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State of the District 2019
State of the District 2019
Dan Cox
Monday, January 28, 2019

With 2019 well underway, it is a time of renewal that serves as an opportunity to share with you, our school family and community, where we are as a District, celebrate the good things happening, and briefly share some of the challenges and the opportunities ahead.

The annual State of the District Report is a component of the District’s communication plan to improve upon communication, transparency, and trust. This report focuses on all aspects of the District, including a review of the school report card, review of the curriculum and instructional services, and recommendations based upon the information presented. With these points in mind, let’s review “The State of the District.”

The District currently has a total of 1,311 students enrolled. We have 940 students enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade and 371 students at Staunton High School. While many schools and communities are seeing their families move away I am proud to say that we have continued to maintain our enrollment over the last decade. This is a testament to our high quality schools and is also an attribute to the outstanding community we live in.

We have 7 Board members elected by the community to set policy and direction for the District. Employees of the District include 4 administrators, 71 certified teachers, and 48 classified staff including bus drivers, one chaperone, cooks, custodians, secretaries, teacher aides, one nurse, maintenance and transportation supervisors.

The District is located on 32 acres in a single building complex in Staunton. The entire school, Pre-K through grade 12 is housed in a series of interconnected buildings that share common grounds and facilities, such as the media center, cafeteria, and gymnasiums.

The School District, through an active partnership with families and community, will promote excellence in a caring environment in which all students will learn and grow. This partnership shall empower all students to develop a strong self-esteem and to become responsible learners and decision makers. The District is committed to developing and using a visionary and innovative curriculum and knowledgeable and dedicated staff.

This District continues to work toward strategic goals that were developed with the input of over 200 stakeholders. Within the strategic plan the vision and mission of Staunton CUSD #6 has been defined as “At Staunton Schools we expect everyone’s best: LEAD-CHALLENGE-ACHIEVE!” Specifically, our values are defined by:

  • Offering a wide range of academic and extracurricular opportunities;
  • Challenging all to learn and achieve;
  • Financial stability;
  • Expect everyone’s best.

We are now engaged in action steps for achieving the following goals:

  • Develop Leaders;
  • Improve communication, transparency, and trust;
  • Develop and implement a technology plan;
  • Provide social-emotional support for students.

In July of 2018 the District began the fiscal year with a fund balance of $4,028,626. The overall fund balance increased by $1,532,017 from the previous year. The District maintains nine funds within the budget, of those four are considered operating funds: Educational Fund, Operations and Maintenance Fund, Transportation Fund, and Working Cash Fund. Our current fiscal year 2019 (FY19) estimate for revenue within the operating funds is $9,956,664 and the FY19 estimate for expenditures is $9,964,981. It is important to understand that current budget numbers serve as more of a guide, as figures used as conservative projections of the year’s expenditures and revenues. Any one factor can dramatically change the calculations. While a deficit is shown for FY19 by the amount of $8,317, it is likely the District will have a balanced budget at the end of the year.  

During the financial crisis that first hit our district hard in 2012, the Board of Education and District employees past and present worked tirelessly with the support and backing of our community to reduce the District’s deficit spending by over $1.1 million; all the while we have been able to maintain a high level of program offerings and services for our students! We thank the taxpayers of our community because we can regularly count on receiving the tax dollars levied to support our schools.

After being under “Financial Review” for one year, the District has regained the highest financial rating of “Financial Recognition” from the Illinois State Board of Education. The District is beginning to gain a more sound financial footing due in large part to the historic reform we all advocated for that resulted in Evidence Based Funding for Schools. Now, for the first time in a long time, we are having conversations about where we can drive our dollars to have the greatest impact on student learning versus recommending where we can cut that will do the least harm. Right away our students and teachers have seen an immediate impact as a result of the funding.

At the start of the current school year the District was able to hire eight additional instructional employees: 5 teachers and 3 paraprofessionals. These positions were added to drive resources where they are needed the most: to reduce class size, provide academic and behavioral interventions, and to provide social emotional supports. Family and community engagement, school safety, social-emotional learning, and providing instructional resources to classrooms are other significant areas of improvement as a result of the funding.

This past June our District finished the fiscal year with the first balanced budget since 2009. We achieved this through making reductions, maximizing efficiencies, exercising patience, and raising revenue. EBF has been a significant factor for us to right the fiscal ship. Barring anything unforeseen, it is expected that we will close this fiscal year with a balanced budget as well. With this turnaround, we will see steady strategic gains as a result of stakeholder input and data driven decision making. While there is certainly a great deal of work ahead, it is exciting to now be able to have conversations about how we will invest our dollars to make the greatest impact on student learning!

