RANTOUL — The Rantoul City Schools district’s proposed tax rate for 2019 is 4.9422 per $100 equalized assessed valuation.

The RCS school board discussed the tax levy at its November meeting Thursday.

The proposed tax rate is a decrease of .0274 cents over last year’s rate, which ended up being 4.9696. The average RCS tax bill for a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000 could see a decrease of $9.12, but with the district being limited to the Consumer Price Index rate, the most likely decrease will be around $14.20. Last year’s CPI rate was 2.1 percent.

The district’s equalized assessed valuation is estimated to increase by 5.57 percent. The EAV is projected to be $103,002,951 and $345,170 for new construction (last year new construction was $369,790 and the year before was $98,220). The average increase in EAV from 2000-2017 was 0.34 percent. Stagnant EAV and low CPI contribute to the increase in tax rates.

"We don’t know what the final EAV will be. This is just an estimate," RCS Superintendent Michelle Ramage said. "Remember, we have to guess.  If we don’t capture the increase now we will never be able to recover those dollars."

The district has the highest property tax rate in Champaign County because Rantoul has the lowest EAV in the county.

The board approved the tax levy 4-2, with Kevin McAllister and Andy Graham voting "no." Board secretary John Brotherton was not present.

"This is the tentative tax levy," Ramage said. "We are still dissecting the data. If we have changes between now and the board approval next month, we will keep you posted."

Since the projected increase of the EAV does not exceed 5 percent, no truth-in-taxation hearing is required.

Safe Routes to School passes

The board unanimously approved the Safe Routes to School resolution, which was approved by the village at its November meeting.

The total cost estimate for the SRTS project, estimated to begin in spring 2019, is about $256,000, which is $56,000 more than the grant award. The village pledged the maximum grant amount of $200,000 and is asking RCS to approve a resolution to cover the extra potential amount of $56,000 and recommends the board expand it to $100,000 in case the cost is higher than the estimate.

If the project costs more than $200,000, as expected, the district will pay the cost. It is estimated to be no more than $56,000.

The prime objective of the SRTS project is to improve Northview students’ ability to walk and bike safely to and from school. The proposed route will connect an existing multi-use path north of the school to the school building.

Due to the large number of parents, buses and daycare buses all dropping off and picking up students, the board agreed it is important to provide improvements to the flow of traffic and provide some separation of movement and improved safety for the students walking and biking to school.

The district intends to provide paved sidewalks from the Sheldon Street crosswalk at Northview and provide separation of activities at the school to improve safety for the students accessing the school.

Of the $100,000 the district is providing in the resolution, about $25,000 will go to engineering for the spring/summer of 2019, and $75,000 for construction in 2019 and spring 2020. The village has fronted the cost of the initial work of an engineer for about $8,000.

RCS summative designation data

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Frerichs and the principals at RCS (Tom Majers, Broadmeadow; Chris Forman, Eastlawn; Kelly Mahoney, Northview; Becky Krall,

Pleasant Acres; Dr. Scott Woods, Eater) presented the RCS summative designation data.

There are four designations for each of the five schools: Exemplary, commendable, underperforming and lowest performing.

"Exemplary" schools have no under-performing student groups and perform within the top 10 percent statewide. "Commendable" schools also have no under-performing groups but didn’t make the top 10 percent. "Under-performing" schools have at least one student group performing at or below the "all students group" of the lowest 5 percent of the state’s Title 1 schools, while schools in the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1 schools receive a "lowest-performing" designation.

RCS received the following designations. All five schools were designated as "underperforming," with Eastlawn being designated as "lowest performing."

Eater: Overall designation was "underperforming" and "commendable" for seven of nine student groups: All, white, Hispanic or Latino, two or more races, english learners, former english learners, and low income. Eater scored in the underperforming range for black and IEP student groups with math proficiency being the lowest area.

Broadmeadow: Overall designation was "underperforming" and "commendable" for three of five student groups: All, white and low income. It scored as underperforming in the black and Individualized Education Program student groups with math proficiency being the lowest area. Its

Eastlawn: "Lowest performing" in all five student groups with math growth being the lowest area.

