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State of the District

In 2021, District 427 began an annual State of the District address, in partnership with the Sycamore Education Foundation. 

During this event, Superintendent Steve Wilder provides an update to the community of Sycamore on the state of our school district, including past successes and future plans. Members of the community are invited to attend in person, and a recording is provided for later viewing. 

View All State of the District Addresses

State of the District 2022


- My name is Rachel Sauber. I'm the Executive Director of the Sycamore Education Foundation. I, along with our board of directors, would like to welcome you to our second annual State of the District event. We'd like to thank you for being here in support of Sycamore Community Schools and the Education Foundation. The mission of our organization is to enhance and enrich educational opportunities for the students in our district by engaging the energy and resources of the community. We do this by providing grants to district educators, scholarships to students, and through alumni relations. This fall, SEF has awarded over $12,000 in grants to educators across the district with more grants to be awarded this spring. This is achieved solely through the financial support by our private and community partners. We are so grateful for your support today and the support of today's event for our sponsors. Please join me in thanking of following, our gold sponsors, Brian Bemis Toyota of Dekalb, Hometown Realty, Meta, and Shelly's Gaming and Lounge, and our supporting sponsors, the Law Office of Riley Oncken, CMJ IT Solutions, Radiant Dermatology, American Realty, Source 1 Mortgage, Ideal Industries, Sauber Manufacturing, Country Financial, and Old National Bank. I'd also like to thank the art department today for providing the student art show for today's event. It's in the back. So be sure to check that out before you leave. Next, I'd like to introduce our superintendent of Sycamore Community School District 427, Mr. Steve Wilder, who will provide us with an update on the state of our district.

