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District 171 achieves 4.0 financial audit score, falls one ranking short of property tax grant

BY QUINTON R. ARTHUR

LANSING, Ill. (March 1, 2023) – Sunnybrook District 171 held its school board meeting on February 27, where board members learned the district missed a property tax relief grant by one ranking spot. The board also heard and discussed conferences, other financial matters, and various school updates.

Triple I conference and CUBE conference

School Board member Elissa Veloz-Davis shared highlights from the IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference, also known as Triple I, she attended in November.

She received a wealth of knowledge on advocating for students and families, such as families impacted by homelessness, students sitting on school boards, and making the district “green.”

“Everyone has to understand their power. Stakeholders have power, the district has power. But if we work together with the power, we’ll be so much greater,” said Veloz-Davis.

Veloz-Davis also attended the CUBE Annual Conference, where Reverend Nontombi Naomi Tutu — a race and gender justice activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu — was the key note speaker.

Finally, Veloz-Davis mentioned a session about the book The 7 Mindsets To Live Your Ultimate Life: An Unexpected Blueprint for an Extraordinary Life and a session about remembering the “why” of joining the school board.

“My ‘why’ from day one has always been to focus to ensure that this district can be best that they can get,” Veloz-Davis said.

One ranking short of property tax relief grant

David Shrader, Chief School Business Official, gave a general report on Sunnybrook’s finances.

He announced the district was not awarded the property tax relief grant for 2023. As he explained, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has a priority order of districts that receive the grant based on requirements.

“This year the top 33 school districts received the property tax relief grant, and we were number 34. We’ll have to hold our breath and hopefully this program will continue next year, and of course at that time we will apply at that time. We were so, so close and very hopeful. It just didn’t happen,” said Shrader.

Though the district did not receive the property tax relief grant, it was awarded the School Maintenance Grant award of $50,000. The funds will be used on upcoming construction projects.

Clean audit yields 4.0

Shrader also gave an update on the district’s most recent audit. The school had a clean audit.

District 171 received the highest distinction, earning a perfect financial profile score of 4.0. ISBE recognizes schools based on four categories: fund balance to revenue ratio, expenditure to revenue ratio, days cash on hand, and percent of short-term borrowing ability remaining.

Life Safety evaluation

On February 3, the district had its Annual Life Safety visit. For the fourth year in a row, there are no violations at the schools in the district.

“A special congratulations and thank to all of our staff who go and make sure their classrooms are safe, and especially the custodians, at both Nathan Hale and Heritage, who vigilantly walk around and make sure the buildings are safe for both students and staff,” Schrader said.

School updates

Heritage Middle School Principal Chantelle Cambric gave a recap of the Black History Month assembly program hosted by the Parent Teacher Association. Urban Gateways, a nonprofit that engages youth in arts experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change, performed and taught West African dances. Additionally, Cambric mentioned the Black Heritage program at the school, which she said was successful.

Nathan Hale Elementary School Principal Joseph Kent talked about the school’s “Empowerment” themed program, which had not yet taken place at the time of the meeting. The focus of the program, which took place on February 28, was to strengthen community relationships.

Other agenda items

The meeting went to closed session at 6:56 p.m., with no further business to discuss after the session. The next board meeting is scheduled for March 20. Meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at Heritage Middle School, 19266 Burnham Avenue.

Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and his Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University. In addition to reporting for The Lansing Journal and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, he volunteers with 100 Black Men of Chicago, Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Burst Into Books, and various other organizations. A south suburban resident since 2004, Quinton is passionate about telling the unsung stories of the community.