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Board hires Marla Graham as new Lovington Grade School Principal

ALAH District extends its school day by half an hour. Dismissal at 2:00 pm to begin March 1

Staff Writer
Jacob Bettinger, an Eagle Scout presented his project to the ALAH District School Board at their most recent meeting on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Last year, he had informed the board of his plan to build an enclosed see-through bus stop shelter at the Lovington Grade School. This past Wednesday evening, he wanted to present more details and provide an update on his project.

The enclosed bus stop would measure about 6 foot by 12 foot wide and plans to be located east of the old Lovington High School parking lot.

Jacob has plans that it will fit 10-12 students. He would like to buy the supplies to build the enclosed bus stop rather than buy a prebuilt one- as it would be more cost effective. Prebuilt ones cost about $6,000 whereas it would only cost around $3,000 to build one on his own.

He hopes to get sponsors, donations and volunteers to help.

His reasoning behind choosing this as his Eagle Scout project was because he and his parents would notice several of the high school students waiting to ride the bus from Lovington to Arthur outside in the elements – especially when it was either raining or snowing. He would like there to be a warm and dry place to wait for the bus.

Superintendent Shannon Cheek was very pleased with Jacob’s idea and also mentioned it would be a great idea to document the project as it is built. After the board reads through some of the designs and plans for the project, they are looking forward to signing its approval.

The board also had another guest for public comment. Members were introduced to Marla Graham who the board has approved to be the new Lovington Grade School Principal starting August 2021. She is presently living in LaMoille, Illinois in the northwestern part of the state where she has been for the past sixteen years. Marla was recommended for hire after the completion of an extensive and collaborative interview process that included two rounds of interviews. Marla gave a brief introduction of herself at the meeting.

“I am super-excited to become part of the family and the community. I have 8 kids. Four 4 of them are school aged. They are all excited about making the move. Four of my children are biological and three of them are adopted. One of their favorite things to do is to come to Arthur and visit. I just love kids and love people in general. Kids just have my heart. I am an advocate for kids in need,” she presented. “We are excited to have you and grateful that you made the trip,” responded Shannon. Marla traveled about three hours Wednesday despite the colder temperatures and snowy conditions. She also had spent time being introduced to the staff and touring the schools.

After the presentations from Eagle Scout Jacob Bettinger and Marla Graham, Shannon moved on to the Treasurer’s report. “It could be worse,” he began. “Today, the governor talked about the budget. The EVF was supposed to be increased every year starting in 2017, but still that has not happened. It will be another flat-funded year,” he said. “Our expenses do still increase. Our district will be receiving the additional Cares Dollars, but it does not supplement the money that will be lost nor or down the road,” Shannon added. He also informed the board that the district had received two payments for the Transportation Fund with one being from the last fiscal year and the other for this fiscal year.

Athletic Director Nathan Seal gave his update on sports in the district. “There are basketball games going on. Every game that we get to play is a blessing,” he said. Nathan also informed the board that they have decided to move senior night up as soon as possible. “Everyone is playing a role in getting athletics going,” he said. “We are trying to get as many kids involved as safely as possible,” Nathan added. The high school band has pre-recorded music to play during commercials on the Round Table. Nathan also noted that even his wife has been helping keep stats and take tickets at the girls’ basketball games.

Afterward, Shannon spoke about the Health Life Safety Fund (or HLS fund) to the board. HLS is a fund that is levied for every year and is a part of the tax levy presentation. All districts are required to have an architect firm complete a Health Life Safety inspection every ten years. The inspection must have items that are to be addressed immediately, items that need to be addressed, but can be addressed later and then items that do not need to be addressed, but not addressed until the end of the ten-year cycle. The HLS survey is submitted and approved by the local ROE and ISBE. Both board members and Shannon discussed items such as the roofs and boiler system at the Atwood Hammond Grade School that needed to be submitted as amendments to the survey that was done a year ago. When the amendments for those specific items are approved, the district will make a decision on which projects they would like to consider in the future.

Recently, the remote learning team and admin team had a total of three meetings to discuss extending the current school day. After the meetings and taking a vote, 51% were in favor of extending the day by a half an hour and 48% were not in favor. After the vote, it was decided that starting March 1, the district would extend the school day by half an hour, with it ending at 2:00 pm. The grade schools’ day will start at 8:00 am and end at 2:00 pm while the high school will start at 8:00 am and end at 1:47 pm. The board passed the new times and extension.

Shannon also presented his Superintendent’s report for the evening. He discussed some openings within the district that included a Math teacher position at the high school and Atwood Hammond Grade School, Part-time School Psychologist, a potential opening for grade school teacher and high school opening for social worker/school counselor. Shannon also shared an informational statistic stating that 17% of their opening teacher positions remain unfilled or filled with someone who is less qualified for the position. A survey was sent out stated that 77% of the districts indicated they believed they had a shortage of teachers. Math is third on that list. He informed the board that he had plans to attend job fairs as he had in the past. Shannon also stated that the district is considering incorporating duties that would help serve as a liaison between Arthur CUSD 305 and area colleges.

Shannon updated the current number of students, in-person learning and remote learners. Presently, the total number of students in the district is 1,073. The number of those that are in-person learning is 979 and the number that are remote learners are 94.

He also presented the current COVID statistics within the district. Presently, 57 students were quarantined as of February 17. Since August 2020, there have been a total of 65 positive in-person student cases. There were two students who were in quarantine due to a positive test. Three staff members are in quarantine and one staff member has had a positive test. There have been a total of 20 positive staff cases since August 2020. The district held its second COVID vaccine clinic on Friday, February 19.

At the end of the board meeting, Shannon shared his appreciation and celebrated with a variety of staff and organizations. He first mentioned that he was grateful that students were getting to participate in extracurricular activities and was happy about the extension of the school day. Shannon also gave his thanks to the Douglas County Health Department for providing both the first and second vaccine to those who wanted to receive it. He also thanked both Mr. Davis and Mr. Schrock as well as the Roundtable TV and extended his thanks to coaches, sponsors, the flexibility of the admin team and Mr. Seal.

Personnel Report
February 17, 2021


• Recommend for hire, Marla Graham as the LGS Principal beginning in August of 2021

• Accept the letter of resignation of Alicia Henning as Special Education Teacher at LGS


• Recommend for hire Jennifer Lyons as a one on one aide at AGS


• Accept the letter of resignation from Jeff Myers as Assistant Football Coach

• Approve Ginny Condil volunteer – softball

• Approve Mallory Jones – softball volunteer – current student teacher for Mrs. Voegel

• Approve Keaton Green Volunteer – Football – current student teacher for Mrs. Tinkle

• Approve Daniel Rhule Volunteer – Football – current 7th grade basketball coach

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