- Thank you for being here today. It's a great opportunity for me to talk a little bit about our school district, which includes our community a little bit, but I couldn't do this without the support of SEF. So this is my third year in the district. Just a little bit about myself and before I launch into this, this is my third year as a superintendent here. I grew up in Livingston, Normal, Central Illinois. I was a eighth grade science teacher. Then I became a building administrator, principal, assistant principal to high school before I became a superintendent. Prior to coming here, I was a superintendent in a small school district down in the West Central part of the state for about 10 years before I came to to Sycamore. So one of the great parts about the transition here was that I did the job, you know, the kind of mechanics of the job, didn't know the community and the staff and building relationships, and so that was a big part of what I did here. We could not do what we do without the support of a variety of organizations, some of which I'll talk about a little bit later, but when I got here, I wanted to talk about.... I wanted to start doing a state of the union, and when I mentioned that idea to some of the folks within the school district, then we kind of approached that topic with SEF, and last year was the first annual state of the district address. This is the second annual. It's an opportunity for me to talk about the school district, but part of that is the partnerships that we have, too. So we couldn't do it without SEF,. Rachel, who is new in her position this year, this is kind of one of the things that she inherited. She's done a great job. Can't do it without Rachel's collaboration, but also SEF. So if you're an SEF board member, would you stand up real quick? So just we know who you are and can recognize you. How about a round of applause for those? We also couldn't hold this event without our sponsors, and Rachel talked about who our sponsors are already so I'm not gonna go through that list again, but it takes financial support as well as a lot of other types of support to do what we do. So thank you for our sponsors for making today happen. So I'm gonna take a little bit different approach this year than I did last year. I'm gonna talk a little bit about the school district. Last year, I spent a little bit more time talking about our performance, our academic performance, as well as some other indicators. I'm gonna touch on some of those things, but, really, what I'd like to do today here is we're coming out of the pandemic and kind of charting a new courses, is talk about some of the things that we have planned for the future. So I'll talk a little bit about the district, and then I'll touch on those things at the end. So I want to talk a little bit about our school district, and as much as some of you may have grown up in our community, had affiliation with our school district, it's always interesting to share information like this with folks, and some of it's a surprise, and some of it isn't. So what we call our 6th Day Enrollment this year was 3,652 students. For a long time, the state of Illinois asked school districts to report their 6th Day Enrollment, and that became an annual measuring stick of enrollment in all public schools across the state. While we aren't necessarily required to track the 6th Day enrollment, we've got that data. So it's just easier to to track our enrollment on that sixth day. So this year, it was 3,652 students, but I gave the Board of Education this slide at the beginning of the school year. So they had an idea of what our enrollment has looked like over the last 10 years, and as you can see, enrollment has been very stable here in Sycamore. That slight dip a couple years ago was during the pandemic that a lot of students whose families chose to homeschool or look at other routes, we respected that, a lot of things going on during the pandemic, but what you've started to see or what we've started to see the last couple of years is that enrollment has started to creep up a little bit. So enrollment over the last 10 years have been pretty stable. So our demographics, which I'll talk about here in just a minute. We have seven schools, most of you're familiar with. There are five elementary schools, North, North Grove, South Prairie, Southeast, West. We also have the one middle school right in the middle of town, and then we have a high school on kind of towards the edge of town. There are two other programs where we teach students every day that I wanna touch on, and then a third program where we provide care for students. The first one is Little Spartan. So Little Spartan is our early childhood program. That's housed currently in South Prairie. That program actually has grown over the last couple of years, and we provide early childhood program for students on a half day basis. So students come either in the morning or in the afternoon. So that's in the back, kind of part of South Prairie, but those students have access to a lot of the resources that that we have at South Prairie. They don't need all of them. They don't need the lunchroom, for example, but we provide care for our littlest Spartans every day at South Prairie. We also have Life School. Life School happens to be one of my favorite places to visit. This is a program where we support our older students who require some more complex, maybe special education services. So that program's actually housed at Opportunity House, which is just down the street from the district office where my office is located. So I get to go visit there whenever I want. They are some of the happiest students and staff in our district. We've got very happy students and staff through other school district, but Life School's one of my favorite places to visit, and like the name says, we are preparing those students for life after school. So there's some academic content. We're working in reading and math and things like that. We're also working on those life skills. One of the things they do, if I remember correctly, I'm looking at Lynn Riley, who's our Director of Student Services. They could lunch there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, every week. So if i time that right, I get a free meal or maybe a couple of cookies while I'm there. They work online. They work on the checkbook. They work on managing finances. So like the name says, we teach them about life, one of my favorite places to visit, and then OSCAR is one of our other very popular programs. This is one thing that's very unique to Sycamore. So when I applied here a couple years ago, and I started to learn about the district, I was on the website quite a bit, looking around. I really had no idea what OSCAR was, and it wasn't until I came to the district, and during the union process, got to learn a little bit about it. Now, I see it on a regular basis and see that out of school care, so before school and after school, we provide daycare, essentially, much more than that, to our students, so it is care. They're supervised, but we also provide a lot of programming to them as well. So it's academic, they have our snacks, there's food, there's social time. It's kind of an extension of the school day, really if students participate in OSCARs. That's one of our very unique programs. Then we have three additional buildings. The transportation department is behind the high school. So if you've ever gone to a soccer game or maybe even a softball game at the Swamp, I've lovingly heard