RTHS shifts from leasing to buying drivers ed cars

RANTOUL — After years of leasing drivers education cars, Rantoul Township High School has begun to purchase them.

“As we were about to do a new lease, we found out that the company that leases to Shields (Auto Center) decided not to do schools anymore,” Superintendent Scott Amerio told the board at Monday’s meeting.

When that lease expired a few months ago, Shields worked out an arrangement, but “we knew that was a temporary fix,” Amerio said.

The board approved the purchase of a new car, a 2017 model, from Shields at a cost of $17,893. The monthly payment is about $30 more than the lease payment.

Amerio said he thought a new car was the best choice because he was wary of a used car breaking down. A second lease will expire soon, and he is open to considering a low-mileage used car to replace that vehicle.

“I wanted one really reliable,” he said.

Students put about 8,000 miles on a drivers education car annually. But Amerio said the concern wasn’t as much the mileage as the wear and tear from so much stop-and-go driving.

Budget preparation
The board also directed Amerio to prepare a budget for the 2018-2019 school year.

“We like to have a budget, at least a good idea of it, by March in case we need to make any staffing decisions (before the end of the school year),” Amerio said.

What will make the process rather tricky is that he is in the dark about revenue. The district is due additional funding based on the new funding model, but the state continues to send the same base funding the district received last year.

“Once we see the new money, it will give us a better idea about revenue for next year,” he said.

He hopes he will know more after he attends upcoming workshops on the funding model and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“They’ll walk us through how that specifically will look in our district,” he said.

Property tax appeal
In other financial matters, Amerio reported the district continues to fight a property tax assessment appeal by Golfview Village. Attempts to settle were unsuccessful and a hearing last month ended with a decision by the county appeals board to side with the district. The appeal will go next to the state Property Tax Appeals Board.

Amerio also reported the district received $48,848 from the county school facilities sales tax.

The board also approved nine amended board policies.

In regard to personnel matters, the board approved the hiring of Nathan Shepherd as teacher aide and Tyler Sims as in-school suspension supervisor; and the retirement of bus driver Mary Loy.

Student of the month Hannah Combs was recognized, as was Shields Auto Center for a $1,200 donation for post-prom activities.

Languages presentation
The languages team presented a department update. English 1,2,3,4, Speech and Dual Credit/Advanced Placement teachers described the goals they had set for student achievement and strategies for getting there.

Goals for most of the courses were set at at least 90 percent of students passing. When teachers found mid-semester that students weren’t on track, they intervened with additional one-on-one help in class or study hall. Goals were met or exceeded in most of the courses.

Another goal is to encourage reading for enjoyment by incorporating free reading time into the class period.

“We were talking as a team about noticing the lack of enjoyment of free reading by students,” language team leader Hannah Yeam said. “There is a strong correlation between strong reading skills and strong writing skills. So we’re trying to build a love of reading into the curriculum.”

Spanish teachers Emily Bayer and Jennifer Fowler described efforts to make learning and assessments more relevant.

“We do a lot of readings that are not from the textbook,” Bayer said. “It’s time consuming, but we see the benefits.”

Readings used are “authentic,” which means they are written by Spanish speakers for Spanish speakers.

A new assessment method “puts more of the responsibility for learning on the student, as opposed to the teacher who takes a step back and becomes the facilitator in that process. Lots of students want to give the responsibility back at first,” Fowler said.

For a recent assessment, students were given articles about winter celebrations in Spanish-speaking countries. They were asked to interpret the articles, then were divided into groups to make a presentation to the class and as a final step formed new groups to debate the topic.

“I felt they were extremely engaged. It was really cool to see,” Fowler said. “There was no goof-off time. They had an immediate purpose for learning this assessment.”

The board went into closed session to consider a student disciplinary matter.



Categories (2):News, Education


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