Springfield School District 186

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Springfield District 186 school teachers have been working without a contract since mid-August. And despite hours of bargaining, they haven't come to any agreement with the school board. 

Joey Gobble, who teaches history at Lanphier High School, said sure, they're asking for better salaries. But they're also asking for smaller class sizes, more alternative education classes, plus more social workers and psychologists, and more help for students.

Lee V. Gaines / Illinois Newsroom

About 100 teachers and school support staff spent the better part of three hours inside a junior high school gymnasium in rural, east central Illinois in early January. They were role playing people living in poverty.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

School districts had a year to implement a state law that banned zero-tolerance policies and emphasized restorative justice practices. We check back in with five districts we visited  in the summer of 2016 to see how school discipline has changed.

Jaclyn Driscoll / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

UPDATE: Springfield Police have arrested a 14-year-old male in connection with the bomb threats. He was charged with four felony counts of disorderly conduct and is being held at the Sangamon County Juvenile Detention Facility. 

Springfield District 186 logo
http://186.sps186.org/

UPDATE   12:15 p.m.

A local juvenile, described as a person of interest, has been detained, according to local authorities.  Schools are being given the all clear signal.  District officials say they take each threat seriously.  

Police Chief Kenny Winslow says it's "not a joke, not a prank."  He says those responsible will be held accountable.

NPRIllinois

As state lawmakers again consider expanding the number of casinos in the state, Springfield could wind up in the mix. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Ever since the crisis in Flint, Michigan was publicized, concern over the presence of lead in water has reached a fever pitch. Law makers across the country have reacted with legislation addressing the issue in their home states. Illinois is one of them - a new law requires some public schools to test for it.

Karen Bridges

Forty years ago, during the summer of 1976, school officials in Illinois’ capital city were in federal court, arguing about how to desegregate Springfield schools. Roger Bridges was one of more than a hundred plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but he emerged as one of the architects of the desegregation plan ultimately chosen by Judge James Ackerman. The plan is still in use today.

As families get set to send their kids back to school, we asked Bridges to remind us why some of our youngest students will be taking the bus.

Eric Mason, an 18-year-old Lanphier graduate, was recognized by the Illinois State Fair for overcoming incredible odds to become a high achiever.
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

After 163 years, the Illinois State Fair is always adding traditions. New this year is the Hometown Hero Award, recognizing people who "perform selfless acts, overcome incredible odds and reach milestone achievements."

The inaugural winner is a teenager Eric Mason.

Eric just graduated from Springfield's Lanphier High School. And on Saturday, he left to begin college at Stanford University. That means he won't be around to partake in the glory, like joining the Grand Marshal to lead the Illinois State Fair Parade on Thursday, that comes along with being the "hometown hero."

Thanks to all who took the time to participate in the NPR Illinois Advisory Convening.  K-12 funding was the main topic the group discussed.  Listen to the unedited, raw audio to hear how it progressed.  It has been posted in two parts to make file size manageable.  View the slide show of the participants above.

A court has ruled the Springfield District 186 School Board acted properly when it fired the former superintendent Walter Milton.  An agreement with Milton was negotiated and agreed to in private.  

The State Journal Register alleged the board violated the Open Meetings Act.

Illinois Report Card

The Springfield school district received good news late last week when graduation rates were announced through the Illinois Report Card. All three District 186 high schools saw their graduation rate jump by at least 7 percentage points in 2015, and Superintendent Jennifer Gill is pretty happy about that.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Schools that serve a large number of low-income children qualify for federal grants, called Title 1. Many schools use that money to provide extra reading and math teachers, to help needy kids catch up with their more privileged peers. But the state of Illinois is increasingly tapping into those funds to pay down the Teachers Retirement System’s pension liability. 

The school system losing the most money in this scheme is Springfield’s District 186. So I asked Larry McVey, coordinator of Springfield’s Title 1 programs, to explain how this happened.

http://401kcalculator.org

Schools in Illinois’ neediest districts are being forced to spend federal funds to prop up the state’s Teacher Retirement System. 

Springfield School District 186

Jennifer Gill has been superintendent of Springfield School District 186 only since May 2013, but she is already confronting racial issues in the district. She has chosen a diverse cabinet of administrators, and she has sent key employees to training sessions in restorative practices. Below is an excerpt of our lengthy conversation about race and discipline:

  How did WUIS decide to do this series?

