United 304 State of the District - March 2018


The start of the 2017-2018 school year brought about some exciting changes to curriculum areas and building learning environments.

One of the most exciting and most needed moves that the United Board allowed to happen this year was the addition of a school counselor at the Elementary level. Now, both elementary buildings house a full time school counselor as opposed to sharing one, which had been done for years. Students are walking through our doors with more and more social-emotional issues than ever before. In an effort to teach coping skills and responsibility, the district hired the additional counselor to provide small group and one on one instruction/therapy in these areas. The counselors as a whole were able to create a social/emotional curriculum that they deliver one day a week per elementary classroom.
United North Elementary is in the process of obtaining the district’s first Therapy dog. First grade teacher Courtney Anderson, presented the research and the concept of the use of a therapy dog in schools. Miss Anderson purchased and is in training to get the dog licensed to serve in this capacity. “Graham” is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and will be a licensed therapy dog through a national organization. Wheaten Terrier’s are common therapy dogs because they are Hypoallergenic and are playful and affectionate in nature. The national licensure also comes with insurance. “Graham” got a taste of his future duties by serving at UHS during a tragic event recently. To say that his visit went well would be a complete understatement. Graham will not be able to serve the district until January 2019 at the very earliest.
Going Google. In January of 2017, the United District officially became a Google School District. This offers our staff and students industry standard software tools, email, and presentation products for educational purposes. The move to “Cloud” based storage has also changed the way classroom teachers communicate with students and with other teachers regardless of building location. This move coincides with the district’s ability to provide 650 Chromebooks for student use throughout our buildings. Although we don’t send the units home with students overnight, the district is providing a virtual 1 to 1 tech opportunity for any and all teachers that opt to supplement their classrooms with this technology. Plans would indicate that all 2-12 graders will have 1 to 1 access by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Infrastructure improvements over the next 3-5 years will enhance the Chromebook effectiveness, just in time for the chromebooks to be replaced with the latest and greatest version.

Warren County CEO Program

Also new in 2017-2018 is the addition of the Warren County CEO program. CEO stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. Seven United High School juniors meet from 7:30 - 9:00 AM Monday through Friday at various business locations throughout the county. They earn 2 credit hours and are back at UHS by the beginning of 3rd period. Dual credit is also offered through Carl Sandburg College. Every student is assigned a business mentor which help immerse themselves in real life learning experiences. Students have produced and completed several community events. The CEO program is dependent on investors and partners, which include district residents - Brandon and Kathy Bentz (Fusion Tech), Ron and Darcy Tharp (Tharp Bros Underground Utility), Smithfield Foods, Walters Farms, McDonough Power Cooperative among others. Mentors include district residents Trevor Davies (McGuire & Davies Funeral Home), Brian Parkins (Parkins Trucking), Stan Jenks (Security Savings), and Cody Lam (H&L Plumbing & Heating), To learn more about this new and exciting option for UHS students, visit http://www.warrencountyceo.com/

Student Achievements

UHS Math Team (ICTM) - Regional Champs 2018 will compete at the State Competition on May 5, 2018

Junior High Robotics

United Junior High was home to our first ever Robotics team this year. Seven dedicated students along with teacher Sara Ryner and mom volunteer Krystal Jungmann, worked extremely hard to learn the robotics skills along with developing a “green” system of purifying drinking water while at school. The team competed in Peoria and were awarded as the "New Team of the Year" in their first ever event.


In the last calendar year, the United District has seen several Operations and Maintenance improvements, with plans for several more on the horizon.

In December 2017, the District purchased 8 acres of tillable farm ground directly south of the High School facility from the Dorothy Walters Family. The acreage was purchased to provide a “lab” environment for our High School Agriculture classes. Students will plan, contract, produce, and harvest these acres utilizing Ag Business, Agronomy, Horticulture, and Ag Leadership courses. The district is truly thankful to the Walters family for working with us to provide this opportunity for our kids. The land was purchased using the 1 cent facility sales tax, so no community property tax money was spent on this update to our curriculum.
This in addition to the construction of a Greenhouse last spring (2017). The greenhouse was a product of donation from the Jack and Marge Hennenfent family and the Galesburg Community Foundation. The greenhouse provides lab environment for both our Agriculture programs and our Biological Science programs. United High School is committed to providing experiences outside of student desks and offering as many real-world experiences as possible. Again, no district funds were spent on this project.
Yet another project that has come to fruition without the use of district funds would be the construction of a baseball diamond on the south campus. For 14 years, the Alexis Rec League Diamond has served as the home of Red Storm Baseball. However, thanks to a committee of dedicated parents and baseball fans, the concept of a diamond on our high school campus has nearly been completed. Once again, virtually no tax dollars have been spent on the project to date and the diamond hopes to open on a home date in April of 2018.

10 Year Life Safety Survey

The year 2017 also marks the 10 year anniversary of our last Architectural Life Safety Survey. Starting in July, the board directed the district architect to complete the 10 year life safety survey, which is mandated in school code. The architect, Bill Phillips of Phillips and Associates of Canton, IL will present the findings of the survey at the regular March 2018 board meeting. This survey will provide guidance and a funding mechanism for needed facility upgrades. Among items that will likely be present on the report are ventilation and heating systems at United West and United Jr. High, roof repairs at United Jr. High, electrical upgrades in all district buildings (none of our buildings were built with the thought of housing over 250 computers), and perhaps repaving of parking and playground areas. The survey will report items in 3 categories: immediate need, within 5 years, or before the next survey. Once the report is presented and approved by the State of Illinois, the board will next prioritize the improvements and set a course of action to complete and finance the projects.

