ROCK ISLAND -- Test scores in the Rock Island/Milan School District fell last year as did the district's graduation rate but in his annual state of the schools speech Tuesday, Superintendent Mike Oberhaus said the district is making progress.
Speaking at a joint Kiwanis-Rotary Club meeting Mr. Oberhaus said the district is expecting to face a $1.8 million operating deficit for the 2013/2014 school year but he doesn't expect the shortfall will result in cutbacks.
"We do not anticipate future cuts at this time but we have to wait and see what the great state does to us next Spring when they determine their funding for schools," he said.
The Rock Island/Milan School District spends around $1,600 less per pupil than the state average, Mr. Oberhaus said. He told the audience at the Quad City Botanical Center that closing that gap would mean the district spending $9 million more on its students.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on all state tests fell from 63 to 41 percent for the 2012-13 school year compared to the year before and the graduation rate dipped slightly from 82 to 81 percent, according to Mr. Oberhaus's presentation.
"We have students that aren't performing at the level we'd like them to and we are continuing to evolve the way we do our business to help every child, every day" he said.
District enrollment has now increased for five consecutive school years from 5,289 in 2008 to 6,279 this year. Around 70 percent of the district's students qualify for free or reduced school meals, Mr. Oberhaus said.
The district's property tax rate also has risen for each of the last four years and Mr. Oberhaus said the rate was increased last year to compensate in part for falling assessed property values in Rock Island.
Mr. Oberhaus said the district has a new three-year strategic plan with priorities that include demonstrating individual student improvement in all subject years.
The district also is participating in programs like the Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates, which provides counselling and mentoring for up to 35 students selected as at risk for dropping out.
Students develop career plans and pursue learning opportunities through the program, which is funded by the John Deere Foundation.
The Deere Foundation also is funding the Leader in Me program at four elementary schools that works to turn students into leaders at their schools. Other programs like "career cruising" are being used by the district to prepare students for employment.
Mr. Oberhaus said the programs were evidence the district was continuing to evolve meet new challenges.
"We remain frugal with the dollars we are given and we do the best program we can to help make every child successful," he said.
Rock Island/Milan School District test scores
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 Illinois Standard Achievement Test 70% 68% 42% Prairie State Achievement Examination 28% 34% 33% All state tests 63% 63% 41% Graduation rate 80.9% 82% 81% Numbers show the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards. Source: Rock Island Milan/School District
Today is Tuesday, Sept. 16, the 259th day of 2014. There are 106 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A fine lumber mill is on the course of erection at Andalusia. A flouring mill at that location is doing a fine business. 1889 — 125 years ago: J.B. Lidders, past captain of Beardsley Camp, Sons of Veterans, returned from Paterson, N.Y., where he attended the National Sons of Veterans encampments. 1914 — 100 years ago: President Wilson announced that he had received from the imperial chancellor of Germany a noncommittal reply to his inquiry into a report that the emperor was willing to discuss terms of peace. 1939 — 75 years ago: Delegates at the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield voted to raise the minimum pay of ministers so that every pastor would get at least $1,000 annually. 1964 — 50 years ago: An audience of more than 2,600 persons jammed into the Davenport RKO Orpheum theater with a shoe horn feasted on a Miller-Diller evening that was a killer night. Phyllis Diller sent the audience with her offbeat humor. And send them she did! It was Miss Diller's third appearance in the Quad-Cities area. 1989 — 25 years ago: A few years ago, a vacant lot on 7th Avenue and 14th Street in Rock Island was a community nuisance. Weeds grew as high 18 inches. Today, the lot has a new face, thanks to Michael and Sheila Rind and other neighbors who helped them turn it into a park three weeks ago.