The Edwards County Community School Unit School District #1 Board of Education had their regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 21 and approved several new business agenda items, to include sports association affiliation. 

In a letter to the Superintendent of Schools, David Cowger and the Board of Education, K-12 Principal Preston Nelson stated, “As you know, both Albion Grade School and West Salem Grade School are affiliated with both the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) and the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association (SIJHSAA).”

Nelson then explained that he was addressing the board in regards to those affiliations, ensuring the board was aware of the difficulties presented to the schools, such as scheduling issues, season inequities and the creation of “…a difficult environment administratively attempting to adhere to schedules and requirements from two different entities.”

He also reiterated he has advocated for only a SIJHSAA affiliation in the past, noting that it aligns with Black Diamond conference teams, “…allow(ing) us to gauge ourselves for future match-ups…” Most IESA schools, he added, are a minimum of an hour away, so travel costs could potentially lessen if the IESA affiliation was dropped.

He also shared that COVID-19 requirements have also recently impacted both the IESA and the SIJHSAA schedules, noting they have “…completely decimated the Panther’s Junior High basketball schedule and has left them with only one team to play, Cisne.”

He then broke down his interpretation of the pros and cons of continuing to stay with only the IESA or only the SIJHSAA. “If we continue to keep both teams in the IESA, girls basketball can only play one team, Cisne. This would be due to the COVID regions and restrictions set forth by the IESA and SIJHSAA. AGS girls volleyball can play Allendale, Grayville, Mount Carmel, Carmi, Fairfield, Flora and Olney, but we can’t add any other teams to their schedule due to other IESA teams being out of our COVID region and all SIJHSAA schools are not playing volleyball at the time that IESA wishes to play.”

“If both teams join the SIJHSAA, girls basketball can play everyone on the current schedule except Lawrenceville, and we can pick up any team in our COVID region (which is comprised of SIJHSAA schools), which gives us many close options. AGS volleyball can continue to play the same teams: Allendale, Grayville, Mount Carmel, Carmi, Fairfield, Flora and Olney, but can also add any team in our COVID region and create a full schedule.”

Nelson’s recommendation - with WSGS Principal Dale Schmittler’s agreement for this year only, is to switch to SIJHSAA for the 2020-2021 season, “bringing uniformity, consistency and equitability to our girls’ winter programs.”

The board discussed whether this would be the precedent for future years, but ultimately, the decision was approved for the 2020-2021 season, and would be considered at a later time for future school years.

The BOE also approved, based on Cowger’s recommendation, to renew the Property/Casualty/Liability/Workman’s Compensation Insurance premium rate in the amount of $134,996 through various carriers depicted in the proposal summary provided by Bushue HR, Inc. Before the board approved the renewal, Cowger did note it was higher than previous proposals by nearly $23,000. “But the biggest driving force, on this, has been Workman’s Comp.” He described the various claims over the past five years, and how they impacted the price to “skyrocket.” “I think this is our third year, and if so, we put that out to bid every three years. So, we’ll just see what happens, and there’s a good chance we’ll be putting this out to bid next year.

The board also approved two donations in excess of $500. “For a number of years, we’ve been blessed to have a very giving community…” Cowger emphasized. The first donation, $89,125.25 from the Wolfe Foundation, was presented to the district for the purchase of new laptops for ECCUSD #1 teachers, as well as additional Chromebooks for students. The second donation, $1,200 from the White Squirrel Cruisers Car Club Inc. out of Olney, was presented to the Edwards County High School Automotive program. The Club donated their proceeds from a car show over the summer to the program. “We’re very thankful for their generosity,” Cowger added, referring to the donations received.

Numerous first readings of policies were discussed, where mostly minor changes were made or language updated. Cowger told the BOE to expect more in the future.

During Cowger’s Superintendent’s Report, he made a public service announcement about the upcoming ECCUSD #1 Board of Education elections. “We have a few [seats] that will be up for reelection,” he said. “Anybody that wants to pick up a packet, those can be picked up at the County Clerk.” Those should be available now, with instructions on what is needed to do.