This article is to share information about additional programming that will be implemented at the school district next school year.  Additionally, I will share information about the process that was taken to make decisions about the additional investments.  Illinois school districts receive money from the state under a model called Evidence Based Funding.  This funding model began in 2017.  Since 2017, the Illinois General Assembly has increased funding to school districts in four out of the last five years.  The annual additional funding continues to be received by districts each year as part of the base funding minimum in following years.  This allows districts to make decisions on how to best invest the additional funding knowing that it will continue to be received.  Under the model there are 34 cost factors that serve as the basis of what a school district needs to operate (more information can be found here).  Several of these factors are research based and connected to evidence of student achievement.  Each year, the district plans for the best use of additional funding based on the needs of our students.

For the current school year, we learned in August that we would be receiving an additional $181,160.45.  The timing of this information makes it difficult to plan for any immediate investments, which is why the additional programming is scheduled to begin next school year.  Once that amount was known, administration began working with the personnel committee of the Board of Education and then the Board as a whole.  Next, members of the staff district leadership team provided ideas and feedback to develop a plan to best serve our students.  

The first area of expanded programming is the addition of a district social worker.  We have recognized this need for the past several years and now have the ability to provide this service for our students and families. Christina Wilson has been hired for this position next year.  She will be able to provide individual and group counseling, character education, and help connection families with outside agencies.  Additionally, she will serve as a resource to help classroom teachers provide classroom behavioral interventions. 

Next school year, we are planning to have two principals, one for K-8 and one for the high school.  For the past three years, we have operated with a K-12 principal and a K-12 Dean of Students.  Research shows that having consistency and continuity with principals is one of the largest factors in student achievement.  This change will help building level leadership by streamlining communication as there will be a dedicated point of contact for building level needs.  Additionally, it will help with the continuity of existing programming and the development of new programming by having a building leader who is more focused in their responsibilities.  At the April BOE meeting, it will be recommended to hire Mr. Hodges as the high school principal and do away with the Dean of Students position.

The district is also going to employ an elementary math interventionist.  Mrs. Ashley Snow is transitioning from a classroom teacher position to work with students as the math interventionist.  This position will work to build foundational math skills for our at risk K-8 students.

We are expanding our art teaching position to full-time next school year and have employed Mr. Levi Weathers.  Art is an important elective for many of our students.  With this expansion, elementary students will be able to have art class twice a week (once a week currently).  We will also be able to offer art as an elective for junior high students.  They currently do not have this opportunity.  Additionally, we will continue to offer two sections of art for high school students.

Finally, we are seeking to employ an additional high school teacher to teach elective technology courses.  Mrs. Haile is retiring at the end of this school year.  She has been teaching business and technology courses.  For next school year, we have already employed Mrs. Melanie Spangler.  The focus for her course load will be business.  By splitting the position and hiring an additional teacher solely for technology courses, we will be able to expand course offerings for students. 

If you have any questions about our new programming, please feel free to contact me at sgordon@blufordschools.org.