RANTOUL — In an effort to improve student ownership of the school, Rantoul Township High School administrators are forming a 67-student leadership team drawn from this year’s freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

“We’ve got to get some buy-in from the kids about the culture and climate of the school,” Assistant Principal Brooke Billings told the school board at its March 9 meeting. “We have been focusing on (staff and faculty), and we want to shift the focus next year to students.”

Instead of asking teachers for recommendations that would likely result in a list of the usual students, Billings circulated through the cafeteria and observed students interacting with each other. She started with a list of 200 kids, reduced it to 120 and then reduced it again to 67.

“Some students were, like, ‘Are you sure you want me on this?’” Billings said.

The impetus for forming the team came from a conference Billings and other administrators attended last summer. Two speakers from that conference — educators Steve Bollar and Phil Campbell — will conduct a day of training with the RTHS team at the I Hotel in Champaign on April 6. Bollar and Campbell will continue to work remotely with the team afterward.

Students were invited to an informational meeting during study hall on March 4. They were asked to identify their own strengths, weaknesses, what they would bring to the team and what they would change about the school

“Food and bathrooms were top items, so when I come to you and say, ‘Hey, we need to work on food and bathrooms,’ that comes from the kids,” Billings said.

Health care program

Guidance counselor Megan Sims described the health care program, sponsored by the county Chamber of Commerce, in which seven RTHS students are participating. The program is in its third year. Students from RTHS and the Champaign and Urbana high schools participate in rotations at Carle, Christie and OSF.

They learn about a variety of health care jobs, from the environmental science of cleaning rooms, to surgery, to nursing homes, to the lab. The program is open to any student with an interest in health care and who is at least 16 years old.

Students keep a journal about each rotation and are evaluated by the health care professionals with whom they interact.

“I’ve learned about things I didn’t know I would be interested in,” junior Hope Rogers said. “The program helps students explore different fields.”

Rogers’ motive was to learn about heart surgery because of the cardiac illness of a family member. She said she found the doctors and nurses she met and their connection with their patients to be interesting.

Students do not receive credit for the program, but they are given a certificate of completion. Participation is in two-hour increments which may occur during the school day, Sims said.

Babb recognized

Dawn Babb, an RTHS grad and member of the athlete hall of fame, was recognized as a community volunteer. She handles the weekly recognition of athletes of the week.

“It really does mean a lot to the kids and the parents and the grandparents,” board member Janet Brotherton told Babb. “We appreciate you.”

Babb said she enjoys interacting with athletes and staff and passing on the support she received as a high school athlete.

“It’s a lot of fun to come back in,” Babb said.

Also recognized was Exchange Club student of the month Schae Rutledge.

Headed to Dominican Republic

In June, Amerio and board member Jeremy Larson will travel to the Dominican Republic to rebuild schools destroyed by hurricanes and tropical storms. They will join other two-man superintendent-board member teams from 11 other Illinois districts recruited through the Illinois Association of School Administrators. The project is organized by Education First.

The board approved 24 amended school board policies that include substantive changes. The policies are available at https://www.rths193.org/board-of-education.html as Board Policy Update in the table of meeting agendas and minutes, below the Feb. 10 meeting link.

Amended medication policy

Another amended policy that had been held back for input from school nurse April Jones was presented for first reading. The policy was updated to read that medication is to be taken at school only when it is “absolutely necessary.”

“If the student can take it at home, then that’s what needs to happen,” Amerio said.

Also, that the first dosage of a medication is to be taken at home rather than at school to reduce the possibility a student will experience an adverse reaction at school, Amerio said.

In addition, the board approved minutes from the Feb. 13 meeting of the building and grounds committee. The committee discussed summer remodeling projects including the foods classroom remodel, installation of the west wing chiller in early fall, and replacement of three sets of interior doors in the east wing.

District architect Upchurch Group, Mattoon, is developing plans for a roof over the south stairwell and to install air conditioning in the main gym. All projects will be paid for out of the building fund.

Personnel action

The board approved resignations effective at the end of the school year from teachers Martin Cruzan, industrial technology; Matt Leng, P.E./health; and Bethany Rodrigues, Spanish; and freshman boys basketball coach Kyle Lewis. Justin Gee was hired as a paraprofessional. The board also approved the appointments of Tanya Turner, special education coordinator; Chris Wagner, Eagle enhancement director; and head coaches Tom Wilks, golf; Lakimya Wade, volleyball; Tom Hess, football; Nick Cole, cross country; and Bryce Hartranft, soccer.

Annual IHSA membership renewal was also approved. There is no cost attached.

Amerio reported the district received $52,191 this month from the county 1-percent school facilities sales tax.

The board adjourned to closed session to discuss a student disciplinary case and Amerio’s annual evaluation. One student was expelled to the READY program until September 2021.