As a state we are now known throughout the nation for having one of the most equitable school funding systems in the nation. After years of dysfunction, our state has left far too many children disadvantaged far too long. We have fixed the formula, but our students, teachers, and schools need a commitment from our legislature and governor for not only sustained support for funding our schools but also to increase that funding so that we as a state and local district are able to meet our adequacy target for funding. That is where we will continue to advocate because our students and teachers deserve nothing less than investment in student excellence.

The educators in our district family care deeply about the social and emotional well-being of the students we serve. As a result of these relationships and an overwhelming response from faculty, students, and families, we have identified culture and climate as our top district and school improvement priority. Over the past two years the faculty and staff from each school has had regular discussions, professional development, and improvements to current practice on trauma informed practice. We added counseling personnel and are in discussions of how we can add more. Staunton Elementary School has started Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports within their schools and it is off to an outstanding start. Just this week when greeting students at the door, a kindergarten student stopped to give me a high five and tell me he had received two “Terrier Tickets,” one for helping others and another for setting a good example. What a highlight of my day that was for that young person to share his accomplishment with me with such pride! At Staunton Junior High and High School we have added a new teacher who provides both academic interventions and social-emotional supports for students who are in most need. This has been an incredible success and will only get better. We have already seen an increase in student attendance and academic performance as a result of these supports.

This past fall our students, faculty, staff, and families participated in the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory. This provided us very in depth and detailed information about our overall culture and climate that we are still analyzing. We are looking forward to sharing more with you about what we learned both good and where we can improve in the coming months as we use this data as a part of our district improvement efforts.

This year Staunton Schools have partnered with The Safe School Helpline as a free and confidential way for our students and families to report bullying, school threats, or seek assistance with mental help 24/7. When it comes to school safety and student supports, our own students and families are our greatest assets. That’s why we ask that when you see something, say something! Students and our families deal with problems that arise at school frequently. Most of us do the right things for the right reasons all of the time and want to help our schools continue to improve. At times, students and families overhear information that they may not feel like they can share or they don’t know where to share it. When someone steals, uses drugs in schools, bullies, threatens violence, or commits illegal actions, it can hurt all of us. Now you can use the Safe School Helpline to report this information anonymously. Please see the school safety section of our website and our District news story for more information about the help line.

The District has outstanding family contact and involvement. Families attend Back to School Nights, Open Houses, interscholastic events, and are involved with their child’s education. As our district strives to build upon family engagement strategies and social emotional supports for students, we continuously look for ways to communicate with families to meet their needs. We are excited to announce that our district is piloting a Parent Teacher Home Visit program beginning in February to build even better bridges of trust between our schools and families. Our hopes are to build upon our existing relationships and community support for our schools to increase student academic and developmental growth, build skills and understanding in between teachers and families, to improve our overall school climate, attendance, and achievement, and to increase our overall cultural competence and connections.   

Offering a wide variety of extra-curricular, co-curricular and fine arts is a core value of the District strategic plan. Our Fine Arts programs are a key component of our community engagement. Crowds pour into our schools to see the outstanding talent displayed by students in our concerts, plays, art show, and fine arts night! The band program continues to impress as one of the top small school bands in our area. And how about those new uniforms, they are sharp and when our band is on the field or marching down the street the entire community of Staunton is proud!  Choir and drama put on many outstanding performances throughout the year. We are proud that we were able to expand our music offering this year and are in discussion about how he can add more fine arts offerings for our students. Staunton boasts a wide variety of extra-curricular sports and clubs. While we have seen much success from our athletic teams in recent years, victories and defeats are merely a small part of what makes our extra-curricular activities important. But what really matters is the high quality young people who participate. Our students who participate have outstanding work ethic, drive and are just all around great young people as evidenced by their academic achievement, leadership, and community service! Our students who have so much talent and dedication in representing our schools are truly amazing and for that fact we are very proud! Despite all the accolades, the greatest success of our programs at both our junior high and high schools are the values that our coaches, sponsors, directors, and volunteers work to instill within the young people involved in our many programs! The commitment, mentorship, and care these people give to our students is to be held in high regard.

