Friday, August 18, 2017

School districts consider eclipse study, safety

Permanent eye damage can result from viewing
the sun with unprotected eyes or unsafe glasses.
School districts in, or even near, the path of totality of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse have made decisions
regarding how they are managing the science and safety of eclipse viewing with their students.

Although some Illinois school districts don’t open until after Aug. 21, many started classes last week.
Monday’s eclipse will be total in a swath of the southern tier of the state, including Carbondale near the center, Cahokia to the northwest, Harrisburg to the east, and Mounds to the south. Areas in and around Anna, Benton, Waterloo, Harrisburg, Marion, Herrin, Metropolis, and Vienna will experience totality.

Permanent eye damage can occur from looking at the sun with unprotected eyes. People’s interest in seeing the eclipse overcomes their instinct to look away from the sun. As reported in The Southern Illinoisan, the effect of the sun (even when partially covered) on human eyes is more powerful than the effect of focusing the sun through a magnifying glass to burn leaves.

Edwardsville SD 7 announced in July that it was cancelling classes for Aug. 21, based partly on dismissal times. Students would normally be released from school during the time of afternoon eclipse. School officials also feared they would not be able to prepare for safe observation, or to obtain safety glasses for all students. Edwardsville will experience 99.5 percent totality at 1:18 p.m.

The district’s announcement said “the solar eclipse presents a hazard to students if they cannot be kept indoors during the entire time of exposure of almost three hours. Since the District cannot safely dismiss all students at any time during the solar eclipse on August 21, the District 7 Board of Education approved an amendment to the 2017-18 school calendar to make August 21 a day of non-attendance…”

Granite City CUSD 9 followed suit, also with safety and dismissal concerns. In St. Claire County, Brooklyn USD 188 has a teacher institute day. In Carbondale, Unity Point SD 140, Carbondale ESD 95, and Carbondale Community High School District 165 will be closed.

School districts that won’t experience totality are taking advantage of the learning opportunity. Around Champaign, school districts began preparing last year for that area’s 90 to 95 percent totality. The Danville Public School Foundation purchased 7,000 pairs of safety glasses for student use. Elgin-based School District U-46 offered training for teachers and required permission from parents for eclipse-related events. The Elgin area will experience approximately 86 percent totality.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report (100-39)


The Illinois House of Representatives convened in session today (Wednesday) but took no action on the amendatory veto of SB 1. Governor Bruce Rauner issued his amendatory veto earlier this month and the Senate voted to override the governor’s action Sunday (Aug. 13). When the House first scheduled Wednesday’s session, most observers assumed the intent was to attempt the veto override. But it became evident earlier in the week that such action was not going to be on the agenda for the single day session.

Instead, the House held a committee hearing on House Amendment #4 to SB 1947 which contains language that is identical to the governor’s amendatory veto revisions. The amendment was sponsored by House Democrats, all of whom oppose the governor’s proposals. Republicans cried foul saying that this amendment was not a serious attempt at addressing the school funding impasse, but was political in nature.

Several school superintendents were on hand to testify before the appropriations committee. The often emotional hearing contained heated exchanges between witnesses and legislators. The passionate debate continued onto the House floor when SB 1947 was considered. The amendment was defeated with zero “yes” votes, 60 “no” votes, 33 “present” votes, and with 25 House members not voting.

Negotiations to reach compromise on an evidence-based school funding formula will continue, but instead of the bipartisan group of legislators who have been meeting, the legislative leaders will meet on Friday. The result could be a House override of the governor’s actions, thereby restoring SB 1 to the version that was originally approved by the House and Senate in May – then approving subsequent legislation (a “trailer bill”) that contains education provisions favored by Republicans. One component could be a statewide private school voucher program that the governor has recently pushed. House members must take action on the amendatory veto of SB 1 within 15 days of when it was officially read into the record in the House. It was read into the record on Monday, Aug. 14.

The Alliance is opposed to any voucher, scholarship, or tax credit designed to redirect state funds from public schools to non-public schools.

Both the Senate and the House are now out of session and will return at the call of the president and speaker. House Speaker Michael Madigan indicated that House members will return next Wednesday, Aug. 23rd.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Registration opens for Pre-Conference Workshops

IASB will offer eight pre-conference workshops at the 2017 Joint Annual Conference on Friday, Nov. 18. Participants can choose either full-day workshops beginning at 8 a.m. or select from half-day options with 8 a.m. or noon start times.

The four full-day workshops include the following topics:
  • The Basics of Governance
  • Leading Leaders: The Job of Board President
  • Professional Development Leadership Trainings (PDLT) and Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) Training for School Board Members
  • Monitoring District Performance: Saying What We Mean and Doing What We Say
The four half-day workshops include these topics:
  • Data First for Governance: Using Data to Make Decisions (morning only)
  • Superintendent Evaluation: The Essential Work of the Board (afternoon only)
  • Get Your Message Out: Your Role in Crafting an Effective Public Image (morning or afternoon)
  • The R Factor: How to Manage the One Thing You Control (morning or afternoon)
All eight sessions will take place at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, 301 East North Water Street, which is across the river from Hyatt Regency Chicago. A separate fee is required for the workshops, and attendees must be registered for the annual conference. Full-day tuition is $280 and includes breakfast, lunch, and materials. Half-day tuition is $140, and includes breakfast or lunch. Participants can mix and match two half-day trainings for the same price as a full-day workshop. All pre-conference workshops are a part of the IASB’s LeaderShop Academy program, which earns attendance credits for board members.

Registration can be done online.

Monday, August 14, 2017

School designs submitted for awards

All 26 entries will be on display throughout the Conference.
Twenty-six school design projects have been submitted for judging in the 2017 Invitational Exhibition of Educational Environments. 

Awards in the 29th annual competition will be decided by a blind jury pool of architects and superintendents at IASB offices in Springfield on Sep. 21. The event is sponsored by IASB Service Associates.

Winning projects will be announced at the First General Session on Friday, Nov. 17, at the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago. In addition to the Award of Distinction winners, which is the highest level, the jury will choose project winners for Awards of Merit and Honorable Mention.

A description of last year’s winners can be viewed here.

All 26 entries will be on display throughout the Conference and will be added to IASB’s School Design Data File. This searchable online database is available for use by school districts and architectural firms and is updated each year after the competition. It currently contains more than 500 Illinois public school design projects in a database housed on the IASB website.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report (100-38)

The Illinois Senate voted to override the governor’s amendatory veto of SB 1. In the Sunday afternoon session, Senators voted 38-19 to reject Governor Bruce Rauner’s revisions to SB 1. If the House of Representatives also successfully votes to override, the bill will become law as originally approved by the legislature.

The bill passed the Senate in May largely mirroring the Vision 20/20 evidence-based funding proposal. The House of Representatives also approved the bill, but only after adding two amendments regarding Chicago Public Schools. When the bill finally reached his desk in August, the governor removed the language added by the House and made several other significant revisions to the proposed new formula. Many of the governor’s changes would have a negative impact on public schools that depend on the funding formula.

SB 1 will now be sent to the House for consideration where it faces an uphill fight in the effort to override the governor. The House returns to the Capitol on Wednesday. If the House fails to achieve the 3/5 vote necessary to override the governor, it will be the death of SB 1.

With a number of legislators wanting a funding formula bill that lies somewhere between the House version of SB 1 and the governor’s revisions of SB 1, a bipartisan group of legislators continue to work together to find compromise language in the event the House override effort of the SB 1 veto is defeated. Other action in the Senate today placed HB 3163 in a posture in which it can be used as a new vehicle for school funding reform legislation.

The Senate set no firm return date as it adjourned until the call of the chair.