it referred to sometimes, you driven around the back of the school, you can see the transportation departments where we keep all of our buses and our mechanic shop, our district warehouse, which is on Maple Street kind of tucked away. It's also where we operate the Spartan Food Pantry that's open every Wednesday. Oh, it's at every other Wednesday within who helps with the Spartan Food pantry, and then our administrative building, which is in the old central elementary school on Exchange Street, West Exchange Street, and during Pumpkin Fest weekend, one of the things I got to do this weekend was get a tour of Central Elementary to some of the last students who attended school there, as well as some students who attended school there much longer ago, but I got to walk around and hear all sorts of stories about attending school there, but now, it serves as the administrative building for the school district. So I'm gonna break down student demographics just a little bit more. This is our racial ethnic break down, the students. Obviously, the highest percentage of our students are white. We have black Hispanics, so on and so forth, but it gives you a little idea of the racial breakdown of our students in Sycamore. This will be important. I'm gonna come back to this and talk about some equity and diversity work that we're doing within the school district. This is one piece of that. This is just one piece of that. There are a lot of other topics to talk about when we have those meetings, but I wanted to give everybody a little bit of background, a little bit of context. I need to grab a... Steven's gonna be upset with me if I'm getting out of the camera shot . A little bit more about our students, 16% of our students qualify for free reduced lunches. The numbers of parentheses for all of these statistics are the state average. So in our community, that's 16%. The state average, in terms of percentage of students who who qualify for free reduced lunches, is 47%. So just under half of the students in the state of Illinois public schools qualify for free reduced lunches. 15% of our students qualify for special education services. The state average is 17. 3% of our students qualify for English language services. State average, there was 14%, and 92% of our high school students graduated in four years. The state average was at 87%. So we did slightly better than the state average. These statistics came off. They recently released school report cards for our school districts. So these statistics, kind of hot off the press, but they relate to how we performed last year or the percentage of students from last year, so a little bit behind but pretty close. In terms of staff, we've got about 250 teachers, about 600 staff overall. That is, in addition to teachers, it's our staff, it's our classroom aides, our paraprofessionals, bus drivers, our custodians, everybody else who supports our students within the school district. Average teacher salaries, about $66,000, almost 67. Over the last five years, approximately 92% of our teachers stayed in Sycamore from one year to the next. Most of those teachers have been able to stay in the same school. You do have some movement every year, but it's pretty minimal. A lot of our teachers stay in the same school that they were at the previous year. They build those relationships with colleagues, with students. Every once in a while, there's a change, maybe looking for a fresh perspective, but 92% of them stay put. So talk about the demographic background of our students, and this comes off at the district for . I wish they would give it to us in the exact same format as the previous one, the bar graph. They didn't do that for us this year, but you can see the breakdown of our teaching staff. So doesn't quite mirror our student demographic. I would argue that it's not all that far off when you look at other school districts and our students and their staff. It can be drastically different. I wouldn't say it's drastically different, but it is off a little bit. So it gives you an idea of the breakdown, demographically, of our staff. So we talked about partnerships a little bit ago. We couldn't do this event, we can hold this a event without SEF, but we have a lot of partnerships with other entities in Sycamore, City, Police Department, Fire department, Public Library, Park District, Chamber of Commerce, DeKalb Community Foundation, Kishwaukee, YMCA, DeKalb County, and there are others. I probably could have listed two slides where we've got partnerships with other entities within our community. We couldn't do what we do by ourselves. They can't do what they do by themselves. One of the things I've always believed in is collaboration. So it takes all of us working together to move things forward, so a lot of partnerships with other entities in the community. One of the other things that's really happened recently, and if you've in lived in Sycamore for a long time, you probably understand this even much better than I do, there's been a lot of economic growth within the area, some of that within Sycamore proper, so to speak, but a lot of that growth within the region. So we partner with DeKalb in terms of some of the growth that's happening within the county or the community of DeKalb that benefits Sycamore. So it may not happen within our city boundaries, within our school district boundaries, but if there are new jobs, sometimes these people are working in DeKalb, living in Sycamore, right? When those opportunities rise, it still benefits Sycamore. The other reason I think partnerships is really important. One of the other things I touched on last year, and this is something that I think is gonna be important to touch on for several years to come, is that several years ago, the district had to make some pretty challenging financial decisions in order to live within our means. So one of the things that's really important to me is that we are always striving to live within our means, that we are respectful students, taxpayer resources, resources that we get from the state of Illinois and other sources. It's our job to live with in our means, and a couple years ago, the district had made some tough decisions to be able to do that, and one of the things that I've done, and I've come here is have those conversations internally, not only in the board education, but with the district administration and the staff as well. Those are not always easy conversations to have. There are more things that we'd like to provide for our staff and for our students, but at a certain point, we have to make difficult decisions about what we can afford to do and what we can't afford to do. So those decisions are paying off now. We're getting into a better position where we've got a little bit more flexibility. It's a gradual process. Having lived through some of those decisions in previous districts, you make those difficult decisions all up front and then you have to live with them for quite a bit of time. We'll do that, but it's gonna be positive in the long run. So I was not part of those decisions, but we'll have the opportunity to benefit from those decisions as we move forward. So I'm gonna talk a little bit about the '22-'23 school year and how things have gone so far. Up to now, the slides have been kind of boring bullet points and black text on my background. Let's have some fun with this one. The emphasis this year has been on restoring a positive culture and relationships within the school district. I'll talk about this on the next