Calls to PBL will result in automated message, instead of secretary's voice


PAXTON — If you call the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district in the near future, instead of a live person, you will hear an automated message on the receiving end with a list of options from which to choose.

The change, approved unanimously by PBL school board members last Wednesday night, is due to Superintendent Cliff McClure wanting to “increase productivity” among his staff.

McClure said secretaries at all five of the district’s offices — those at Clara Peterson Elementary School, PBL Eastlawn School, PBL Junior High School, PBL High School and the unit office — receive several incoming calls each day, only to immediately have to redirect those calls to another location.

“My (unit office) staff spends a lot of time redirecting calls to Dave Bachtold (maintenance) or Dustin Franckey (technology),” McClure said. “I think Dustin receives more calls than any other person. Basically, we’re answering calls and then punching an extension button to redirect the call.”

McClure also noted that school secretaries take several calls during the first two hours of the school day to record absences.

PBL High School Principal Travis Duley, who McClure said first requested the change, told board members that the sheer amount of calls can make it a balancing act at times.

“My secretaries could both be on the phone and a person might be trying to buzz in at the front door and it would be hard to balance that, and those situations happen pretty consistently,” Duley said.

Once a person calls in to the district, the first thing he would hear would be an automated voice. He would then be given a list of options from which to choose. Included in those options would be calls to Franckey’s office and talking directly with an office secretary.

Board Vice President Dave Dowling supported the proposal but noted that “there will be some pushback from people who don’t like automated calls.”

McClure said callers would only have a few options from which to choose, so it would not be overly complicated.

“We would never have more than four or five selections,” McClure said, “so you’re not going to be real deep into it.”

Duley said some of the calls are not important and thus could be eliminated.

“Most of our calls are directed to coaches, so the call then goes to their office,” Duley said. “Telemarketers call once or twice a day; we could stream those out so they don’t call in to our offices.”

McClure said individual staff members could have the option of receiving a live call or have it be sent to voicemail at certain times of the day.

“We can set it up to where some calls automatically go to voicemail, because I don’t want teachers to have to answer calls during class time,” McClure said.

“We’re going to make sure that the voicemails are up to date and make sure that teachers listen to them,” McClure added.

Valedictorian criteria
Following a discussion, board members adopted new guidelines for how PBL High School selects the valedictorian and salutatorian of its graduating class each year.

The new criteria would make the student with the highest grade-point average (GPA) the valedictorian, with the highest SAT testing score used as a tiebreaker.

For several years, PBL High School has had multiple valedictorians at graduation, as all valedictorians achieved a 4.0 GPA. At neighboring Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, dual-credit college/high school classes are weighted on a 5.0 GPA scale, which eliminates multiple top winners. Last year, GCMS did switch to a Latin honors system and recognizes those students at its graduation exercises.

Duley said that despite only having one valedictorian and salutatorian, PBL High School would still honor the top 10 percent of its graduating classes at the annual Senior Awards Night event and by handing out chords to wear at the graduation ceremony.

“I’m not opposed to changing (the valedictory selection criteria),” Duley said. “I think we can still recognize the top 10 percent. I do think that we need to get down to where we are recognizing the top academic student and the second-best academic student in the class.”

McClure added that several students work hard at achieving good grades upon graduation.

“I know several of our students who work hard, and if you do valedictorian and salutatorian then you limit to just those two,” McClure said, stressing the need to continue the top 10 percent recognition.

McClure said only the SAT test taken on the junior class testing day would count for tie-breaker purposes.

“Everyone takes it on the same day as juniors, so it’s all fair and equitable,” McClure said. “Everybody has an opportunity if they want to take challenging classes up to that point.”

Another possible option was a weighted GPA, but McClure said that it would not be fair to students whose career path does  not include high-level college courses.

“It seems like everything else has some subjectivity to it: either its a career path or direction,” McClure said. “I think it’s subjective to decide who’s worthy of that when people have a lot of different career paths and it’s not just about who took a college preparatory class. That option might not be the best option career-wise.”

McClure mentioned an attendance criteria which might be a possibility in the future but was not adopted by the board on Wednesday night.

“The limitation I saw while searching around was a requirement that a student attend PBL at least the last three years of high school,” McClure explained. “That might come up where a student transfers to PBL before their senior year, but if they come in with a 4.0 and have the highest SAT score then they would be the valedictorian under our current policy.”

Board President Dawn Bachtold said the policy would be implemented at the start of the upcoming school year, noting that nothing would change dramatically for the current senior class.

“There’s nothing in there that would impact their coursework or redefine their paths,” Bachtold said. “We’ve simply changed the criteria for first and second identifiers.”

Duley said that the 2018 graduating class had 96 students, with nine taking top honors with a 4.0 GPA.

