By Steve Robinson | May 28, 2020 - 3:02 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Unit 5 School Board members were informed at their regularly-scheduled meeting May 27 by the district’s business manager that the 2019-20 budget “had changes but no surprises.” Marty Hickman added said the district did well at controlling financial matters that he said were things the district could control in terms of expenditures while items out of the district’s control were continuing to be addressed.

The budget for the district’s fiscal year, which will end June 30, will show Unit 5 with a budget of $193.6 million in all of their funds, which include categories such as operations and maintenance, and transportation. That is the result of a $14.4 million surplus.

That budget figure presented has been amended upward from the budget the Board adopted in September which indicated a total of $192 million for all district funds, and indicated the district also was running a deficit of $12.8 million.

One area where the district saw a decrease in both revenue and expenses was in the district’s food services because of school closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hickman said.

The district’s operations and maintenance fund had more money spent on it than took in this year, Hickman said. The district budgeted $12,443,728 but spent $87,999 above that during the school year, he said. When the budget for this fund was originally rolled out, the district projected coming out ahead by over $9,600. On another matter, he added there is some uncertainty concerning property taxes for the budget year as a result of when the district receives those dollars. He said some of those monies might not get to the district until July.

Hickman said the district is still looking to receive one categorical payment due it from the State, which would be the last of four due the district. The district has received three others due the district this school year.

Another expense yet to be ironed out for the district is what amount it will owe its transportation provider, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., Hickman said, explaining the two sides will need to settle up on how much the district owes as a result of the pandemic. He added he expects expenses coming out of the transportation fund will be less than they would in an ordinary year.

Official action on the budget will come at the Board’s next meeting, to be done remotely, scheduled for June 17.

Two Task Force Units To Study Social/Emotional, Instructional Needs: Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle informed Board members the district’s Curriculum Committee will establish two task forces this summer, one concentrating on social and emotional needs of elementary school students returning to school in the fall, and the other concentrating on how to address any missed instruction students should have received during the time schools were not physically open.

She added because elementary school students didn’t get to attend their annual visit to the junior high school they would attend in the fall as a result of the pandemic forcing schools to be closed, teachers at the district’s four junior high schools produced a video virtual tour for students to watch to substitute for the physical tour in order to prepare those students for the years ahead.

Superintendent Comments: Dr. Mark Daniel, District Superintendent, opened his comments to the meeting with congratulations for teachers involved in 35 projects which received Beyond The Books Foundation awards totaling $68,748. Projects from Unit 5 teachers accounted for 27 of the 35 projects, he said. Those projects totaled $54,060. “This is the testimony to the amazing staff we have at Unit 5,” Daniel added.

Beyond The Books Foundation also awards a $10,000 Beyond The Box grant award, Daniel reminded, as he announced that Glenn Elementary School second grade teachers Hayley Mennenga and Angela Trask for their submission, “Augmented Reality Sandbox.”

Dr. Daniel also expressed a word of thanks to the NAACP’s Bloomington-Normal chapter for donating snacks for students, as well volunteering to take senior pictures for students who didn’t have opportunities to get photos taken.

Dr. Daniel also noted May 27 was the official last day of school for students for the current school year. Calling the year “the most unusual school year in anyone’s career,” he added.

“I never could have imagined how well our students and staff could adapt to our new normal,” he continued. “It was truly inspirational. While remote learning had its challenges, our students and staff members worked extremely hard to transform our educational model.”

Dr. Daniel gave credit to the district’s Food Service Department which, as of the meeting, surpassed serving 100,000 meals to students since the closure began in mid-March.

“To our retirees, I want to wish you well in your retirement, and thank you for all you’ve done for the students of Unit 5,” Daniel said, adding, “We know this isn’t how you planned your final school year, but we want you to know how much we appreciate your efforts.

Dr. Daniel concluded his comments to the Class of 2020, saying, “We congratulate you on this amazing milestone and look forward to celebrating your achievement.” Because of the pandemic, Unit 5 high schools had to move their graduation ceremonies until Saturday, Aug. 1.

“Each and every day, I continue to be amazed by what a tremendous school district we have in McLean County Unit 5,” Dr. Daniel said. “I wish you all a safe and relaxing summer.”

Daniel To Become Superintendent In His Indiana Hometown: Careers often take people away from places where they grew up, so when a job opportunity opened up where he attended school himself, Dr. Daniel applied. On May 26, Dr. Daniel was introduced to media as the new superintendent of the district known as Fort Wayne Community Schools, according to reports by Peoria’s WMBD-TV and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette newspaper.

Last September, Dr. Daniel publicly announced that he would be leaving Unit 5 at the end of the current school year so that he and his wife, Janet, could live somewhere closer to family because they had become first-time grandparents, which meant attempting to seek an opportunity in the Chicago area. His last day on the job with Unit 5 will be June 30.

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