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D122 board agrees to purchase 40-acre site for future use

To ensure there is space to expand its operations in the future, New Lenox School District 122 officials agreed May 17 to purchase some land on the village’s south side.

In a 4-2 vote, the board approved a $1.1 million contract to purchase 40 acres of farmland on Cedar Road. Board members Phil Adair and Michele Degroot Rosenfeld voted it down.

Superintendent Dr. Peggy Manville wants to make sure that people aren’t thinking that they’re purchasing this land to build a building.

“This land is a purchase for 20 to 30 years out based on the population projections that we received from the village based on the water study,” Manville said.

School district officials previously sold the rights to its Silver Cross property. Over the years, members of the Board of Education discussed the idea of taking some of the proceeds gained from that sale to purchase another piece of land to replace it.

Board member Michele Degroot Rosenfeld said she likes the idea, but she cannot support the purchase of the farmland at this time.

“We don’t even have a plan for what type of schools or a school or just an overall plan 20 years down the line,” she said. “I think it’s premature to purchase the property.”

Board member Al Haring disagreed.

“I don’t see land getting any cheaper,” he said.

Manville said she respects Degroot Rosenfeld’s views on the matter and maintained that it’s more of a matter of looking toward the school district’s future.

Board member Phil Adair suggested that school district officials look into expanding facilities as a possible solution to future population growth and facility needs.

Haring acknowledged Adair’s point and said it’s wise to keep the board’s options open also.

“I agree with member [Phil] Adair depending on the population [and] what the future shows, I think we should look at adding to buildings where we can, but I just like to have this option there, if it’s needed,” Haring said.

Manville said this is a win-win for the school district.

“We’re really fortunate 40 acres came up for sale right across the street from the Spencer campus, and so it’s on the south end of town, which is really where most of the growth will be in 20 to 30 years,” she said.

In a related development, school district officials voted 6-0 to authorize the board’s intent to secure a due diligence agreement with Legat Architects to perform a site analysis and site utilization assessment on the 40 acres of farmland acquired.

The school district will budget $27,000 to satisfy this aim.

Board President William Pender was absent from the meeting.

Senate bill 441 could shift school board elections to November

While a senate bill proposing that local school board elections are shifted to November was passed at the committee level in Springfield, Manville took a moment to urge board members to reach out to Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) to encourage him to vote it down.

“The whole point was it was a nonpartisan event for school boards,” Manville said. “School boards would be the only one moving to this election. Park districts, library boards, all those other boards will be staying in April. This one would be moving to November.”

Furthermore, the Illinois Association of School Boards opposes the proposed shift and encourages board members to take action.

Adair said while he wants to keep the board’s election nonpartisan, voter turnout might be greater in November.

Manville said while she understands Adair’s point, a proposed shift might not be necessary.

“When people come out for these smaller elections, they are coming out because they’re voting specifically for those elections,” she said. “I guess there’s two ways of looking at it. You might get more people voting, but are they really interested in the school board?”

The matter has come to the attention of school district officials a couple times in recent days. That measure will be up for vote at a later date.

Foundation grant supports education at D122 schools

New Lenox School District 122 Foundation continues to support education through its fundraising efforts, its board president said.

“The foundation board members would not be able to award all this money tonight if it wasn’t for our business sponsors, our individuals donors, the District 122 staff, the 130-plus individuals that attended our annual Brain Brawl [Trivia Night] in February, and those elementary school students who participated in our Principal for a Day last fall,” said Cali DeBella, board president of New Lenox School District 122 Foundation.

Since 2012 when the foundation started, the board has awarded more than $77,000 in awards, not including this year.

The bases for granting awards remains the same for the foundation board and its mission: to support as many students as possible and fund initiatives that otherwise are not funded by the school district.

With the first grant presented, Spencer Crossing School teacher Michelle Hence received $480 to pay for wobble chairs. It will help students in her classroom with the way they learn.

Another award in the amount of approximately $6,000 goes to Tyler School teachers to pay for Osmos Plasma Kits. They will be used to support learning in classrooms for students enrolled in first through third grade.

The foundation board awarded its largest grant ever in the amount of $25,000 to pay for Nearpod, a platform whose initiative is to enhance instructional learning, DeBella said. The interactive classroom tool will be available to all teachers across the school district.

“We’re super excited to be helping the district be one of the school districts in the area [to serve as] the first ones to offer Nearpod to all of our schools,” DeBella said. “We’re excited, as the foundation, to help with 300-plus teachers and 5,000-plus students with this technology.”

To date, the foundation’s efforts to support education total to more than $108,000, including this year’s awards.

“We’re excited to help, and we’re looking forward to raising more money for next year,” DeBella said.

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