Beaming ear to ear with excitement for a new building and a new school year, Principal William Milnamow of Betsy Ross Elementary School finally had the chance to show off the school’s highly anticipated building renovations as the District 91 board of education held its regular meeting in the school’s new multipurpose room on Thursday, Sept. 11.
Prior to discussing district action items for the board, Milnamow spent 20 minutes leading the school board and community guests through the newly renovated spaces at Betsy Ross. Celebrated spaces included an improved library with lower shelving units and a small reading nook, renovations to the north playground, a new outdoor learning facility complete with an outdoor chalkboard, additional administrative office spaces and remodeled classrooms and flooring.
As Betsy Ross is now in the final stages of the construction project, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Edward Brophy said even though property tax revenue is on track for the first fiscal quarter, final invoices for the construction project will be issued over the next couple of months and will most likely show expenditures in the yellow or red on the board’s finance dashboard.
“The reason for that is because we’re paying the bills for this project which are high dollar items this time of year,” said Brophy. “Beyond that, all [district] finances are on track as they should be this time of year.”
At the public hearing held by the board earlier that evening, the board approved the annual budget for the 2015 fiscal year which consists of total revenue of $15,810,265 and total expenditures of $21,999,796. Total fund balance reserves are expected to decline by about $4,100,000 with reflections on one-time expenditures that were incorporated into the budget including new playground equipment and fencing at all schools, the replacement of two to three school buses and upgrades to classroom lighting and ambient systems. Additional expenditures for fiscal year 2015 included new materials for math and reading aligned with Common Core state standards and staff development for new teaching methods in sync with the state standards.
Dist. 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo also provided a report on total district enrollment stating that enrollment is down but is nothing alarming.
“[Enrollment decreases are] not based on issues with the schools, but based on birth rates and predictions in Cook County,” Cavallo said.
Current enrollment for kindergarten through eighth grade in Forest Park is at 761 students, a decrease of 51 students from last year. However, when considering the 88 students currently enrolled in district preschool, the total number of district enrollment jumps to 849 students.
Regarding district goals, the board unanimously approved two goals it hopes to achieve by June 1, 2015. The first goal promotes that the board will “assess community perception on board effectiveness as it relates to accountability and transparency to the community” and the second promises that the board will “identify the community’s current core values as they relate to elementary education.”
Board President Francis Mott thanked the board for developing the goals and said he hoped the board will collectively check up on itself to ensure that goals are being met.
“Much discussion was had to develop not only the goals but the strategies and mantras,” Mott said. “I would like to propose that at least quarterly or maybe more often that, the board reports to itself and has a discussion based on progress towards these goals.”
The next regular meeting for Dist. 91 is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.