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Collinsville Student board member polls classmates on school climate

By Devese “Dee” Ursery

Maleah Gilliland, a member of the Student Advisory Committee at Collinsville High School and student member of the Board of Education, discussed her Story Board Project at the Jan. 23 Board of Education meeting.

In her presentation, Gilliland, an Illinois State Scholar, discussed the needs and wants of students in Collinsville Community Unit School District 10. She went to schools in the district and talked to about 30 students to gauge what they liked, disliked or wanted to see improved in their schools. 

After the discussion, Gilliland sent those she spoke with a questionnaire touching on several issues, ranging from classroom engagement to school security. She said students told her that they felt safe overall while in school, but it’s in the narrow and crowded hallways where they didn’t feel so safe. 

“The hallways were the main place where students really didn’t feel safe,” Gilliland said. “Between the crowded hallways and being rammed through the classroom doors, a fight could easily break out.” 

Gilliland also asked the students what they might improve upon and discovered the current dress code is an issue with the intermediate and high school kids.

“Both the middle school and high school wanted to review the dress,” Gilliland said. “They felt that it is unfair and unevenly distributed.”

Besides reviewing the dress code and better food in the cafeteria, CHS students were very big on trying to reconstruct the school parking lot. They feel the current setup leads to a lot of congestion, as it’s hard to maneuver and get out of the parking lot.

Gilliland said that the students felt like there was always commotion in the parking lot, either with the parents trying to take over the parking lot or students fighting in it. 

“It’s not very pretty,” Gilliland said.

Better food options were also a big talking point with students.

The high school students actually wanted healthier meals, according to Gilliland. She believes that the high school students have a little more awareness of the meals they see on the menu and would like to have something besides carbs. This was an issue at the middle school as well.

Collinsville Middle School also wanted more advertising for its Kahok’s Closet.

Gilliland stated that according to Brad Snow, principal of CMS, there is a middle school version of the Kahok’s Closet. However, students just didn’t know about it. Students who request a visit to the closet must place an order using the online request form, unless it is an urgent situation. 

Kahok’s Closet started the 2019-2020 school year to help CHS students who may need toiletries like soap, shampoo, female hygiene, razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes. The closet also has school items as well as some clothing items including coats, hats and scarves.

“It was a resource students were not able to use because they didn’t know about it and there was not enough advertising for it,” Gilliland said. 

At Dorris Intermediate School, students wanted more after school clubs and activities. They also wanted more playground equipment and more art throughout the school.

The elementary schools that Gilliland visited were Renfro, Jefferson and Kreitner. Each elementary school either wanted more recess equipment or a whole other playground altogether, as with Kreitner. 

“At Kreitner they wanted to add another playground because there is only one and it’s mainly used by the Kindergarten students,” Gilliland said. “The fourth graders felt that it was unfair that the Kindergarteners always get to use the playground over them.”  

In other news from the meeting, Dr. Brad Skertich, superintendent of CUSD 10, reported that in late August of 2022, Derek Turner and Dan Porter applied for a School Violence Prevention Program Grant. 

He stated in his report that the district received notification of a $398,114 grant to install a “weapons detection system” in CUSD 10 schools. The grant will cover 75% of the costs, with the district being responsible for the remaining 25%.  

“While the district is grateful for the opportunity to expand our security measures in each building, the thought of adding a “weapons detection system” comes with mixed emotions,” Skertich said. “On one hand, adding another layer of security is always welcome to keep our students and staff safe. On the other hand it’s frustrating to see how society has changed over the years with safety precautions.”

The district was approved for a matching $50,000 grant by the Illinois state Board of Education. The grant will be used to remove floor tile at CHS and install an epoxy flooring system. The total project will cost slightly over $100,000, with half of it being grant funded and the other $50,000 from local resources.

The project is slated to be completed in the summer of 2024 due to CHS hosting the 2023 VISION National Student Leadership Conference. The district will have future leaders from all over the country meet in Collinsville from June 26-28.

The district set up a camera to allow CUSD 10 students, staff and the community to watch the construction of Caseyville Elementary in the days, weeks and months ahead. Skertich said that building a new school doesn’t happen very often and the district wanted to share the journey.

Two students and two staff members received awards during the meeting. Matthew Falbe was recognized for being named the 2023-24 Commended National Merit Scholar. Falbe scored in the top three to four percentile of students nationally who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Adam Reiniger was honored for attaining All-State recognition in soccer. In addition to being a Kahok Boys Soccer team leader. Reiniger excels academically and is ranked first in the Class of 2023. Jason Watts was recognized for being selected for an Emerson Excellence in Teaching award. Watts created a successful STEM program at Dorris Intermediate and is the driving force behind the DIS STEM curriculum, club, parents nights and courses.

Renfro Elementary third grade teacher Zac Corey was also recognized at the BOE meeting as Kahok Educator of the month. Local Edward Jones Representative Jason Rehg sponsors the award each month during the school year to recognize outstanding educators in CUSD 10. 

Board members voted to ban a parent from school grounds for one year following an incident at the middle school earlier in January where the parent was allegedly yelling and using profanity. 

In a letter to Skertich, CHS Principal Daniel Toberman requested that the Board approve the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Club for the 2023-24 school year. Toberman received the request from Gus Dorman, a CHS student.

The AAPI Heritage Club is for those interested in spotlighting AAPI cultures, heritages and important AAPI figures. They would also like to increase AAPI appreciation and visibility on campus and within the district. 

The BOE approved the bid to Millennium Construction for the CHS American Disability Act lift.

Millennium was the only bidder and submitted a base bid in the amount of $267,523 and their alternate bid was $6,000. The allowance amount of $10,000 was included in their bid.


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