An expected part of the upgrades will be the implementation of safety measures for all of our district schools. Included in the initial plans for safety upgrades will be security cameras at all district buildings and the inclusion of an integrated phone system in each classroom. The camera system will sync directly with Monmouth Police and provide off hours protection for our facilities. The phone systems will provide direct access for classrooms to both office personnel, emergency personnel, and outside resources in a moment’s notice. In the meantime, our technology upgrades get a boost from the infrastructure needs of a system like the camera system which will provide an educational benefit too.
Finally, as part of the district’s long range goals, plans for the renovation of space into an auditorium have been drawn. The multi-purpose use of an auditorium at the high school level would enhance our already strong music programs and our drama programs. School assemblies, award ceremonies, “Mr. Red Storm” and other programs would also benefit from a facility such as this. A potential capital campaign is on the horizon to see this project to completion.

Future Facilities Wish List

Other items on the radar of our facility wish list would be: update and renovation of the United Jr High Library/Media Center, update and renovation of the United High School Library/Media Center including a distance learning classroom, purchase and construction of playground equipment at our High school Pre-K classrooms


Transportation Costs

Transportation Funding - United School District covers 363 square miles, which requires a great deal of busing. State funding for transportation is half a year behind and prorated to 65% of eligible funding. The district runs 20 regular routes, 3 special ed routes, and 7 shuttle routes both morning and evening. In FY17, the district spent $1,174,597 on transportation resources. To date, the district has never charged for busing, including after practice busing.

Local Funding

In FY17, United tax payers were responsible for 69% of our district revenues, and other sources of local funding accounted for 8% more - meaning 77% of all of our funding comes from our own constituents. That percentage has gone up since 2010 when local funding amounted to 56% of our revenue. In the same time period, state funding has decreased from 32% in 2010, down to 18.5% in FY17.

Ed Funding Reform

Last spring, the Illinois Legislature passed educational funding reform, known as the Evidence Based Model. Through research, a group of educators along with legislators determined what the proper elements are to provide a proper education. From those elements, a financial adequacy target is determined, and according to that target, the state intends to make up whatever money a district is short of the adequacy target. According to projections, the United School District is set to receive an additional $34,000 bringing state funding to roughly $1,364,590.

Detrimental Pending Legislation

However, the Illinois General Assembly is in the midst of undermining all of the work done toward the Evidence Based Funding Model. A bill exists that would force local districts to pay the STATE's portion of the Teacher Retirement Pension annuity. The bill would phase this transfer of payment to the districts over a 4 year period after which, the United School District will be required to pay in the neighborhood of $460,000 that they currently are not paying. Clearly, this doesn't make the funding reform benefit United, or likely any district in the state.

United 304 Expenditures by Year

The above chart shows the year end results of United's operating fund expenditures over the last 6 years. The United Board's of Education have worked diligently to control expenditures as witnessed by the less than 4% increase in Education Fund expenses since 2012.

Upcoming Challenges/Changes

Every Student Succeeds Act (replaces No Child Left Behind)

Federal Education Law in effect that will require accountability at the building level. The law provides a Quality Framework for districts to use to meet the requirements of the law. Each year, every school building will be given a designation based upon a set criteria. That criteria includes items such as: student growth (from year to year), chronic absenteeism rates, school climate, graduation rate, college and career readiness, and English/Language Arts, Science, and Math proficiency. Every school in Illinois will be awarded one of 4 designations, Lowest Performing, Underperforming, Commendable, and Exemplary. At this time, the state is revisiting what the proficiency exam will be for schools in Illinois. School designations will come out in October.

Below is a summary look at the Illinois Plan in response to ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

New Curriculum Offerings 2018-19

For the past 2 years, United High School has maintained a basic Science curriculum due to a shortage of staff members. Going into the 18-19 school year, however, the district has opted to post for and hire an Agriculture teacher with Science certification. This will allow us to offer additional Science electives as well as additional Ag classes in Animal Science, Horticulture, and Environmental Studies.

Intro to Psychology and Leadership Studies

The High School will also be offering Psychology as a dual credit course elective for UHS students, so they can earn both high school and college credit during their junior or senior year. This new offering is being done with existing staff and no additions to district salaries.

Junior High Instructional Coach

Another new position to the district will be the addition of a Junior High Instructional Coach for UJHS teachers and students. This is a position dedicated to helping staff improve their methodology. This isn't a tech troubleshooter, but rather a dedicated person to help make the connection between content and new and different ways to present it. This is a very highly rated position within the Evidence Based Funding Model and is a result of the Junior High absorbing a Social Studies teaching position. No additional staff was added to make this happen.

BOOST Program Funding through 2022

The United High School is thrilled to be able to a recipient of the Illinois 21st Century Grant that funds several outside of school activities. Clubs have included cooking, art, robotics, broadcasting, ACT prep, fitness, and general tutoring. The Red Zone BOOST (Bringing Out Our Students Talents) program provides funding for activities outside of school ours so that our students have opportunities that aren't always offered via the general curriculum. United, through the work of the Regional Office of Education #33, has been granted an extension of funds through the year 2022.


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