School board learns of poor test scores and a temporary hold on winter sports season

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AMBOY – Test scores are down and winter sports are paused but so far Amboy students are still able to attend school in person. 

Reporting at the Nov. 17 board of education meeting, teachers Shauna Dinges and Yvonne Vicks gave a detailed presentation of reading and math test results for Amboy Junior High. Two tests were given to 5th-8th grade students, the STAR and the easyCBM. 

Comparing the winter 2019 scores to fall 2020 scores, many of the percentages fell significantly. While a few scores stayed the same from last year to this year, and a small number improved, Dinges and Vicks expressed some skepticism about any large improvements because of the possibility that remote students got help from an adult while taking the test.

But Dinges emphasized that the low scores and the teachers’ concerns about students falling behind are not a problem only in Amboy. 

“The whole country is in the same boat,” she said.

She also noted that they were not able to give students the hardest test, which would normally be used in compiling the averages. 

“It’s hard to know where we are using two tests compared to three tests but that’s what we have,” Dinges said.

Both teachers said social/emotional learning is key for students right now. They explained that students are able to talk about what is happening in general, their goals, friendships, and other concerns. 

“These are things they may not talk to their parents about and they need this more than ever this year,” Dinges said.

Superintendent Joshua Nichols said the IHSA was likely to temporarily pause school sports based on the governor’s announcement earlier that day regarding statewide mitigations, which started on Nov. 20. [Editor’s note: The IHSA announced on Nov. 19 that all IHSA sports would cease by Nov. 20 for a short-term pause. The IHSA plans to meet again on Dec. 2 for further discussion regarding sports and again on Dec. 14, if necessary.]

Nichols also updated the board on in person and remote learning. Amboy schools have been able to hold in person classes since school started in August and going forward, the district will continue taking it day by day. In addition, the district will keep using the guidance that was approved by the board during the summer. 

“It has worked well and is flexible enough to keep in place but we can revisit it at any time,” he said. 

Nichols pointed out that the biggest potential problem he sees is with staffing because there is a huge shortage of substitute teachers to fill in when teachers are out sick or quarantined. He also noted that the principals have been stepping in to cover the teacher absences so in person classes can continue. Currently, about 27-30 percent of Amboy students are doing remote learning.

PRINCIPALS’ REPORTS

Amboy High School Principal Janet Crownhart congratulated November Student of the Month Mallory Powers.

Curriculum and School Improvement

● The SIP day was held Oct. 21. SEL and Transitional Teams met to discuss the next few weeks of homeroom.

● On the Nov. 16 SIP day, staff participated in the annual armed intruder drill with the help of Lt. Frye and Deputy Kellen from the Lee County Sheriff’s office and Officers Lester and Smith from the Amboy police department. Drills with the students were planned for Nov. 18.

● Senior students took their SAT on Oct. 14 at the Community Building with the make-up test held on Oct. 27. Students have already received their results.

School Activities

● Crownhart congratulated the boys cross country team on finishing 3rd in Sectionals and ranked 10th as a team in 1A. If this had been a “normal” year, the team would have qualified for the State meet. She also congratulated Brock Loftus on his ShaZam race at Chillicothe.

● Crownhart commended Kelton Schwamberger, Dana Merriman and Courtney Ortgiesen for being selected to ILMEA District 8 Senior Band.

● On Nov. 11, the high school honored those that have served and are currently serving our country during morning announcements.

● Spanish Honor Society and Student Council hosted a blood drive on Nov. 13 at the Community Building.

● The volleyball team has been cleaning yards for a donation to the CGH Women’s Health Foundation.

Principal Andrew Full, Amboy Junior High 

Curriculum and School Improvement

• Nov. 4-6, Mr. Olson attended a three-day virtual training on the Wilson Reading Program.

• On Nov. 5, a faculty meeting was held to discuss the schedule, show results of the school day survey, discuss Veterans Day, and the new rotations.

PBIS

• The monthly PBIS celebration/assembly took place over Google Meets on Nov. 2 and the following awards were handed out (October):

Students of the Month

5th Grade- Charlotte Patterson and Damian Bender

6th Grade- Aaron Costner and Aubrey McGuire

7th Grade- Myla Davis and Marcus Larsen

8th Grade- Brooklyn Strub and Cordia Ascensio

P.E.- Caden Noble and Andrew Hummel

Clipper P.R.I.D.E.- Aaron Costner, Landon Carter, Ty Florschuetz, Lily Yanez, Leighton Gulley, Lainey Davis, Karagen Welch, Grace Althaus, Maddix Beyer, Ella Noble, Gage Mumm, Tyrah Vaessen, Brenna Fields, Alainie Wittenauer, Kaydence Roath, Sadee Benavidez, Victor Lopez-Belmontes, Landon Donna, Colt McCoy, Jasmine Scott, and Lexi Davis.

Faculty and Staff Recognition Winners- Ms. Kaylee Jones and Mrs. Scotlyn Schabacker

• Also on Nov. 2, the 1st quarter PBIS celebration was held. Students were able to watch a movie and were given a treat bag on their way out of school.

School Activities

• Oct. 22-23, AJHS held virtual Parent/Teacher Conferences. The participation rates were:

5th Grade- 58%

6th Grade- 49%

7th Grade- 33%

8th Grade- 31%

5th-8th average- 42% (71% last year)

• As of Nov. 10, 46 out of 236 AJHS students were learning remotely (19.5%).

Principal Joyce Schamberger, Central Elementary 

Curriculum

• Central School staff along with deputies from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and Amboy Police Department helped train students on dangerous intruders in the school. Two short videos were shown that helped explain to the younger students the importance and reason for this drill. There is also a book that is recommended by the ALICE Training.

• The remote learning committee met on Nov. 4 to discuss school wide plans to prepare in case the entire school has to go remote. One teacher from each grade, two special education teachers, specials and Title teachers also took part in the planning. Continued planning is occurring.

School Activities

• The Book It Incentive party for those who make their November reading goals will be a “mystery.” Each month students who make their reading goals will receive a gift. Students are to put together all the clues of the mystery gifts and guess the reason behind the mystery of the school.

OTHER BUSINESS

• The board approved the tentative levy after a presentation given by Nichols. Values have increased for residential property (5.5%) and farmland (7.6%) with decreases in commercial property (1.56%), mineral (turbines) (4%) and industrial property (5.54%). The 2020 estimated EAV/property values have increased by $12,420,203 (8.2%). 

Last year, property values increased by 4.88%. CPI is 2.3% this year and the estimated (capped) levy request will be 4.73 with a likely tax rate of 5.5257. 

Nichols also noted that local revenue is 83.1% of funding for the district compared to the state average of 66% for local funding. 

A levy hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 21.

• Joe Heavner, AHS ag teacher, requested board approval to sell some old, surplus shop equipment that is no longer needed. Items include drill presses, band saws and old welders. Heavner said that would open up some space and give students more room to work. Any proceeds received could be used to purchase new equipment. The board will discuss the request and vote at a future meeting. 

• Nichols said school districts have been forewarned that the state might have to prorate categorical funding for next year, however, the state does not plan to touch the evidence based funding. 

• Building construction on the new junior high and high school gym are moving forward. Nichols said most of the structural steel is done as is 95 percent of the precast panels and they are still on track to have enough construction completed so indoor work can continue during the winter months.

The next regular board meeting and levy hearing will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at Central School. All meetings are open to the public.