Food service contract OK’d
Also last Wednesday night, the board approved a 2018-19 food service contract with Aramark Corp.

Aramark representative Janice Alexander said the first year of the district’s outsourced food services program saw a large participation increase.

“Participation this year has skyrocketed,” Alexander said. “We’ve done a lot of promotion at the junior high and high school. Participation at breakfast has increased 2.8 percent, and at lunch it has increased 9.5 percent. Definitely more kids are eating, and we want that trend to continue going into this school year.”

Alexander said the new contract includes a 2.5 percent cost increase in all categories, mandated by the Illinois State Board of Education and based on the Consumer Price Index.

As for her goals in the upcoming school year, Alexander said she does not propose any more changes except for wanting more participation.

“We’re not looking at many more changes,” Alexander said. “It’s been very positive, and the kids have really enjoyed the new choices, and we’re looking at increasing participation this next school year.”

Project moving forward
The board also learned that the Clara Peterson Elementary School renovation/construction project and PBL High School renovation project are going smoothly and are on schedule.

“We haven’t come up with anything out of the ordinary,” said Dan Welch of Gilbane Inc., the school district’s construction management firm.

McClure said an asbestos removal project at the high school is complete, with electrical and mechanical work to follow. McClure also said discussions on furniture selections for Clara Peterson Elementary School have taken place.

“We met (with staff) on the last day of school and we’ll meet again in July to finalize furniture,” McClure said. “It was a great meeting, with a lot of input from staff.”

McClure said he has also talked with other firms about playground equipment and technology.

“I have met with a representative from a playground company, and I’m going to meet with another one,” McClure said. “(Technology Director) Dustin (Franckey) and I have started to meet with MCS (Office Technologies in Gibson City) on our technology needs, and we’ll be coordinating that with Gilbane as we come along.”

Other business
Also at last week’s meeting:

➜ Board members approved the second amended budget of the 2017-18 fiscal year. A public hearing on the amended budget was held immediately before the start of the board meeting.

➜ The board agreed to move the start time for its regular board meetings ahead one hour to 6 p.m., with each meeting beginning with a closed session as the GCMS school board does. “Our closed sessions usually don’t last too long, so the regular meetings would probably start around 6:30,” McClure said. Next month’s meeting will be on a Thursday instead of the usual Wednesday, McClure noted.

➜ The board approved the implementation of a robotics team at PBL High School for the upcoming school year. “It aligns with our current educational vision and mission,” McClure said. “We will provide transportation to four in-state events each year and will provide a program sponsor.” The stipend earned by the staff member serving as the robotics team’s sponsor will be bargained by the PBL Education Association teachers’ union.

➜ The board accepted the following resignations: Nancy Streitmatter (high school speech team sponsor), Tom Rubarts (high school assistant track coach), Dustin Christensen (custodian), Sandy Bryant (cook), Rhea Modglin (junior high special education), Jessica Leverenz (fifth-grade teacher), Suzanne Price-Christensen (high school English teacher), Kim Brown (cook) and Susan Bailey (cook).

➜ The following faculty and staff were re-assigned: Michelle Brennan (seventh-grade social studies to sixth-grade social studies), Sally Ellis (sixth-grade social studies to seventh-grade social studies), Rachel Eshleman (junior high English to high school English) and Tammy Milburn (junior high custodian to high school custodian).

➜ The following hires were approved: Cory Jones (high school guidance counselor), Donna Wise (head cook at Eastlawn), Jordan Pennington (junior high English), Kasha Bloomstrand (fifth grade), Courtney Koonce (cook), Tracy Devine (junior high special education), Collette Lee (junior high social studies) and Colleen Keever (junior high special education).

➜ The board approved the following activity sponsors and coaches: Stacy Johnson and Kara Harrison (junior high student council), Michelle Brennan (Lego League) and Tyler Rubarts (high school assistant track coach).

➜ The board approved the 2018 Illinois prevailing wage resolution, with board member Steve Pacey voting “no.”

➜ The board separated one check from the rest for payment, with Pacey voting “no” on the single check. McClure said after the meeting that Pacey likely should have abstained rather than dissenting. McClure said the check in question was paid to Pacey’s son, Rob Pacey.

➜ McClure told board members that the school district would receive only two property tax payments this fiscal year, which he said “may affect our standing with the state.” The remaining $1.8 million from this year’s taxes would be paid the following fiscal year, McClure said, due to turnover earlier this year in the Ford County assessor’s office.

➜ The board voted to accept grants from the nonprofit PBL Education Association totaling $28,302.

➜ The board approved the destruction of closed-session audio recordings that are 18 months and older. The board also reviewed closed-session minutes and agreed not to release any closed-session minutes at this time.


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