slide, which I don't wanna go to quite yet. A couple things happened in the last couple years. They've been really hard, right? You can't ignore those things. The pandemic was challenging. Contract negotiations last year were very challenging. This year is all about rebuilding and restoring those relationships. One of the things I heard about Sycamore when I came here was how much pride and support there was within the community. We wanted to make sure we did everything we could to make sure that we were getting back there after both of those things. So that really started to happen last spring. months, both of those things were kind of in the rear view mirror in March. So things improved in the spring in the school year last year, but I think they've been even better this year. Steven, could you go back for just a second? So some of these pictures are very recent. This is professional development that we held last week, relay races for teachers. So you could see teachers broken up by school, carrying the egg in the spoon across the gym, and all at once, our teachers reverted to being middle schoolers all over again, right? Screaming and yelling and, you know, heckling other teams. That's the positive culture that we were looking for. Had a group that was taking pictures. Those are our instructional coaches across the district. They're at the top in the middle. On the far right, one of the things that the high school's done in each school is that's something a little bit different this year to increase that culture of positivity. One of the things that the high school does is dress up day. So we're able to wear pink for breast cancer last week, maybe the week before. That's a fairly recent picture, and every week, they don't just ask staff to do that, they take the picture, they send it out to the staff. I get a chance to see that. I think those sorts of things get picked up by communication department from time to time, and then we broadcast those so we can let the community know how we're doing, and last Friday, after the relay races, myself, Mr. Reineck, who our Assistant Superintendent of HR and Education Programs, Mike Rice, who our Director of Teaching and Learning, Phoebe Balentyne, who's our Director of IT, all volunteered to get pied in the face. So if you brought in items for our Spartan Food Pantry, the Spartan Food Pantry benefit from that. You got a pie in the face, and who wouldn't wanna give the superintendent a pie in the face. I have for the last couple of years so we had fun with that, and that whip cream was pretty good hair gel for the last bit of the day. All right, now, , thanks, Steven. I talked about the challenges that we've faced in the last couple of years. We're committed to restoring the positive, collegial culture that's been here for many years. I feel like that's going really well, other good news last week. So this time of the year, the state of Illinois releases district and school report cards for every public school district in the state. So we got an an advanced notice of what that report card was gonna look like. We got a chance to look at it in advance, a little bit as they were finalizing the information on the report card, but last Friday, last Thursday, we were able to release an announcement that said, I need a drum roll here, but . Go ahead, Steven. Also, our schools are commendable. So what does that mean? It means that, first of all, the state of Illinois assigns a summon of designation to every school in the state, so not school districts, but just every individual school in the school district. So out of our seven schools, all seven of 'em were designated as commendable. That means the none of the subgroups, they look at how all our students are performing, but then they also break them down into smaller subgroups. That means all of our subgroups were performing well. We're not quite in the upper 10% of the state that would rank us as exemplary. That would be the highest designation. Commendable is the second designation. Underneath of that would be targeted and comprehensive in terms of needing support to improve. We're very proud, but, also, our schools were ranked as commendable after two years of living through a pandemic where some of our students were out of school for months on end, bringing them back, still dealing with mitigations, come to school a couple days a week, got back to better rhythm last year, but after all of those ups and downs, all seven of our schools were able to be designated as commendable. So we're very, very proud, and it's not just academics at school. There are activities as well, and I described a couple of pictures from this fall's sports season. On the far left is our soccer team. We won the conference in regional championship, didn't make it through sectionals. They play the first round and got beat, but they did well. Cross country runner on top, two of our boys cross country runners qualified for the state meet. They'll do that this coming weekend. Our girls tennis team in the far right corner, on their sectional, the entire team qualified for the state. We're very proud of that, and on the bottom right, one of the activities gets a lot of publicity this time of year, especially when you're doing slow lives with a football team, finishing the season night, and, oh, on the first round game lasts four hours, Saturday. They'll play Mundelein Caramel this coming Saturday afternoon. We'll be on the road, but we're excited about that. Academics, I always believe that academics is what we do in school. That is the primary focus, but without activities, oftentimes, you don't keep students engaged. So both of those programs, we're really working hand in hand. It's the diploma that they give when they graduate from high school that they achieve and that they earn to their academic work, but a lot of times, it's the activity opportunities, and it's not just sports. I just showed a couple of pictures of sports there. We have an unbelievable amount of clubs and other opportunities for students to participate in. This past Saturday morning, I'm on the rotary clubs. We did the pancake breakfast at St. Mary's. Maybe some of you stop by there and grab some pancakes and sausage. My seventh grade son, our seventh grade son, Sean, came and volunteered with me. He's in the Interact Program in the middle school. So a lot of programs like that that students can participate in that aren't necessarily athletic in nature. About a third of our students participate in activities every year. So we keep them engaged in other ways outside of the classroom. About a third of our students participate in activities. We talked about how activity programs go hand in hand with academics. I'm a former coach. I coached the football and wrestling. I can be a little competitive. I try to keep that under the surface and try to be nice about it, but I can be pretty competitive from time to time. It's not all about win and losses. So one of the things that I love about our football program is that they enjoy winning as much as anybody, but if you talk to Joe Ryan or any coach on that staff, they'll tell you that the character and the dedication and the commitment that the players getting out of being a football player are more important than the win and losses, and that's a philosophy that we see throughout our athletic programs so that's something I'm really proud of. Okay, let's shift gears here for just a couple minutes and talk about district finances. Like I said, we're committed to living within our