District 186

Jaclyn Driscoll / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

UPDATE: Springfield Police have arrested a 14-year-old male in connection with the bomb threats. He was charged with four felony counts of disorderly conduct and is being held at the Sangamon County Juvenile Detention Facility. 

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http://186.sps186.org/

UPDATE   12:15 p.m.

A local juvenile, described as a person of interest, has been detained, according to local authorities.  Schools are being given the all clear signal.  District officials say they take each threat seriously.  

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says it's "not a joke, not a prank."  He says those responsible will be held accountable.

NPRIllinois

As state lawmakers again consider expanding the number of casinos in the state, Springfield could wind up in the mix. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Ever since the crisis in Flint, Michigan was publicized, concern over the presence of lead in water has reached a fever pitch. Law makers across the country have reacted with legislation addressing the issue in their home states. Illinois is one of them - a new law requires some public schools to test for it.

Eric Mason, an 18-year-old Lanphier graduate, was recognized by the Illinois State Fair for overcoming incredible odds to become a high achiever.
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

After 163 years, the Illinois State Fair is always adding traditions. New this year is the Hometown Hero Award, recognizing people who "perform selfless acts, overcome incredible odds and reach milestone achievements."

The inaugural winner is a teenager Eric Mason.

Eric just graduated from Springfield's Lanphier High School. And on Saturday, he left to begin college at Stanford University. That means he won't be around to partake in the glory, like joining the Grand Marshal to lead the Illinois State Fair Parade on Thursday, that comes along with being the "hometown hero."

A court has ruled the Springfield District 186 School Board acted properly when it fired the former superintendent Walter Milton.  An agreement with Milton was negotiated and agreed to in private.  

The State Journal Register alleged the board violated the Open Meetings Act.

Springfield public schools have seen higher than normal absences in the past week.  The district won't say if the absences are related to the flu, but local health officials say they are seeing more cases in the area.

District 186 reported last week, about 9 percent of students missed class.  The number was higher at Springfield High, where nearly 11 percent of students were out.  Lanphier had 14 percent absent.

Alternative programs in the district had the highest percentage of student absences.  

District 186

An unloaded gun was discovered at Southeast High School today.   District officials say the gun was not found on a person, but suspects have been detained.   An investigation is continuing.  

The district also says the discovery came after a tip was given to the school.  That prompted what's known as a soft lock down as a precaution.  

Increased security is planned for tonight.  Southeast hosts Chatham Glenwood in a football game this evening.
   
It was just over two weeks ago that a Lanphier student was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to school.

There will be heightened security at Lanphier High School Wednesday after a student brought a gun to class on Tuesday afternoon. The weapon was apprehended without incident and the 16 year old male student was arrested. Police say he allegedly had the gun for protection and at no point displayed or threatened to use it. Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there will be more police officers at the high school in the coming few days:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

All Springfield public school students will get free lunches this year. Most schools in the district already were part of a free meal program that qualified students automatically, no matter their household income. This year, all schools in the district will participate. Iles and Ball Charter Elementary schools were added along with Lincoln Middle School and Springfield High.

The mayor of Springfield has no authority over the public school district.  But with so many campaign promises dependent on growing the city's tax base and population, District 186's image is pertinent in the race.

Those who have announced a bid for mayor include the incumbent Mike Houston, Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo and City Treasurer Jim Langfelder.

The WUIS Education Desk asked all three candidates about their views of the district, including how to deal with revenue problems.  

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students are back in the classroom on Monday.  They will see some changes,  including all Springfield public schools observing a one hour early dismissal every Wednesday. Bus routes will run an hour early and after-school programs are available on those days. The district also has a new superintendent, Jennifer Gill. She joined us for this interview about how budget cuts will affect students, why she's hoping to focus on the district's drop-out rate, and more: 

District 186

Springfield District 186 says an employee had a confirmed case of mumps.  The district was notified late Friday.  Officials say the employee had NOT been in contact with any students during the time of being contagious.  

The employee has not been identified, nor the location where they work.  Staff who were in contact with the individual have been notified.

District 186 says a majority of students have received the mumps vaccine.  It says if mumps are confirmed in a school, parents of those kids without immunizations would be notified.  

Horace Mann

Dee Dee Duffy has been teaching in District 186 for 25 years.  Monday she was honored as the 2014 Horace Mann Educator of the Year.  Duffy is an Early Start Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Early Learning Center. 

Also, Nichole Heyen, principal of Lincoln Magnet Middle School, was named Administrator of the Year. She's been in District 186 for 14 years.

Both were honored at a luncheon ceremony. 

The program has been in existence since 1998.  An independent panel makes the selections. 

WUIS

Springfield District 186 is endorsing a change in state funding that would benefit the district.  Area Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat, is pushing the idea to re-work how the state doles out money to schools.  Manar says it would provide more equity between wealthy and poor districts.