Through our shared vision for technology as part of the district strategic plan our staff set out with a goal for this vision to become reality by planning to transition to 1:1 technology in our schools. With the help of the Staunton Education Foundation’s $25,000 donation the District was able pilot 1:1 technology to all 5th and 9th grade students who were issued personal Chromebooks as part of their instructional resources. It has been both inspirational and exciting to see our students and teachers working and learning together as we see our instructional practices evolving to meet our students learning styles!  

A huge success this year has been our partnership with Opaa! Food Services to improve upon the breakfast and lunch offerings we provide our students. We now have a wide variety of made from scratch food that is delicious and nutritious. Providing these healthy meals that students enjoy is an important part of what we do to help our students be their best. What I truly appreciate about our kitchen staff is their pride in their work and the relationships they are building with students and staff. Our cafeteria is a place you want to be!

Our students receive outstanding instruction in Mathematics, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Science, Art, Music, Physical Education, Foreign Language, Vocational Education and more! Our teachers are all highly qualified, care deeply about our students as individuals and learners, and nearly 50% of them hold a Master’s Degree or above. The ratio of certified staff and administrators to students is above the state average while salaries for both are below the state average.

Relationships between the Board of Education and the two collective bargaining units, the Staunton Federation of Teachers and the Custodial Council of the Staunton Federation of Teachers, are positive with all parties working collaboratively to provide the best learning and working environment possible. We value these relationships and appreciate our faculty and staff’s commitment to doing what is best for our students.

We are fortunate that this community supports the District with not only money but time as well! The Staunton Education Foundation, the Parent Teacher Organization, the Athletic Boosters Club, the Band Boosters Club, the FFA Alumni along with the Staunton Federation of Teachers, the Retired Teacher’s Association and many, many individuals, organizations and businesses support Staunton KIDS! Just this year we have started a new volunteer program at Staunton Elementary with an overwhelming response from our families! Thank you!

Our District focus is Student Learning!

Staunton Elementary School

Great learning opportunities begin at the Staunton Elementary School as children arrive in a safe community setting with a warm, dedicated and caring staff. The foundation for being successful students throughout school starts with our pre-kindergarten and primary grades, which are second to none. The response to intervention program in grades K-2 continues to be an area of focus as teachers build upon instructional strategies and interventions to help students succeed at their highest levels. This effort has expanded throughout grade levels and will continue to do so in future years.  It is exciting to see a love for learning being instilled within students from teachers and staff who are caring, innovative, and treats each child as one of their own. Grade level teams collaborate with each other in such a way that challenges their peers and students while encouraging everyone’s best. In addition to developing outstanding learners, it is a priority for Staunton Elementary to develop great people. Our students are the next generation’s leaders.

Staunton Junior High School

Staunton Junior High “lost” one outstanding leader in Mrs. Werden but gained another with Mr. McGowen being promoted to principal of Staunton Junior High and Mrs. Werden focuses her leadership at Staunton Elementary as we maximize our principals to best serve our teachers and students at all schools. When spending time around our students and teachers at SJH it takes only a moment to notice that relationships are at the center of all things that take place. As we all know these years are fun, exciting and very challenging. There is nobody better than our teachers at SJH to be there for our Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth graders as they experience new challenges, increased responsibility, more choices all the while navigating the social and emotional challenges of becoming teenagers. Teachers at SJH instruct students at a very high level and are on the cutting edge and continually strive to improve upon their craft of teaching. This attitude leads to engaging and exciting lessons for students. Lessons at SJH are differentiated, challenging, infused with technology from teachers who do an excellent job of preparing students for high school.

When it comes to community service and supporting those in need SJH students and teachers “get it.” Each and every year, led by the student council and a staff full of innovative teachers who lead by example and have fun with kids, it takes only a quick look at the many events that raise awareness and funds for those in need to highlight the caring attitude and civic mindedness of students and staff! For this we all should be very proud because we are getting a glimpse of our future community leaders.

Junior High Students are offered eleven extra and co-curricular programs in which they can participate throughout the school year. Many victories, championships, state appearances, and recognition are prevalent throughout our programs in recent years. Teams and individuals have had great success in athletics that builds momentum for high school. Band and Chorus continue to build the foundation for what is a strong tradition of excellence in the Staunton Fine Arts Programs. It never ceases to amaze me to see our programs grow in excellence each year. During concerts it is common, and fun I might add, to hear spectators comment that our student’s performances sound as good as many high school programs!

This year we were able to expand elective courses at SJH with agriculture education and technology in music being two of our more popular offerings. Looking ahead to the future we plan to increase upon intervention supports we initially expanded this year in terms of academic and social emotional supports, we plan to add special needs and core instruction teachers, and are continuing to discuss how we can expand elective offerings.  

