerleaders did a cheer and a friendly competition was between grade levels.

• Clipper P.R.I.D.E. recipients were Jake Dinges, Carli Grennan, Henry Nichols, Caleb Plut, Grace Althaus, Owen Loomis, Peyton Payne, Elijah Garcia, Jaden Haley, Quinton Leffelman, Zachary Dunne, Gabby Fuller, Alexa Morris, Nick Ochoa, Eliseo Vazquez-Tapia, Trevor Stenzel, Fabian Arteaga, Addison Pertell, Bentley Wiley, Sydney Thomas, Brooklyn Strub, and Lilly Drew.

• Students of the Month

5th grade- Lili Leffelman and Aaron Costner

6th grade- Samantha Nauman and Bradley Schmidt

7th grade- Hunter Rasmussen and Cordia Asencio

8th grade- Eliseo Vazquez-Tapia and Kimber Zitelman

P.E.- Aidan Straub and Austin Heath

Faculty/Staff Recognition winners were Aaron Fassler and Patty Kuper.

School Activities

• Parent/Teacher Conferences were held Oct. 24 and 25 with 71 percent of report cards picked up those days. Full said that is down 7 percent from last year.

• On Nov. 1 AJHS Speech Team members, Natalie Pratt, Kaylee Scanland and Kiera Karlson, and coach Yvonne Vicks traveled to Rockridge for a contest. All three students finished with a first place ranking. During the board meeting, Vicks introduced team member Kaylee Scanland who performed her winning speech. Vicks said the students had been practicing their speeches since the last week of August. 

• On Nov. 2 AJHS hosted their annual 7th and 8th grade boys basketball tournament. Teams included Amboy, AFC, LaMoille and Serena. Both Amboy teams finished second.

Principal Joyce Schamberger, Central Elementary 

Curriculum

• On Oct. 31, Central School staff along with deputies from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and Amboy Police Department helped train students on school safety. Two short videos helped explain to younger students the importance and reasons for the drill. 

PBIS

• At Central’s all school assembly on Nov. 4, Students of the Week were recognized and given certificates. Officers Lester and Alletto came and read a library book to students on the character trait for November, “good manners.”

School Activities

• All students attended a Veteran’s Day program on Nov. 11 along with veterans from the Amboy Nursing Home, who were invited guests. Amboy American Legion Post 453 posted the colors, President Trump’s Veterans Day Proclamation was read by Superintendent Joshua Nichols and the district band played the National Anthem. Songs were sung by the chorus and Central School students. 

• Second grade won Best Attendance for October with 97.1 percent. They will receive a snack paid for by Central PTC.

• On Nov. 14, Central School students saw the AHS fall play, “Clue.”

• Schamberger congratulated Emily Majewski for writing and receiving a $500 grant from the Maggie and Amos Foundation. She will use the money to purchase library books for her classroom.

• On Nov. 6, the University of Illinois presented a parent learning session that showed parents how to help their children with self-regulation of emotions. Schamberger said the program was not well attended, but those who came were very appreciative. 

• Schamberger thanked the Amboy Fire Department and Mercy Health Center for presenting trauma training to staff. 

• Central PTC planned to hold the first ever “Donuts with Dad” event on Nov. 15. 

• The Book It Incentive party for students who made their November reading goals will be a Sugar Rush Car made with Twinkies.

OTHER BUSINESS

• Nichols said all three Amboy schools earned “Commendable” status this year on the Illinois School Report Card. “It’s available online, has a ton of information, and I encourage you to go look at it,” he told the board. 

• The board approved a bid for a new fire alarm system at the AHS/AJHS building. This will be a completely different system that will be unified for the entire building. Nichols said it would have cost more to add the expansion to the current system than it will to remove it and install a new one. 

PERSONNEL

Following closed session, the board approved Brad Dunlap as freshman/sophomore baseball coach and Faith Sachs as winter cheerleading sponsor, both at Amboy High School. 

The next regular board meeting and a tax levy hearing will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 at Central School. All meetings are open to the public.

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