Northview: Overall designation was "underperforming" and "commendable" for five of seven student groups: All, white, two or more races, english learners, and low income. It scored as underperforming in the black and IEP student groups with chronic absenteeism being an area of concern.

Pleasant Acres: Overall designation was "underperforming" and "commendable" for two of five student groups: All and low income. PA scored as "underperforming" in the black, Hispanic or Latino and english learner student groups with math proficiency being the lowest area.

"Chronic absenteeism" was marked as the biggest concern among the five schools.

To combat some of these issues, starting the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, the district began implementing a new, standards-aligned math curriculum K-8, increased rigor in English Language Arts and writing K-8, hired seven full-time instructional coaches to support teachers and strengthen instructional practices, purchased materials for special ed, strengthened Spanish/ESL programming and materials K-8, clarified and refined reporting practices around student absences, hired a position to conduct home visits for chronically absent students and created several committees to review data and programming with all stakeholders.

The designations bring additional funds to RCS with an additional $15,000 going to each building identified as "underperforming" and $100,000 going to Eastlawn for being identified as "lowest performing."

RCS administrators have a Saturday retreat scheduled in December to analyze, plan and determine how the funds will be used to support each school.

Personnel report

The board approved the hires of Ashley Dodson (Eater science teacher), Caleb Wilkerson (Pleasant Acres teaching assistant), Brittany Rutledge (Northview teaching assistant) and Jessica Holmes (Eater play sponsor).

The board also approved the resignations of Fan Huang (Eater teacher), Melisa DeRamus (special education teacher), Kirsten Kirkwood (Eater counselor), Yolanda Taylor Hudson (Northview teaching assistant), Suzanne Eichelberger (Pleasant Acres Pre-K teaching assistant), Leslie Coon (Northview teaching assistant), Tammy Morfey (special education secretary) and Daniel Traenkenschuh (Broadmeadow teaching assistant).

Also, the following changes were approved by the board: Danette Johnson (visually impaired teacher to orientation and mobility specialist), Marcie Stout (full-time sub to regular sub), Leah Shadix (Eastlawn kindergarten teacher to Eastlawn first-grade teacher), Jenny Jamison (Eastlawn teaching to Eastlawn instructional coach), Kelsey Rademacher (Eastlawn bilingual teaching assistant to Eastlawn bilingual teacher), Eden Caplan (Eater teacher, resigned and returned to previous position as Eater teaching assistant) and Shelly Basteen (Eastlawn instructional coach, resignation change from Dec. 8 to Nov. 28).

Other notes

— Barb Moore, director of special education at RCS, presented the first-quarter behavioral data and CARE program data. Following her presentation, Moore made a request to the board to release her from her contract she signed last year. Moore was recently offered the position of director of special education for the Illinois State Board of Education.

"I’ve had an extremely incredible opportunity come up," Moore said. "I would typically never want to be released in the middle of a contract, but this is an opportunity I felt I could not pass up."

— Prior to the meeting, a memorial and celebration of life was held for Rob Bross, an RCS custodian who died this year. The celebration was held outside Northview at the playground bench which was named in Mr. Bross’ honor.

— Led by Mahoney and two teachers, the Northview staff presented the school’s flexible-seating arrangement. Students are allowed to select their own seats in the classroom, seats more comfortable than wooden chairs and desks to allow for a better setting to increase students’ classroom engagement.

— Several RCS teachers were awarded money by Terry Sheppard of the Community Foundation of Rantoul for their work in the community. Separate from the Community Foundation, Sheppard also challenged Jack Anderson, author of a recent guest commentary in the Rantoul Press criticizing the RCS board for the district’s low test scores and the board’s leadership, to run for a spot on the RCS board.

— Woods proposed a small ceremony to recognize the eighth-grade students who will be moving onto high school without having to attend summer school. The board elected to further discuss Woods’ proposal, which would be a ceremony, dubbed "Promotion," in which each promoted eighth-grader has his/her name called with parents/family present. The ceremony, which several area junior high schools conduct, would be expected to last less than an hour.

— The board will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20 in the RCS board room.