Springfield public schools would receive nearly 6 percent more under the change. A statement from District 186 says an increase in funding would allow teaching positions to be restored and technology upgrades. It also says it could help avoid future budget cuts.

WUIS

Jennifer Gill assumes her duties as Springfield District 186 Superintendent today.  Gill is a native of Springfield and has worked as a teacher, administrator and building principal in the district.

More recently she served as Director of Teaching and Learning at McLean County Unit 5 in Bloomington Normal.

This is her first job as superintendent.  She inherits a district facing annual budget deficits and disagreement over whether or not to try for a tax referendum.  She'll also have to work with a board that has previously fought publicly over a variety of issues.

sps186.org

The board president of the Springfield School District says there's no chance a tax referendum will get on the November ballot. 

A community group is pushing an idea to raise property taxes,  and the board's vice president is pushing for a county-wide sales tax hike. Both would benefit district 186, though the county sales-tax hike would help all schools in the county and most the money would have to go to facility costs.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Springfield public schools may start classes later once per week, beginning next school year. But the district is going to garner more public feedback before making a final decision. After district officials spoke with a group of parents, it was clear some are against the original plan of pushing back the start of the school day. Now another option is on the table: early dismissal. Either way - it'd be a redistribution of hours slated for professional development.

provided by District 186

As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough. 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

It took about a year - but Springfield has officially found a replacement for its previous district 186 superintendent. Jennifer Gill will take over the role on May 1st. She's been a teacher and administrator in the district. She'll be leaving her current role as the director of teaching and learning for the McLean County Unit 5 School District. This interview begins with Gill reflecting on how she became a third-generation educator:

Springfield's district 186 is struggling to fill a 5 million dollar gap in the budget for the coming school year. A group of parents and community members say they have an answer to supplementing the district's budget: raise property taxes. But passing a referendum will prove challenging. And if it's going to happen, some say efforts to get the word out need to ramp up now. 

 Four extra days of class have been added to the calendar for Springfield public schools, pushing the last day to June 4th. WUIS took a look at how it's decided that school should be canceled ...

Jennifer Gill was chosen as the new superintendent for Springfield District 186 after a months-long search. But negotiations have yet to be finalized.   Gill, who currently works for McLean County schools, says the holidays slowed talks, but expects a contract will get done.

The  Springfield school board is negotiating with a local woman to become the district's next superintendent. 

The board hopes to extend an offer in early January to Jennifer Gill.   Gill has been working the past year as the director of teaching and learning in McClean County district five based in Normal.   Prior to that, she had worked as an administrator in the Springfield School District and was principal at Vachel Lindsey and McClernand elementary schools.

The 44 year old Gill has also taught in the Springfield and Jacksonville School Districts.   

http://www.springfieldnaacp.org/

District 186 says it's working hard to hire more minority teachers and administrators. Still, the percentage of minorities in those roles is only half of what it should be according to a decades old desegregation order. And the Springfield branch of the NAACP says it's preparing for a potential lawsuit. 

About five hundred Springfield students were forced out of the public schools last month for failing to have required physicals and immunizations. The number has since dropped to 87 kids missing classes. The deadline was October 15th. School board member Mike Zimmers says the policy should be changed for next year to have the deadline before school gets underway.

"Parents just need to plan, you know when they start thinking about ... we need to get school clothes or school supplies -- in your mindset just think, we need to get physicals, we need to get shots,” said Zimmers.

sps186.org

A search firm hired by district 186 to help in the hunt for a new Springfield public schools superintendent recently shared its findings after turning to parents, teachers, and the community at large for feedback. Board member Scott McFarland joins us to discuss some of the findings, and talk about the profile of qualities being sought after in a superintendent candidate: 

District 186 Board Talks Tax Hikes

Oct 8, 2013
District 186

The Springfield public school board is on the hunt for more revenue. The latest idea is actually one that was tried before. Board vice president Adam Lopez says the district should push again for a one percent sales tax hike. While a parent's group wants a property tax referendum, Board President Chuck Flamini says raising the SALES tax would mean tourists and others coming in to the area to shop would contribute.

 A property tax referendum may be posed to Springfield voters next year, if a group of parents gets its way. The group says it'll campaign on the issue from a grass roots angle, even though board members aren't convinced the timing is right to raise taxes. School board vice president, Adam Lopez, is one who says the board needs to work on other issues first. 

The project, founded by Ann Libri, started simple by collected clothing and school supplies for students growing up in unstable environments. This year, the project is kicking off a pilot program with ten students that will teach life skills and provide meals, tutoring, school supplies, and clothing. Libri says she hopes the project will continue to grow and assist the hundreds of homeless children in Springfield's district 186.

We recently interviewed Libri, and the Springfield city treasurer, Jim Langfedler, who is also an advisor to the project: 

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