One of the questions asked concerned the school's satisfaction with
Jennifer Kascel, who was hired last month by the board as a
part-time instructional aide and as the new first-aid coordinator.
Kascel's job as first-aid coordinator involves gathering data on the
students as to their health and any medications they may need to
The board responded by saying that they have been very happy with
Kascel's performance so far in both of her positions.
While on the topic of medical-related news, Superintendent
Jennifer Hamm gave an update as to the large number of students with
the norovirus that caused the school to let out early Nov. 2.
"It was not a foodborne illness," said Hamm. She said the school
has been working with the health department in making sure the
school has stayed clean. Hamm also said she has heard that the
virus, commonly associated with the stomach flu, has hit a few other
students in other school districts in the area.
A guest in the audience asked how the board felt about the new
buses they have been using. These buses also feature cameras as part
of a security system.
Hamm answered by saying that the new buses have been proven so
far to be a great improvement. While on the topic of transportation,
Hamm also said that the school has gone from five bus routes to
A question as to the state of the education fund was raised.
Hamm took the opportunity to give a brief explanation as to the
fluctuations in the education fund over the last 10 years. The
education fund is used primarily to pay teacher salaries and
benefits for teachers.
While some people may believe that the school is spending too
much from the education fund, the real problem is not the spending,
but much lower revenue to draw on. The school could not have
predicted the educational support fallout that began in 2008.
"Say what you will about Blagojevich, but he spent a lot of money
on education," said Hamm.
During 2008 and 2009, the state withheld nearly $107,000 from CEL.
Between the change in state spending and the late payments, CEL,
like other schools, has had a difficult time adjusting to such
Furthermore, the school has been able to refrain from terminating
faculty due to a relatively high number of retirements. In the past
two years, five faculty members have retired, and the school did not
refill those positions.
[to top of second column]
Guests asked for an update on the problems the school is facing
in following new USDA lunch guidelines.
Hamm said the issue would be revisited during the board meeting
following the Q-and-A and that on Wednesday the students would be
eating a Thanksgiving-style meal, regardless of the new guidelines.
Hamm said this would be a very exciting day for the students, and
the special meal would be a relatively formal event. More than one
parent in the audience said their child was very excited about it.
Board member Leslie Starasta commented on another lunch issue
that was raised last month. Some parents are worried that their
students are not being given enough time to eat. Starasta said she
sat in on a few lunches and that there is "plenty of time for the
students that want to eat their lunch."
A question was asked as to the progress on the plans for new
building projects. The board is still in the process of deciding
what will be done, though there was a presentation on a possible
time frame at the board meeting after the session. Hamm also
reported that so far, $8,500 has been spent on the resident
Hamm also emphasized that the money used to pay for any school
upgrade will come from the 1 percent sales tax, not the education
fund. Furthermore, the board is looking into a bonding process to
help pay for the improvements, and Hamm said they will do everything
possible to keep the tax rate at 2.7 percent.
Hamm also reported on the recent upgrade of the windows in the
section of the school that was built in 1967. The new windows are
coated with a special tinting that makes it very difficult for
anyone to see into the classrooms, yet natural sunlight is still
Board members present were Keith Birnbaum, president; Kenny
Golden, vice president; Tina Warfel; Larry Hall; Ben Roland; Leslie
Starasta; and Superintendent Jennifer Hamm..
[By DEREK HURLEY]