News Report Staff

Effingham Unit 40 School Board on Monday heard proposals for changing the student grading scale and the need for security changes at local schools.

Effingham Schools Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michelle Beck reviewed the reasons for changing the grading scale to the widely-used standard of 90 qualifying for an A grade, 80 for B, 70 for C and 60 for D. The school district now sets 93 as the limit for achieving an A grade.

“This is a standard our graduates find in college. It also determines scholarships. Some of our kids are losing out on sizable amounts of money. There are also good student insurance discounts that need to be considered,” Beck explained. “National research on education is based on the 90-60 grading scale.”

She noted Effingham is only one of two school districts in the Apollo Conference not using the 90-60 scale. She added the other school does not have a standard grading scale, but did not offer any judgmental comments on that fact.

Beck said the school district will have to consider different factors if it approves the change. These might range from graduation honors and the number of valedictorians or the number of students speaking at graduation.

For now, Beck said, most of the study for a change has been conducted on the high school level. More information is needed at other grade levels and buildings.

Board member Carol Ruffner asked if the change was approved then what group of students would be graded under the new scale. Beck said it would be difficult at the high school level to pick one grade with some classes having a mix of students at different grade levels.

The curriculum director said more feedback is needed from teaching staff at this point. The board members, all present during Monday’s meeting, will hear more on the proposal at a future meeting.

Ensuring the safety of students at different buildings was covered by Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox. Recent tours and discussions by experts and staff have called for the addition of more security cameras, panic buttons for the immediate alerting of law enforcement, entrance renovations and adding features like a sliding window so visitors not needing to enter schools can conduct business, like dropping off a coat or book, and leave quickly.

More details on the proposals will be presented at future meetings.

The school board approved several personnel actions, including employing Mary Jo Bushur, special education teacher for next year; Josaphine Westendorf, paraprofessional; Kim Knierim and Denise Willenborg, extended school year bus driver or aide; and Aaron Adams, Effingham Junior High School social studies teacher.

Seasonal staff hired for 2018 include Deb Blankenship, Katrina Eirhart, Teresa Fuesting, Jacob Hammer, Joshua Kinder, Sue Kinkelaar, Darlene Krietemeyer, Peggy Manley, Weston Peno, Parker Seachrist, Brandy Simmons, Logan Smith, Diane Tieffel and Wiley Wines. Employee transfers for next school year included Leah Colclasure to 7.5 hour cook at Central Grade School; Christin Hartke, EJHS math teacher; and Jim McElroy, 4-hour bus driver.

Aaron Adams was appointed coach as an assistant for high school football and junior high boys track. Lisa Sigg was appointed as a volunteer high school assistant basketball cheer coach.

Resignations were submitted by Kelsey Baker, a teacher, and Jamie Waldhoff, as an EHS library clerk, both for the end of the current school year. Lindsay Westendorf resigned as the EHS fall play director and Tyler Semple as freshman boys basketball coach.

In another personnel matter, Effingham Classroom Teachers Association Vice President Joanne Kassel read a statement to the board, criticizing the district for putting personnel information, including phone numbers, home addresses and Social Security numbers, of teachers through a website connection. The Association, Kassel said, demanded the district office block access to the information, and called it an invasion of privacy.

Kassel’s statement also labeled the self-insurance program for Unit 40 as adding an extra burden on many employees. She said teachers were hoping the contract dispute with the school district could be settled soon with a meeting on the negotiating teams. She said the Association is dedicated to bargaining in good faith and reaching a fair agreement for its members.

On Tuesday, Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said the district has compared the costs of its self-insurance to more traditional health insurance options through Blue Cross & Blue Shield and indicated savings of $197,050 during the 2015-16 Fiscal Year and $248,8123 during FY17. Those savings are passed onto the users, Doan said, not just the district.

He said no employee Social Security numbers are available on the Unit 40 website, but it does offer teacher salary and benefit information. Similar figures are offered for administrative salaries and benefits.

“This is public information and it has been posted since FY13. You can go on just about any school district website in the state and find the same information. But there are no Social Security numbers,” Doan said.

Student fees are remaining the same except for lunch prices at all grade levels. The board approved adding 10 cents to each lunch category to conform to a federal program trying to close the gap on costs for subsidized lunches in schools. There were no other changes in student fees for the 2018-19 school year, including the price of a half pint of milk.

In other business, the board approved the auditor contract with Glass & Shuffett Certified Public Accountants of Centralia, for a cost not to exceed $19,100. This covers the audit for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

The catastrophic insurance coverage renewal was approved for $1,390. This is the same price charged for the last two years.

If you want to get into the Hearts spirit again with an old athletic uniform then now’s your change. The school district will be selling dozens of discarded uniforms through a sale. The supply is limited so hurry. Beware, these are hand-me-downs used over many seasons and then put into storage.