Yorkville School District 115 officials accentuated the positives during a Feb. 7 State of the District address to parents and community members.
The presentation, held at Yorkville High School and live-streamed via video on the internet, showcased the district’s programs and plans for the future.
“A great emphasis in the coming months and years will be, how do we continue to provide the opportunities within our schools while being fiscally responsible and maintaining an annual budget,” Superintendent Dr. Tim Shimp said. “How do we continue to support the expanding growth of our enrollment? We have more students enrolling – about two percent every year. Our buildings are getting tight. Our class sizes are going to be going up a little bit. But we need to look at, what’s the long-term plan for space?”
Shimp said the district has “a lot of challenges in the area of capacity, as well as expansion of facilities in the coming years, that we need to be cognizant of.”
District Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nick Baughman highlighted the district’s new Learning and Grading Plan, which he said is based on the “mastery” of learning skills.
“This basically means that learning is a process; learning is not final,” Baughman said. “And we need to instill in our students that attitude: that learning is a process.”
He said the concept of learning being a process is one of the reasons why the district has allowed students to retake an assessment if they haven’t demonstrated the mastery of a subject the first time.
Baughman said the plan also is a separation of “academic behaviors versus academic achievement.”
“A grade is supposed to provide an accurate, undiluted indicator of a student’s mastery of the content,” he said. “A grade is not supposed to reflect a reward or a motivation or a behavioral agreement of a student.”
Baughman said the district does not allow teachers to put a “zero” into their grade books, and has also not allowed extra credit. He said extra credit, for example, gives parents and students “a sense of grade inflation.”
Dr. Dean Romano, the district’s chief operating officer, reviewed the district’s finances, and acknowledged that if the district doesn’t change the way it does business, it could see a $3.2 million budget deficit that would grow to a $5.2 million budget deficit next year. He said simply cutting $5.2 million in expenses would “hurt the morale” of the students, teachers and the community.
Instead, the district’s plan is to reduce the deficit gradually, he said.
“We do have a plan, and that plan is to take that deficit we have this year and make it smaller for next year,” Romano said. “So we go from $3.2 million down to $2 million, and then down to $1 million and then try to get to a balanced budget. Do we have money in the bank to be able to facilitate that type of plan? Yes we do. We also know that even though we have a projected deficit for this year of $3.2 million, we’re not sitting idle and doing things the way we always have. We’re constantly trying to make changes.”