AMBOY – “What’s going on with the junior high building project?” That was the question asked by two community members during the Sept. 12 Amboy Board of Education meeting. Both individuals said they wondered if the project was way under budget or over budget.
To answer their question, Superintendent Joshua Nichols explained that the district had to hit “pause” on construction in July when the second bid package came in $2 million over budget.
When the first round of bids, which were for ground work, came in about $50,000 under budget, everything seemed to be going according to plan. That came to an abrupt halt with the second bid package, which was larger and included a significant amount of work. “Most of the items didn’t receive any bids at all and we had a number that only received one bid,” Nichols said. “CTS began going out to find companies to bid and when those numbers started coming in, it pushed the project up to $2 million over budget.”
At that point, the district was advised to pause the project temporarily and issue a rebid. In the meantime, they also began looking for ways to reduce costs. Nichols gave the example of floor tile. The plan was to use tile that does not have to be waxed. “It’s more expensive initially, but saves on maintenance over time,” he explained. “If we use less expensive tile that has to be waxed every year, it’s cheaper but adds to the cost of maintenance. One of our goals was to save money in the long run. You begin by making changes like that.”
Nichols said another example is HVAC components. The more expensive choice is more energy efficient and offers a feature that allows portions of the building to be shut off when they are not in use. “That all adds cost,” he pointed out. “You’re saving energy down the line but the initial cost is more, so we have to look at things like that.”
For now, the board has to wait until after the rebid opening on Sept. 18 to consider their next step. Once the bids have been checked to make sure the specs are all covered, the board will know if, and how much, has to be cut from the project. Board president Nicole Jones said the Finance Committee will meet on Thursday, Sept. 26 to discuss the bids and hopefully make some decisions about moving forward.
Nichols noted that there was one bit of good news to report. “The first time we held a pre-bid meeting, we had three contractors show up. When we held a pre-bid meeting for this round, we had 13 there,” he said. “Once we see the bids, we’ll know where we have to cut and how much so we can bring it back into budget.”
Nichols emphasized that they want to get moving again as quickly as possible. Jones agreed, saying, “I hope all the bids have a reasonable number and we can get started again but will that happen, I don’t know.”
Central School Principal Joyce Schamberger, Nichols and the board all expressed their appreciation to those who took the time to come to the meeting and ask questions rather than listening to rumors on the street.
“And please, you can always come to meetings and ask questions during open forum,” Jones said. “As you can see, not many members of the public come to meetings. What you’re hearing on the street is probably not the truth. It’s better to come and get answers from us.”
Nichols emphasized that he welcomes anyone who has questions about the project to come to his office or call him at (815) 857-2164.
Jones reminded everyone that meetings now take place at Central School and are all open to the public. “The Sept. 26 meeting will start at 7 p.m. and hopefully, we’ll have some good news,” she said.
Amboy High School Principal Janet Crownhart congratulated September Student of the Month Ashley Althaus.
Curriculum and School Improvement
• The first round of informal classroom walk-throughs has been completed and evaluations are starting.
• The Building Leadership Team met on Sept 4 and discussed Xello data (college and career readiness) and the connection between PSAT scores and the ability to practice that on Khan Academy.
• Mrs. Cleary held tryouts for the fall play, “Clue,” and rehearsals have started. Performances are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Nov. 16, 17 and 18.
• The Spanish Honor Society and Leo’s Club sponsored a blood drive on Sept. 6 and collected over 30 units.
• Mrs. Crownhart and Mr. Schwamberger attended a NUIC (Northwest Upstate Illini Conference) meeting on Sept. 11.
• This year, AHS is having a theme for each volleyball and football game. Crownhart said students were excited about the idea when it was initially announced. She also noted the high school now gives students free admission to games with their student ID. “We have seen an increase in student participation at games - and a lot of positive comments from parents - since we began allowing students to come to the games for free,” Crownhart said.
The first fire drill was held Sept. 13.
Principal Andrew Full, Amboy Junior High
Curriculum and School Improvement
• A faculty meeting was held Aug. 26 to discuss students with 504s, Parent Square, Student Council, and the grant received from the state.
• Department meetings were held on Aug. 29 for ELA, math, social studies, science and P.E.
• The School Improvement team met on Sept. 3 to discuss RtI, next steps and resources.
• Mr. Full attended the IESA Athletic Directors Workshop in Bloomington on Sept. 6.
