PRINCETON — The Princeton Elementary School District initially mailed 1,200 community surveys to random voters in an attempt to understand how to best proceed with the future of the district’s multiple buildings.
After receiving only 320 responses, the district has recently mailed it again to those who didn’t respond the first time.
PES Board President Steve Bouslog and Superintendent Tim Smith explained the process during Monday’s school board meeting.
Smith said the trend for such surveys is that roughly one-third of them will be returned. The district has approximately 8,400 registered voters, so 1,200 surveys were mailed, with the expectation that 400 responses would return. To randomize the mailings, one was sent to every seventh voter on the register.
“Being randomly selected was the key to this survey being as accurate as we can get it,” Bouslog said.
For those who haven’t received a survey in the mail, but would like to complete one, they can be obtained by contacting the district office.
Smith also explained the differences in the mailed and requested surveys. The random surveys are numbered and on white paper, while requested surveys are on yellow paper. He said the numbering is for the survey organizers to track the randomization of the survey, and offered assurance that it’s not being used as any kind of identification.
The results will help the board learn which aspects of the $35 million consolidation referendum were problematic for voters, and caused it to be narrowly defeated in the November 2018 election.
Many voters are known to have had issues with the overall cost of the project and the associated impact on their property tax bills, while others were against the site chosen for the new school and the purchase of land for it.
The board could retool the referendum to make it more appealing to voters in a future election, or learn that the community wants to keep the current buildings and work with the costs of upkeep.
Principal postings at Lincoln and Douglas schools
The board approved posting for the position of principal at Lincoln and Douglas Schools. Smith said Principal Robert Bima’s duty is currently split between both schools and that he’ll soon be retiring. He said having Bima work at both schools has limited his effectiveness and placed too much responsibility on staff when he’s not present.
Smith said the community is changing and that there’s been an increased need for specialized social and emotional educational instruction. This increased workload for the district’s social workers is complicated when administrators aren’t present.
“We have social workers who are sometimes having to act as an administrator with parents, rather than as a social worker. Posting these positions at both schools will free them up to do what they need to be doing,” Smith said.
The board announced Thomas Lahey, of the Illinois Association of School Boards, will make a presentation at the July 22 meeting to explain the steps in the process to fill the role of superintendent after Smith retires in 2021. Smith later added that Jefferson Principal J.D. Orwig is a candidate for the position.
Smith reported that at the end of May, there was a balance of $4.17 million across all PES funds. At 93 percent of the way through the fiscal year, the district had received approximately 97 percent of its funding. The district had expended about 84 percent of its budgeted costs.
He attributed the improvement in the district’s financial reports to the more timely payments from the state, which are the result of the evidence-based funding formula.
In other news
• The board learned PES students raised more than $7,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital during their “Laps for Life” fundraising events held at the district’s schools. The funds will be added into the area’s totals, which will be presented during the hospital’s telethon in August. Last year, these groups raised a total of more than $450,000 for St. Jude.
• The board approved salary increases, not to exceed 3 percent, for Bureau Educational Support Team (BEST) members, and licensed and non-licensed district personnel.
• The board approved the milk and bread bids with Prairie Farms and Bimbo Bakeries.
• The board rejected the received bids for masonry restoration and associated repairs at Logan Junior High after they came in at more than $34,000 above district estimates. The work requires the tuck-pointing repair of winter-damaged masonry on the northwest corner of the building’s parapet wall. Smith said there’s also some related roof work involved in the project and that it has allowed for some water infiltration.
• The board delayed action on the agenda’s transportation leases and purchases until more board members were present. Board member Mark Frank will abstain from action because he’s employed by Midwest Bus Sales Inc. The board will vote on leasing four used buses for five years at a cost of approximately $127,000.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 22.