RANTOUL — The Rantoul City Schools annual report was the hot topic at last Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting. The board will also consider a tax increase at next month’s meeting. 

RCS Assistant Superintendent  Jennifer Frerichs, Director of Special Education Allison Didier and the five principals from the districts schools presented the report. 

The report showed the district has a diverse student population. The top four ethnic groups are white at 29.4 percent, Hispanic, 28.3 percent, black 27 percent and two or more races 14.6 percent.

The report also showed the  district has a significantly higher number of low-income students. The state average is 48.8 percent, whereas the RCS figure is made up of 79.7 percent low-income students.

The teacher retention at RCS is lower than the state average but has improved every year since 2016, the report indicated. Since 2016 the percentage has gone from 63 percent to 65 percent in 2017, 68 percent in 2018 and 70 percent in 2019. The state average was 88 percent in 2019. 

According to the 2019 Illinois state report card summary, three of the five schools performed better in 2019 than they did in 2018. Broadmeadow and Northview went from under-performing to commendable, and Eastlawn went from lowest performing to commendable. Pleasant Acres and J.W. Eater were underperforming in 2018 as well as in 2019. Each principal explained all areas of concerns and improvements, using data from Illinois State Board of Elections.

Referrals of a physical nature have gone down over the last three years. 

In 2017 the physical referrals were at 35 percent. In  2018 they were 32 percent, and in 2019 23 percent. Each school then presented their school improvement plan, which included instructional strategies and professional development to build on past improvements.

The board listened to the annual report and was given time to address the report.

Board member Andy Graham said he felt the report showed all the positives and not the things the district needs to work on.

“When we talked about this annual report, we talked about this not being for us as a board but for us as a community to help with economic development and to help our parents understand what is going on,” Graham said. “There is reason for celebration that we are growing, but there are concerns in our district. I  think if the concerns in our district are highlighted a little more in the annual report, that might raise an alarm for parents and grandparents to get more involved.”

Board member Saundra Uhlott spoke in favor of the annual report.

“I think we should emphasize the positives.” Uhlott said. “We have all recognized the negatives. As we recognized them last year, you attacked them all, and we are moving forward.” 

Speaking during the public forum portion of the meeting, resident Jack Anderson told his concerns for where the district was ranking across the state with its test scores. Anderson also said he was not in favor of raising the tax levy because the district has done that in the past without seeing any positive results. 

Tax levy increase proposal

In other business, the board discussed the tax levy being raised.

Graham said he wanted the levy to stay flat. 

The board was presented with two proposals. 

Proposal one has an estimated 2019 levy of $5,346,716, which is an increase of $379,133. 

Proposal two has an estimate of $5,215,334, which would be an increase of $247,751. 

The board will vote on the tax levy at December’s board meeting. 

Resident Wendell Golston asked for an apology from board President Bill Sweat in regard to a comment Sweat made last month. 

Sweat was quoted: “So apparently, I guess, my own personal opinion, we only need transparency when there’s a minority as president of the school board,” when speaking against the board packet being online before the meeting.

Sweat had no comment at last week’s meeting in that regard. 

The board will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19.

rbirch@rantoulpress.com