means, making the best use of the resources that we can, but 70 to 75% of our financial resources come from local sources. So when we talk about being responsible stewards of the resources that we're given, that's because those resources come here locally in the form of property taxes. That's not always the case in school districts across the state. In downstate and other areas, the previous districts rep man, the numbers were more 50/50. Here, it's about 70 to 75% for a variety of reasons. Approximately 20 to 22% comes from the state of Illinois. So we still need, we get a significant chunk of funding from the state of Illinois. The remainder comes from Federal sources. Now, that, it's a little bit different over the last couple years because lesser dollars and federal support that we were given through the pandemic, that skewed numbers. That will skew numbers from just a couple of years until we get through those years, and in terms of accounting and our audits, get those numbers on our books. So in general, those financial resources are pretty small. So this is the graph of fund balances over about the last six or seven years. So I apologize, the slide is not updated. I was talking to our Assistant and Superintendent for Business this morning. I got a little bit behind in getting this slide updated. So that's my fault under, but you can see where the trend has been in terms of fund balances here in the school district. So when the school year is over, what kind of resources do we still have on hand? So one of the questions I get sometimes in my previous position in a smaller school district, I wore a lot of hats. I was a superintendent, I was business manager, the curriculum director. So one of the questions I've got for quite a while is, you know, why do you have resources on the end? Why don't you just spend every penny, you know, and zero it out every year? The pandemic is a really, really good example of why we don't do that, and in 13 years as a superintendent, that was about the fourth event in my time where funding nearly dried up or did dry up. So right when I became a superintendent in 2010 here for a period of time where the state board of education in November said, "We're gonna stop sending state funding in February." We should have received that through June 30th, and that financial year they just quit, but, also, happened to be the year that we received the error funds. The public schools and the state of Illinois received error funds, federal funds. Had it not been for those resources and fund reserves that a lot of school districts had, school districts would've been able to make it. State money was prorated about five or six years ago, and school districts that didn't have reserves and didn't know that that probation was coming, were in it pretty hard. We'll always do our best to maintain fund balances that are appropriate, that are responsible, that aren't exorbitant, but that's our rainy day fund. So if something happens in terms of locally in the economy, of the state level where we start to run out of resources, we have to keep things building as long as we can. So we're gonna talk a little bit about our future here for these last couple of slides. I'm gonna open it up for questions at the end. So if you've got questions about anything, we'll be glad to take those, and if you run out time and need to leave, I understand. My contact information will come up on the last slide. Shoot me an email, give me a call, I'll be glad to answer any specific questions that you may have, but just know that that's coming as I get into this last portion of the presentation. I'd like to say that not or through the pandemic and through contract negotiations and everything else that's happened over the last couple years, things are gonna be smooth sailing for the next couple years, and we're not gonna have anything to worry about, and, unfortunately, that's just not the way that things work. That's not the way that things work in the school district, the city, and the county and businesses. There is always something else coming down the road around the corner. There are three things that I want to touch on today that are, what I would say, a little bit more significant that kinda pop up when we talk about planning and conversations that we're having in the school district. Well, so the first is reviewing the boundaries of all of our elementary schools. So last spring, we talked about the study of elementary boundaries within the school district, redistricting. Try not to use that word of a lot 'cause it invokes a lot of emotion, understandably so. What does that amount to? It amounts to really looking at the boundaries between each of our five elementary schools. Why are we doing that? Because over the last 13 to 15 years, the enrollment in each of our elementary schools has shifted a little bit, and 13, 15 years ago, the district did a really good job of trying to project with the growth what the enrollment was gonna be in each those five sections of the school district. Some of that happened. Some of that didn't happen, and what's happened is that our elementary schools are a little out of balance in terms of enrollment. What does that matter? Some of our classrooms in some schools are much more full than they are on other classrooms. So it's kind of an inefficient use of space, inefficient use of staffing, inefficient use of resources. From a district perspective, it sounds very kind of business-oriented operations, you know, from the enrollment facilities and resources. We also know that when we have conversations like this, and we make decisions that impact boundaries, that's a very emotional decision 'cause there's a very real impact on the students and their families within our community. Students who go to school and in one school right now, maybe where our boundary has shifted, it may end up in different schools in the future. We understand that when those decisions are made, that's tough. So we understand that this is... We're having these discussions in terms of operations, but there are very real impacts on families. Just know that we understand that, and this will be a process that we'll go through, we'll talk about a timeline here in just a minute. We'll go through this process for both of the remaining school year. One of the things that we're developing is our webpage. Our communication department is developing the webpage to share information with the community. Raise your hand if you knew that the district was doing a boundary setting. Raise your hand. Raise your hand if you didn't. Okay. Well, we had this conversation very recently, too, and we've talked about this since last spring. We talked about it earlier this summer. We've talked about it in this fall. It hasn't come up at every single board meeting, but it's come up at on multiple occasions. One of the things we'll do outside is post links, videos from those board meetings so people can go back and see the discussion that's taking place. We'll provide as much information as we can tomorrow, right? We'll send out a survey to our community. It will be the first opportunity, but not the only opportunity for our community to give us feedback on what's important to them when it comes to the the boundary setting. There will be a question that we ask them to write what's important to them, and then an open-ended question. Tell us whatever you want, and we'll sift through all that and take that in account as best we can. I can't promise that we can make every dream come