Western School District withdraws from Race to the Top

Posted: Apr. 17, 2014 9:36 am Updated: May. 8, 2014 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

BARRY, Ill. -- The Western School District plans to withdraw from the Race to the Top program.

School Board members Wednesday directed interim Superintendent Steve Goodman to write to Julie Evans with the Illinois State Board of Education to make the request.

With the board's decision in March to cut the agriculture and band programs, "we will no longer have the necessary parts to continue," Goodman said.

Board President Lorc Weir said there are no penalties to the district for dropping out of the program.

"We were kind of hoping we would be able to keep it going, but I guess, according to the rules, we can't," Weir said.

The district has been part of the program since 2012 and shared in school improvement grants from nearly $43 million in federal funding awarded to Illinois.

Grant funding statewide went toward improving achievement in science, technology, engineering and math education and building better connections to post-secondary education and training.

Initial grant funding for Western helped with implementing new common core standards and providing professional development for teachers tied to the new standards.

Then-Superintendent Carol Frericks called the district's participation in the program "an opportunity to fund professional development and school improvement" and a way to access additional resources.

Illinois got third-round Race to the Top funding after it was a finalist in the first two rounds.

Also Wednesday, board members agreed to move forward with replacing a chiller at the Barry facility and will rebid boiler work.

The board accepted a $77,980 bid from Prairie State Plumbing and Heating. Architect Isaac Miller with Architechnics expects the chiller to be installed over the summer and ready for when classes resume in August.

The district has received two $50,000 state maintenance grants which must be matched with local funds to use toward the chiller and boiler work. But only one state grant can be used per project, so the district will rebid boiler work as a separate project. Miller also expects the boiler work to be done over the summer, with the new boiler ready for the winter heating season.

The district also needs to update the control system on its boilers and chiller. Miller said that work will be split between the projects, allowing the district to tap into the full $50,000 for each grant.