'Ridgewood Spartans' approved

Lisa Hammer

Final approval was given Thursday to the “Ridgewood Spartans,” the new Cambridge-AlWood sports co-operative for golf, cross country, basketball and volleyball as well as baseball, softball and track.Superintendent Tom Akers noted school administrators will meet next week to “hammer out details to achieve things we all agreed on,” including personnel, hiring and eligibility with a mutual participation policy to be fair to both sets of athletes.

Following a closed session, all 2009-2010 coaches of the new co-op sports were released, enabling them to re-apply for the positions.

AlWood has not had drug-testing to date, but according to Akers has given tentative support to the concept of having one anonymous AlWood student number drawn per week along with the anonymous Cambridge student.

Cambridge won’t have a co-op football partner next fall, but plans to rejoin the Lincoln Trail Conference for the 2010-2011 school year. The Lincoln Trail Conference will no longer be part of West Prairie Trail in 2010-2011, and has 10 teams now with plans for more in the near future, Mr. Reagan told the board. Newer LTC members are Midland High School and West Prairie High School.

Orion, AlWood and Cambridge are working on joint academic offerings and towards matching school calendars. Junior/senior high principal Robert Reagan said if students take all college credit classes offered jointly by the three schools, they could potentially graduate from high school with 16 college credits. Co-op offerings are to include English I and II, sociology, psychology, speech, calculus, physics, Spanish 3, CAD and drafting.

Cambridge may waive the Nov. 11 Veterans Day next school year.

“In talking to veterans, I thought much like Lincoln’s birthday, we could have a deeper understanding by inviting vets in,” said Akers. “I know that date is a very sacred date, but to create that feeling with our student body is a much more effective way of observing it.”

Cambridge is in the running for two pilot educational programs.

Supplementary reading lessons tailored to individual students could be used in students’ homes as early as this summer. The Lexia computer program could potentially have 25 licenses allowing 25 grade school students to keep up with their reading skills via computer from home.

The district is also trying to sign on to be a pilot school with junior/senior high programs for reading comprehension and math.

“I think it’s a great move for us for another use of technology,” said Akers.

The superintendent said he hopes there will be a huge turnout for an Internet safety program to be presented by Sarah Migas of the Illinois Attorney General’s office at 6 p.m. March 5 at the grade school, sponsored by the Cambridge Parent Network.

“It is scary what people who have ill will can do to children and how quickly they can do it,” he said.

After the meeting, Reagan said he invited Migas to speak at Cambridge after hearing her talk elsewhere. He said she covers a range of issues including Internet predators and texting, stressing that even friends should not share passwords. He said after friendships end, former friends have gone into each other’s Facebook page and written false information. He added when conflicts carry over into school and create disruptions, schools have the authority to take disciplinary action. Without going into specifics, he said Cambridge had an incident with elements of cyber-bullying last year.

He noted the program is open to parents of all ages.

“There are different things parents have to worry about now than what they’ve ever had to,” he said.

The board approved a “letter of intent” to have Energy Systems Group conduct a no-cost building evaluation or “energy performance contract.” The effort will result in a list of building improvements for energy efficiency from which the school board would be able to pick and choose as time and money allow. The district is also talking with bond underwriter First Midstate regarding funding. The engineers’ list will include the amount of cost-savings in “guarantees,” according to Akers. Some construction could take place this summer.

Board president Ken Krueger said it’s his understanding the district will narrow down alternatives from a large list. Akers said the firm sees two-, three- and four-phase programs.

Akers announced that like everyone else, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund has taken a hit on its investments, with its portfolio losing $6 billion--from $24 billion to $18 billion--in the recent financial crisis. The fund provides retirement benefits for about 25 Cambridge non-certified staff; teachers are covered by Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS).

The superintendent noted by law, retirement funds of non-certified staff must be maintained, but the fund is offering schools options in how quickly to make up losses. Each district is in a unique position depending on their demographics including how far staff is from retirement. He said I.M.R.F. has three funding sources: members, employers and investment income, and members’ fees can’t be raised. Actuaries will have options prepared by April for a decision in May.

Board members were given the results of a survey on eight-block scheduling. Reagan reported research is split on its merits compared to regular class scheduling. He said scores on standardized exams show no difference between schools with eight-block or standard class hours, according to the Illinois School Board Journal. Survey results will be discussed at a future meeting.

Krueger said the amount of recent legislation in Springfield dealing with schools rankles him and amounts to micro-management. He noted three pending bills: one limiting marching band members’ p.e. waiver to apply to juniors and seniors only, a bill requiring all students get screened for the spine problem scoliosis and another bill to require all students to wash hands before eating, with supervision. He pointed out grade school students eat breakfast before teachers arrive, so passage of the hand-washing bill would require more hiring.

Reagan noted Cambridge has its biggest Scholastic Bowl team ever, with 22 students on varsity and junior varsity levels. Krueger encouraged people to attend a Feb. 21 district event in Moline.

“I was flabbergasted at the questions they ask,” he said. “It’s amazing the knowledge these kids have.”

Akers said he was pleased at how many of this year’s board goals have been achieved. Goals included heating system evaluation, building analysis for grade school handicapped accessibility, a “Promote Cambridge” DVD and curriculum mapping. He credited the principals, saying without them it doesn’t happen.

The board opted for Gold Star FS’ year’s contract for unleaded at $1.961, diesel at $2.266 and winter blend at $2.446. This past year, the district paid $2.991 for unleaded, $3.181 for diesel and $3.366 for winter blend. The other bids were lower at $1.80, $2.23 and $2.53, but the firm didn’t offer prices 12 months out. Board member Blake Reed advised against taking a six-month bid and having to re-bid in August, saying February and March are the ideal times to contract for fuel. He said the board risked prices dropping “maybe 20-cents” from here, but added there is “more risk on the upside than the downside.”

The board approved field trips as follows: Dawn Lewis’ junior high students to Springfield March 13; high school yearbook students to the Brookfield, Missouri factory where yearbooks are bound and high school band/choir students to St. Louis April 30-May 2

The board also:

• approved a 2009-2010 calendar with August 18 as the first day of classes

• voted to terminate Jean Haverback as bus driver

• approved maternity leaves towards the end of the school year for Nikki Ernst and Jessica Stockwell

• approved the resignation of junior/senior high English teacher Heather Meyer

• hired Charlie Brown as summer custodian