Unit 5 is looking to replace its current student information system with a new platform district officials say will make life easier for students, parents and teachers.
Unit 5 staff presented their recommendation for the 2019-2020 school year to the school board Wednesday night.
Student information systems (SIS) house a range of student information, including home address, emergency contact information, and grades.
The staff’s platform of choice, called Infinite Campus, would cost $410,095 to implement, with the recurring annual cost dropping to $266,155 after year one. That’s about $40,000 more annually than the district's current SIS.
Included in the first-year price tag is the cost to train staff and educators throughout Unit 5 schools to use the system.
School Board Vice President Mike Trask said he felt some initial “sticker shock” at the cost to implement the system, but after going through a training session himself, he sees the value of the process for staff.
“You can’t go light on that,” he said. “If you do, you’ll see what will happen in August.”
Director of Elementary Education Moe Backe said the amount of work the new SIS will save teachers is worth the investment.
“With our current program we have to enter information multiple times. We’re looking for something that’s more integrated, so it all talks to each other.”
Backe said the shortcomings of the current system are becoming more prominent as the district moves toward standards-based grading, where students are assessed on individual learning targets.
“There’s a specific rubric, so students know exactly what they need to do to master that target.” she said.
“I think it’s going to save teachers a ton of time because we’re going to be able to upload scores, and they’re not going to have to manually enter things," she said.
Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman said he’s most excited at the prospect of using the platform’s data dashboard, called Tableau, to track students’ performance over time and evaluate college and career readiness.
“I see that as really a transformation for our district, being able to get that information,” he said.
The platform’s other features include a mobile app, online student registration and the ability to message parents in multiple languages.
The board will make a final decision on the proposal at its next meeting Dec. 12.
Hickman also gave a preliminary report on the district’s tax levy Wednesday night.
The levy would mean a $0.36 increase in the tax rate. For a $175,000 home, that increase would have an additional $210 impact, Hickman said.
Hickman said with a deficit in the district’s education fund, and the county’s assessor reporting modest gains in existing property values (EAV), the levy is especially important.
“Local property taxes are a little over 63 percent of our revenue for the education fund,” he said. “So changes in the EAV or no change in the EAV is significant to us, because our revenue doesn’t grow, but our expenses continue to grow.”
The budget adopted by the board in September offered a temporary solution to this year’s $5 million deficit and next year’s projected $10 million deficit with $16.5 million in working cash bonds.
Hickman said even after the increase, Unit 5’s tax rate will remain lower than most neighboring school districts.
Board members will consider adopting the levy at the Dec. 12 meeting.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.