true, but this is the time where we need to know what's important to the members of our community. So this will be the first opportunity to do that. That survey will go out tomorrow, and in terms of time off, so we discussed this at the last board meeting, which was last Tuesday meeting. We'll get this community survey out tomorrow. We'll start to gather that feedback. Open-ended responses take a while to sit through so it'll take us a while to sit through those responses, but during November and December, we'll take in all that feedback, and then we'll have some additional internal conversations about what's important and then how that boundaries might shift to balance resources. Got a really good piece of map software that allows us to move the boundaries between schools very quickly and get an idea of how that will affect the enrollment, how it will, in fact, impact the demographic shifts in each of our schools. So if we were to take a portion of one neighborhood and move that from one school to another, we can see pretty immediately here's the chain of enrollment, not just overall, but by grade level, here's how many of those students are boys, how many are girls, how are white, how are black, how many are low income, how many are special education. So we've got great software that we didn't have before that will help us do that. We'll use that software during November and December and come up with a couple of different options that we'll take then out on the road in January. We'll have meetings in each elementary school to share those options that we've come up with. Those won't necessarily be the final recommendations to board education, but it will be a couple of different options that we think are gonna meet our needs. We'll gather feedback, whatever that feedback may be. We'll take that back to the drawing board, tweak those options, and then, ultimately, my goal is to come up with the recommendation to the Board of Education in February. We'll allow 'em to consider, probably have some conversation, multiple board meetings, again, give the community an opportunity to give us feedback and then make a decision, and the spring final has any boundary changes in the plan for implementation. So one of the other questions I get when I talk about the boundary study is, "Okay, so we're doing this for '23-'24?" And my answer is, "If possible." We need to plan to implement those changes for the '23-'24 school year for a variety of reasons. One of which is that when you make those decisions, they're very emotional, very difficult. What you don't want are those decisions hanging out there for another year. It's better just to, when you're ready to make those decisions, and then start to move forward. Same time like I shared before last week, sometimes, you make decisions and realize that there are other challenges, some of the hurdles that you need to work through in order to implement those decisions. So barring anything unforeseen, we'll implement any changes in '23-'24 school year. We'll communicate that to families so that they can plan for that for next year. If something comes up and prevents us from doing that, we'll be reasonable, and then we'll take a look doing that for '24-'25 school year instead. The other two things that I have here today are the new work that we're doing within the school district. This has been going on since before I got here. So the spring before I arrived at Sycamore, there was a task force, so to speak, that was put together that involves staff across the district, different grade levels, staff, administrators, teachers, administrators, just to start having conversations about inclusion, diversity, equity, and acceptance within our school district. What does that look like? How are we doing? Now, any questions I get is, "You think that things are really that bad?" Or, "Are there problems in the hallways, locker rooms?" And no, not necessarily, and while you guys saw the demographics, while the both of our students are white, we have other populations represented here in the community. So we just wanna make sure we are being inclusive of all of our students no matter what their background is, Just wanna make sure that we're supporting them as best we can. So the evolution of the committee is that it started the spring of 2020, right before I arrived. It's been a district committee for the last couple of years, but we just extended invitations to some additional parents, students, staff members to expand that community in broaden the information feedback that we're getting. So that was an outro of the equity audit, which is something that we did last spring. We'll use that information from the equity audit to broaden our perspective a little bit with new members, and the first meeting is coming up here in the next couple of weeks. So that group will meet in the evening hours so we can have parents, community members have what they work or don't, whatever they need to do during the day, we'll start having some of those meetings in time, but it's not necessarily because we think that we've got all these problems in our schools, and we just wanna make sure that we're including all of our students backgrounds, whether it's differences in culture or, I think that's near and dear my heart, is including students with special needs, parents with special needs. Are we communicating to them as best we can, making sure that they can be involved in their students' education? Last but not the least, this one's probably a couple of years out yet, we've done a lot of facility work for our schools over the last couple of years. You've probably seen them in the summer, all the contractors and all the work that's happened, primarily our elementary schools and our middle school. We've done work at the high school as well. So if you've been in high school, you've seen some recruitments there as well. The high school, though, is he largest building in the district, and it's one of the oldest buildings in the district. So if we recognize that the high school really needs a significant amount of work, we've done that for a couple years. We're planning for that, but that's something that's gonna be on the radar, and it's something that you hear us talk about more and more the next couple years. So one of the last reports that we receive from our architect is that the cost of those renovations are probably gonna exceed 50 million, but that was the entire of the pandemic, but was a little easier to get supplies and materials and things like that. We expect that number would've changed for a variety of reasons, but that's something that gives you an idea of what that number, that work is going to look like, and the piece to that is how can we finance that work when it's fair or reasonable, as much as we can. So as those conversations progress, we hear about those. The media, we'll talk about the board meetings, that we published and have a chance to read that. As any of these, as well as anything else that happens on our school district comes around, feel free to give me a call, shoot me an email. If I don't have the answer, part of my job is to make sure that I find the person who does, and get back to you. This is my contact information. You can email me directly. That's the main number at our administrative building, but if you call that number, they can get you to me pretty quick. I'll be glad to talk to you over the phone or sometimes we meet in person, and as promised, I'm glad to field any questions that anybody might have come up with.

