After IVC Superintendent Chad Allison gave the highlights of IVC District 321 at the State of District breakfast Saturday, participants chose from seven sessions to attend.

Participants could chose two breakout sessions to attend, which were presented by district officials or school principals, including:
• Common Core at IVC by Allison
• District financial update by Patrick Hatfield
• New teacher evaluation system by Mike Bethel and Pat Auge
• Elementary standards based report cards by Brooke Geltmaker and Kelli Brabson
• District anti-bullying campaign by Jennifer Freeman and Beth Gundy
• The future of technology at IVC by Dustin Birkel
• County school facilities sales tax by Dr. Dave Kinney

Many remained in the auditorium as Allison explained more about the Common Core learning standard.

Allison explained some of the background on how it began, including its roots with the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

The premise behind NCLB was that by 2014 all schools would have 100 percent of its students meeting or exceeding standards. Allison said he and other school officials know that simply will not happen.

States give different tests to students, and some states were meeting that 100 percent by simply having an easier test, Allison said.

Research by the Fordham Institute gave the United States a "D" in English language arts and mathematics.

With obvious conflicting data, Common Core creates national learning standards and testing.

Common Core has become a political football with the schools caught in the middle, Allison said, but added there are good ideals within Common Core.

For example, under the math standards, mental math is stressed.

"We want our kids to be thinkers," Allison said.

Teachers will be giving students more options in how to get an answer, Allison said.

In English language arts and literacy, a focus of more non-fiction reading is being stressed, including even the mathematics side with increased story problems.

For more on the standards, Allison suggested residents see online at www.isbe.net/common_core.

The end goal is to better prepare students for college and a global society, especially in dealing with reading.

"The gap between the complexity of college and high school texts is huge," Allison said.

Allison mentioned both public and school concerns about Common Core as well.

Telling participants he is not a "fan of tests," the superintendent said the new standards will eventually involve more testing from kindergarten students through high school via computer.

With the state already facing financial issues and decreasing school funding, "the timing of this is just horrendous," Allison said.

Some parents are concerned about a database that will collect students' personal information, which Allison said the district currently is not using.

At the conclusion of Allison's talk, he said the information he presented should be added to the district's website this week.

Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hatfield tackled the district's financial situation in his session.

Hatfield explained how state funding affects the district and gave some historical trends.

For example, a "big item" currently is transportation for schools.

Within District 321, some 450,000 miles are driven throughout the course of a year.

With about 2,200 students in the district, about 1,700 are bused.

It used to be that schools would receive 100 percent of its transportation reimbursement claims by the state.

Then when property tax fund revenue declined, especially in Chicago and the suburbs, those school districts needed more transportation funding, Hatfield said, driving the amount of claims up.

The amount the state appropriated then is not enough, so it is prorated to the schools, and currently has been cut 39.4 percent.

Add to that the state prorated its general state aid per student to 89 percent funding, and next year could be 85 percent, Hatfield said.

With all the funding cuts, Hatfield remained confident that the district is doing its best to make "reasonable cuts that don't significantly affect students."

At the high school, Hatfield said 45 sections of classes were cut to better use resources.

"We did it in a very strategic way," Hatfield said.

With cuts to district administration, custodial and maintenance, district technology, full time employees and supplies/capital outlay, Hatfield said the district will dig into its reserves some to make up the difference, along with a small increase in user fees.

That does not mean that more changes are not on the horizon.

Hatfield said next up is looking to see if bus routes can be made more efficient to reduce the district's transportation costs.

Some state officials, however, are looking to shift more of school costs to the school district.

One idea is to have each downstate school district pay its own Teachers Retirement System pensions rather than the state. Chicago teachers are on a different system.

If that happened, Hatfield estimated that IVC would have an additional expense of $800,000 to $900,000 annually.
No matter what looms ahead, school funding issues are occurring all over Illinois.

"These aren't things that impact just IVC, but I think we handle it better than most," Hatfield said.