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Article updated: 1/25/2013 2:14 PM

District 116 to decide restructuring plan meant to boost academic achievement

By Bob Susnjara

Round Lake Area Unit District 116 board members will be asked to approve a plan that would alter how education is delivered to students in an effort to boost academic performance, officials say.

District 116's seven-member board will decide on a restructuring plan during a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Round Lake High School's library media center. Superintendent Constance Collins said state education officials had wanted the plan earlier this month, but agreed to extend the submission deadline to Feb. 1.

Consistently poor performance on the state's annual report card and failure to meet federal No Child Left Behind guidelines are driving the need to drastically improve student achievement, Collins said. The district's total enrollment was listed at more than 7,200 students on the most recent state report card. All of the district's schools are in state academic warning status. Five elementary buildings are in federal corrective action or restructuring status.

Restructuring possibilities include converting neighborhood elementary buildings into "theme schools" or grade-level centers. Officials said a theme school could be a building that focuses on fine arts, for example. For the high school, restructuring ideas include having additional counselors to support students with college and career readiness, starting a mandatory reading and writing program for all courses based on common core state standards for literacy in all disciplines, and creating a freshman academy to help first-year pupils.

Collins said the restructuring is vital for success at District 116.

"We have to be concerned with each and every child and be sure they're moving forward," she said at a recent meeting attended by about 250 parents, teachers and others at Round Lake High's theater.

Many speakers at public comment time during the last school board session complained they were unaware the restructuring process was under way and had to be completed quickly. Parent Colleen Mason, who has two children at Round Lake Village Elementary School, said she only learned about the initiative through "rumors."

"I am very disappointed in the board and the superintendent," Mason said.

Board President Nanci Radford said questions about the proposed restructuring would be answered on the district's website.

Until Collins was hired as superintendent in 2010, five school finance authority members appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education had overseen District 116 operations. The state takeover went from 2002 through 2010.

District 116 was near collapse because of its poor financial condition when the panel received the oversight powers. Collins said she does not favor restructuring options, such as the state taking over the district's academics or launching all charter schools at the seven elementary buildings.

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