- [Audience 1] There's an early slide. Our chart had had two colors. I don't think it was a series. Was that male and female or what was that demographic breakdown?

- So the bar chart or was it the circle?

- [Audience 1] Yeah.

- Can you go back, Steven, or actually .

- [Audience 1] Green, there was something in black. There was something else that would, yeah.

- It always was this. So really good question, and I apologize for not being more explicit about this. So the light green is our school district.

- [Audience 1] Got it.

- The dark green is the state average. So that's a really good question. I'm sorry if I didn't bring that up earlier. 80.3% of our students in the district are white. 46.4% is the state average in any other school in the state. So this chart is meant to give you an indication of how our school looks or how our student demographics compared to the state. Yeah, that's a really good question. I apologize for not bringing that up earlier. Yes, sir. I have three grandchildren in top third One of the things that scares me as a grandfather and a citizen is a shooter coming into one of our schools. So I assume that there's some plan in existence, if you could affirm that, but one of the things in Texas that bothered me so much is that law enforcement didn't know who was in charge, and I want be sure that our plan has somebody running in law enforcement, and the second thing that they didn't have on scene was someone with enough protection to deal with an assault, and I wanna be sure if our law enforcement that's gonna be in charge of this plan doesn't have that, that the community could fund that protection . Y'all need to be pretty sure.