Paris Taborn

Paris Taborn chose to leave Springfield High.

“I kept getting in trouble at school. So like, I would get sent home, and stuff, every day. I would just come to school -- oh, your shirt’s too short. Come to school -- your bra strap’s showing.”

She didn’t get into fights; she didn’t threaten a teacher. She just had a lot of tardies and dress code violations that she felt were unfair.

“They would literally come in our class and be like ‘Black girls have more butt than white girls; that’s why we don’t say anything to them.’ "

Courtesy of Gwen Harrison

Ted Harrison is proud that his son, Malik, plays football for Eastern Illinois University on a full scholarship. But ask Harrison about his son’s history of concussions, and he’s not sure he knows the exact number. He thinks the first one occurred during an afternoon practice early in Malik’s playing career at Springfield High School.

The Harrisons weren't notified by the coaching staff.

“We were alerted by Malik," Harrison says. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On Tuesday evening, Apple DeWeese was sitting in the front porch swing with her dad, Aaron, trying to explain how she's feeling about starting school.

"I'm not really excited," she said. "Mostly scared."

What's there to be scared of?


A nationwide survey recently published found that Illinois school districts typically don’t mention gay, lesbian and transgender students in their anti-bullying policies.

courtesy of Mt. Carmel High School

Rehearsing her students for the big spring musical, Kim Mandrell has crossed two huge worries off her list: She's decided not to have Mary Poppins fly - and this year, for the first time ever, she doesn't have to fret about the safety of the audience.

 

 

The Springfield school board took a close look at its budget Monday night, and discovered that it’s either $3 million in the black, or $3 million in the red.

 

Click HERE to see the complete results for District 186.

And check back for data specific to each school.

Springfield public schools have seen higher than normal absences in the past week.  The district won't say if the absences are related to the flu, but local health officials say they are seeing more cases in the area.

District 186 reported last week, about 9 percent of students missed class.  The number was higher at Springfield High, where nearly 11 percent of students were out.  Lanphier had 14 percent absent.

Alternative programs in the district had the highest percentage of student absences.  

Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

 

Illinois schools are preparing to implement a new standardized test based on the Common Core standards. Some school districts have pleaded with state officials to delay the implementation of the new test, but Springfield school officials say they're ready.

Educators refer to this new test as the PARCC test. That’s the acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s a standardized test, designed by the Pearson company, that will be given to most Illinois students beginning in March.

The grand jury decision is expected any day now in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. In anticipation of that announcement, Springfield school officials have issued instructions on how to handle students' reactions.

District 186

An unloaded gun was discovered at Southeast High School today.   District officials say the gun was not found on a person, but suspects have been detained.   An investigation is continuing.  

The district also says the discovery came after a tip was given to the school.  That prompted what's known as a soft lock down as a precaution.  

Increased security is planned for tonight.  Southeast hosts Chatham Glenwood in a football game this evening.
   
It was just over two weeks ago that a Lanphier student was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to school.

There will be heightened security at Lanphier High School Wednesday after a student brought a gun to class on Tuesday afternoon. The weapon was apprehended without incident and the 16 year old male student was arrested. Police say he allegedly had the gun for protection and at no point displayed or threatened to use it. Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there will be more police officers at the high school in the coming few days:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

All Springfield public school students will get free lunches this year. Most schools in the district already were part of a free meal program that qualified students automatically, no matter their household income. This year, all schools in the district will participate. Iles and Ball Charter Elementary schools were added along with Lincoln Middle School and Springfield High.

The mayor of Springfield has no authority over the public school district.  But with so many campaign promises dependent on growing the city's tax base and population, District 186's image is pertinent in the race.

Those who have announced a bid for mayor include the incumbent Mike Houston, Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo and City Treasurer Jim Langfelder.

The WUIS Education Desk asked all three candidates about their views of the district, including how to deal with revenue problems.  

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students are back in the classroom on Monday.  They will see some changes,  including all Springfield public schools observing a one hour early dismissal every Wednesday. Bus routes will run an hour early and after-school programs are available on those days. The district also has a new superintendent, Jennifer Gill. She joined us for this interview about how budget cuts will affect students, why she's hoping to focus on the district's drop-out rate, and more: 

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