Staunton High School

Freshmen through Seniors attend Staunton High School. SHS is known for excellence and continues to be a top tier school for academic learning as faculty and staff work very hard to prepare students for whatever path they may choose among the endless possibilities. Teachers strive for and ensure that our students are well prepared. Twenty-two dual credit classes are offered providing students rigorous coursework, a head start in post-secondary education, and help families financially. The Vocational Department offers thirty-four classes in agriculture, business, family consumer science, and technology. The Fine Arts Department is overflowing with students as they choose art, band, and choir. Students are active as there are many clubs, organizations, and athletic teams for students to join and earn valuable leadership skills, a mindset of teamwork, and grow socially and emotionally. All of these things point to the high graduation rate and number of freshmen on track at Staunton High School.

SHS has had an amazing fall! And I am proud to have with us tonight our best and brightest, our Illinois State Scholars. These students represent our best of the best and are to be celebrated for not only their excellence but they also serve as examples of the rich academic tradition SHS has to offer. Just this past fall nearly 200 students were recognized during the annual Academic Awards Banquet for their achievements and heard an inspirational message from Senator Andy Manar. Behind the successes of our students are our families, teachers, and staff! Inside and outside of the classroom our students are talented, work exceptionally hard, and they excel! Their performance is a treat for all and everyone should be very proud!  

What is the State of the District?

Staunton Schools are a source of pride within our community. Students are successful because of the outstanding relationships between them, their teachers, and support staff. As schools, we succeed because of the support from our community in time, money, and a belief in what we are doing to help everyone be their best!

Over the past year we have specifically worked on the following:

  • Student learning is our highest priority.
  • Driving our new resources to the students and classrooms in the greatest need.
  • Lowering class size.
  • Expanded upon programs and services.
  • Providing healthy, nutritious and delicious breakfast and lunch offerings for students and staff.
  • Providing for instructional supports for teachers and students.
  • Expanded upon and enhanced extra and co-curricular programs.
  • Continually improving upon overall school safety.
  • Provided for a positive and safe culture and climate where we meet the social and emotional needs of our school community.
  • Continuing to build trust between the board, administration, faculty, staff, parents, students, and community.
  • Building teacher leadership capacity.
  • Continuing to advocate for our students and schools because they deserve nothing less than the best..
  • We have meet our goal of financial stability by balancing the budget, achieving financial recognition, and will now continue to work to make sound financial decisions
  • Demonstrating open, transparent, two way communication with stakeholders.
  • Being the difference for each other and our community.
  • Enjoying every opportunity to do our best while expecting the best from our students each and every day!

We certainly have much to be proud of and much to celebrate but there are challenges that we are ready to face head on. A decade of financial crises where our student and teachers were supported with only 58% of the funding that is deemed adequate to be successful took its’ toll. But the good news is we are now moving onward in a positive direction. District and school leadership teams have been formed and have identified our most critical areas of improvement. As a team, we are on the outset of a journey where we will engage in intense training, analysis, discussions and actions about what we can improve and take action upon that. Yes, there will certainly be more challenges ahead but in this State of the District Speech I hope you have heard   a message of hope. As we try to solve some existing challenges and as we encounter new ones don’t look at them as a negative, instead see the challenges that lie ahead as our greatest opportunities for growth!

Moving forwarded will continue to:

  • Rebuild from the damage that was done after years of the State underfunding our schools in an inequitable manner.
  • Prioritize programs and services to restore and add that will have the greatest return on investment for student learning outcomes.
  • Build a Culture and Climate that is second to none.
  • Keep Student Learning and Development as our highest priority.
  • Meeting the district’s adequacy target over the next decade.
  • Meet the growing needs of students and families.
  • Assessing the local funding capacity target.
  • Advocate for continued and additional State funding.
  • Start our overall District and school improvement process with an action plan that is measurable and share those plans with stakeholders.

As superintendent, I am both humbled and honored to serve in a community that has great pride and support for its’ schools! The community of Staunton and our schools are truly special places. Despite the challenges and adversity we face due to things outside of our control, we will continue to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. Each day our families send us their best, their children. And it is our children who deserve no less than our best. I am looking forward to what lies ahead in 2019 for Staunton Schools, our students, faculty, staff, families, and community. Here is to leading, challenging, and achieving to do our best each and every day!

 

Be the Difference,

 

Dan W. Cox

Superintendent of Schools