DeKALB – A new employee proposed for DeKalb High School would help address truancy, safety and alleviate overburdened office staff if approved by the DeKalb School District 428 board, district officials said this week.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, school officials discussed a staffing request proposal for an office professional. The full-time employee would help the district improve student attendance by recording attendance records and mental health day absences, district documents show. The employee would also help enforce district requirements that students and staff wear identification cards.
The full-time position would be $58,107, documents show.
The board’s discussion comes as the leadership at DeKalb High School cites an increase in enrollment this school year over the prior.
DeKalb High School Principal Donna Larson said the need for the added office professional position is evident, especially as enrollment grows.
“Just this year with increase of our plans to move forward to help with the truancy, attendance as well as help more restorative of our discipline, we have had a strong need to help support our current office staff,” Larson said. “We’re staying later trying to help develop more or process the coding, the data and just making sure that everything is lined up.”
In 2022 so far, the high school enrolled 2,143 school, according to school board documents. For the 2021-22 school year, the high school’s enrollment was 1,970 and 19,50 in 2020-21.
The district already has reported an increase in enrollment trends during the pandemic era. In 2021, additional classes were needed to accommodate what officials said a “huge increase” in last-minute enrollees prior to the start of the 2021 fall semester. In September, the school board considered whether to reacquire Northern Illinois University’s former School of Nursing building, 1240 Normal Road in DeKalb, to help reduce class sizes and overcrowding in district buildings. The building was formerly owned by the district but sold to NIU in 1987.
The district is seeking to lower its class size threshold from 28 to 25 for grades K-5 and 35 to 30 for grades 6-12, according to school board documents.
Board member Jeromy Olson asked if an added employee position would decrease the amount of truancy in the building.
Larson said district leaders hope the employee will help be available to address student needs, and help record teacher restorative discipline referrals if filed about a specific student. The school already has one attendance and discipline secretary on staff, officials said.
“This person will be able to help when someone is out,” Larson said.
Amonaquenette Parker, district director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said that due to staff workloads during the day, DeKalb High School parents often would not find out that their child was not at school that day until 6 or 7 p.m.
Board policy states that staff will communicate with anyone eighth grade and lower within two hours of the start of the school day.
“That just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Parker said. “We’re trying to standardize our communication with our families as well.”
The district is working closer with the county’s Regional Office of Education to address truancy, officials said.
Larson said that partnering with the regional office has been helpful.
“They’re coming in at least twice a week every month to reach out to more of our students that are even in-house truant that are just not attempting to go to class to see what we can do to further engage them to go to class, or if they’ve been out for some time on their truancy list, and we refer them to truancy,” Larson said.
A vote is expected on the new hire at a future school board meeting.