- Sure, John, I think that's a really good question, and you make a really good point, and just so everybody knows, some of you I know personally, my wife and I have four kids. Two of them are in our school system, and over the years, all of this, our children have been in our school systems, and, unfortunately, the reality of an intruder or a shooter or something, that we've had schools for a long time now. We have a very close relationship with Sycamore PD so we have a lot of direct communication. We have a crisis plan in place. So in the event of any crisis, fire, tornado, or an intruder, we've got plant in place that each drill on a regular basis every year. Part of that's required by the state. Part that we do on our own. To prepare for that, we're taking measures within the buildings to protect our students and our staff. It's not just about our students. It's about our staff as well. One of the things, unfortunately, I've learned over the years is that if somebody's really determined, well, they'll find a way. So sometimes, it's keeping them out and, sometimes, it's slowing them down. So now, I'm gonna give you a real world example. This morning had a bus accident. Our bus was stopped at an intersection over on Kugler Mill Road. Turned out that the bus was stopped and the car hit our bus. Our kids and our driver, everybody was fine. It was totally fine. I got the call. I got it in about an hour. I happened to make it to the administrative office that morning or that time this morning. I got the call, jumped in my car, took me a couple of minutes to get over there. Sycamore PD was on site. Sycamore Fire was on site. Our Transportation Director was on site, and even though I showed up as being the Superintendent and the Chief Operating Officer in the school district, it wasn't my job to get involved. They were implementing the crisis plan without me having to be there. So our Transportation Director worked with Fire and PD, to secure the scene, make sure everybody was safe. Got an additional bus there on site. Got the kids transferred, got them to school. It's not a shooter situation, but to me, this morning really illustrated how well we worked together with the other entities in town. One of the issues, one of the things that really scared me about the situation in Texas is that it seemed like there was confusion maybe about who was in charge and about how decisions were getting made. It has been abundantly clear to me here in Sycamore that problem will not exist. There is such a good relationship between the city, PD, Fire, I mean with talking with Jim Winter on a regular basis. He does a really good job of making sure that their officers are equivalent to what they need. The other thing is they've got great relationships with other emergency responders outside of Central, so whether that's county, Cal PD, State PD, or state police. So what I can do is assure you that there is a solid plan in place. There's great communication amongst the entities that will respond, and we will do our absolute best to protect students and staff.

- [Audience 2] So when the true situation .

- Well, I'll hardly go into decision making just because I don't get into the details of our plan very much on purpose. I don't have details of our crisis plan going out, but I can tell you there is protocol in place for how decisions are gonna get made, who makes those decisions, and who's in charge of them, absolutely. Really good question. Did I answer all of your questions?

- [Audience 2] Yes. As long as the law enforcement agency is equipped to deal with whatever shows up.

- I- I feel like they are, and, again, I just don't go into detail 'cause we don't want the details that plan out on the calls. Any other question? Going once. Listen, I appreciate your time. I know you're here on a lunch break. You've got other things to do. I appreciate your support of the school district. I appreciate your support of SEF. I do wanna recognize a couple people before we wrap up, and I'll send you guys on your way. So I think we've got one board member here. If you wanna talk to somebody in charge, if you wanna talk, but don't wanna talk to me, talk to your board members. Eric, would you mind standing up real quick? I've got contact information for all the other board members. Eric Jones, as one of our board members, has been on since second term.

- This is my 10th year.

- 10th year. So really blessed to work with a lot of consistency on the board in terms of leadership. So Eric's one of seven board members. He gets you the phone number of anybody else. If you need it, just let him know. I also wanna introduce staff from the school district. These are the people that I work on a very regular basis who do unbelievable work. So I'm gonna kind of work my way around the back, Tom Rucker, our principal at South Prairie Elementary, Nick Reineck is our assistant superintendent for HR and Educational Programs. Mike Rice is our Director of Teaching and Learning. Courtney Walz is our OSCAR Director. She's also heavily involved in Spartan Food Pantry. Lynn Riley's our Director of Special Education, really, Student Services encompasses special education, but a lot more than that. Nicole Stuckert is our Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations. Phoebe Balentyne is our Director of IT, and Lauren Holtz is our Director of Communications. Last but not least, we would've been able to do today without Steven Jamrog, who works in our Engagements Department, so thanks to Steven for all his work. Really last but not least, I left her the last on purpose is Jen Eifel, who's back there, in fact, taking pictures. She works in our Communications Department, also, so she was back stage, taking pictures, and, again, a lot of great people within the school district to help us do what we do, couldn't do without them, so with that said, thanks for being here. I'll stick around if you have a question that you'd like to talk to me about one on one, Would be glad to do that. If not, you're headed back to work or wherever you're going this afternoon, have a great day. We appreciate you being here today.

All State of the District Addresses