• Math for All training was held on Sept. 9 for math teachers.
• On Sept. 11, the 5th grade team members met in the morning and 6th grade team members met in the afternoon to discuss grade level plans, RtI, and to look over data.
• The first PBIS monthly assembly was held on Sept. 9. Several awards were handed out including Students of the Month, Clipper P.R.I.D.E., and Teacher Recognition, and a friendly game between classes was held.
• PBIS field trip forms were handed in for approval.
• Volleyball contests have started.
• School and volleyball pictures were taken on Aug. 27.
• Student Council is underway with the assistance of Mr. Delimata and Mrs. Schabacker, who are helping Mrs. Bulfer until she returns from maternity leave.
• The PTC meeting was changed to Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Principal Joyce Schamberger, Central Elementary introduced third grade students, Anthony Sus, Owen Dallam, Sydney Noble and Landen Jackson and their teacher Mrs. Rodriguez. “They have a special project they’re helping me out with - helping the entire school - and I’m real proud of them,” Schamberger said.
Rodriguez explained that as part of PBIS, Central students can earn Clipper Cash for doing positive things. Students are able to spend their Clipper Cash on items such as pencils, crayons, T-shirts, bracelets and stickers that are in the Clipper Cart. “For teachers, sometimes the Clipper Cart can be a pain because it can take a long time for students to decide on an item,” she said. “I came up with an idea to have students in the math WIN group incorporate their math skills by being in charge of the Clipper Cart.”
The third graders explained that students will be able to choose the items they want on their Chromebooks - similar to ordering on Amazon. The teachers will hand in the order forms and the WIN group will fill the orders.
Rodriguez said the WIN students will add the total on the orders, fill the orders and double check the math to see how much Clipper Cash each teacher should give them. In addition, the WIN group students will get paid for their work with Clipper Cash.
School Improvement/Professional Development
• Teachers and paraprofessionals worked with the ROE on Guided Reading Best Practices and the math teachers were updated on the Math for All grant requirements. “That day, we had 82 sack lunches taken by students,” Schamberger said. “We were happy to serve them with sack lunches on School Improvement day, which was an early dismissal day for students.”
• The Prize Closet, where Central School students make purchases using Clipper Cash, is being stocked by suggestions from students and teachers. The Central School PTC supports the PBIS program.
• Central’s Students of the Month were recognized during the SIP assembly.
• On Sept. 4, the University of Illinois Extension presented a program titled, “Better Brains: Play,” which emphasized that play is an important part of brain development for young children. The program also showed parents how to support play at home.
• Second Step presentations began on Sept. 11 with Edie Peterson and Liz Spaulding from the YWCA of the Sauk Valley giving the program. Second Step gives programs on Social Emotional Learning and includes discussion on self-regulation skills, emotion management, problem solving skills and bullying prevention.
• On Sept. 5, Central School hosted the first Parent University for parents of students in grades kindergarten-12. “It was kind of a low turnout but those that came were happy with the information they received,” Schamberger said. “We had sandwiches from the deli and we provided child care. The people who came enjoyed it. We plan to do another one maybe next semester.”
Nichols discussed changes to the meal charging policy, due to state requirements. Formerly, when students had five meals charged, they were given an alternate meal of peanut butter, milk and fruit. “That is no longer okay,” he said. “The state has changed it so we have to allow up to $500 in charges before we can even talk to the family about it and give a secondary meal.
The district is now archiving its Facebook pages. Because Facebook is a public record, Nichols said the district has to be able to show proof of any post that was ever deleted, edited or changed. They also have to show they are being consistent and fair with the reasons for editing. “As a school district, we’re supposed to be able to produce those,” he said.
The board approved a pair of two-year coop agreements with nearby school districts. In the first, Amboy will coop with Ashton Franklin Center, LaMoille and Ohio for wrestling for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Nichols said all practices and home meets will be held in Amboy and the other school districts will be responsible for transporting their wrestlers to and from Amboy.
The second agreement is with Ohio to consolidate baseball and softball for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Crownhart said as of now, Ohio does not have any baseball players and they do not expect any in the next couple years but they do expect to have two softball players this year.
Following closed session, the board approved the employment of Ashley Kreiser as a paraprofessional at Central School, effective Aug. 19, and Jaclynn Koch as a health aide at Amboy High School, effective Aug. 23.
The next regular board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Central School. The Finance Committee will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, also at Central School. All meetings are open to the public.