Referendum Facts and Information
At Pennoyer School District 79, we are a family. Our staff, parents, and community members collaborate to empower our students and prepare them for success.
We like to say, “We’re small, but mighty!” It’s our size that makes us special, allowing us to focus on each student’s needs and tailor their educational experience to how they learn best. And since children are in our district from ages three to fourteen, we’re able to provide them a consistent atmosphere and curriculum, helping them more comfortably focus on learning and growing.
This family atmosphere is important to us. Our students, teachers, and families are all very close. Families have close relationships with our staff, many of whom are community members as well, and our teachers know every student. Our parents are very involved with their children’s education, both at school and home, with many parents volunteering in our classrooms and all our families attending school events.
Another area our district shines is our use of technology in our modern curriculum. Over the past four years, we’ve refreshed our curriculum and implemented a 1:1 program that ensures every child has the resources they need to learn. We didn’t simply replace pencils and paper with devices—we fully integrated technology into our classrooms and lessons. This allows our students to get the strongest possible education through a 21st century exposure to technology.
Our collaborative and innovative approach to learning is working. Our students perform significantly higher than the state average on academic tests, often over 10% higher than the state average. One-third of students who graduated from our school district are in accelerated or Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school. And our special education students thrive as part of our school family, graduating alongside their peers and moving on to high school with their friends.
A major reason we’re able to achieve this success is because of our teachers. They are committed to providing our students the best possible education, and as part of that effort, we work together to refresh our curriculum every four years. Proving just how dedicated they are to our district, our teachers and administrators are the lowest paid in the region and well below the state average, yet that doesn’t stop them from giving everything they have to our students. None of our successes would be possible without our teachers, and we do everything we can to support their professional development and reward them financially for attaining specialty endorsements and certifications that help meet our students’ needs.
Because of our small district size, we must be especially frugal to live within our means, especially since we get limited financial support from the state and federal government despite pursuing every possible grant. That’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves to being fiscally responsible. We develop long-term sustainable fiscal plans to limit our annual spending, spending the lowest amount per pupil of any of our partner districts and 27% less than the state average. We haven’t had a tax rate increase since 1992, giving us the 2nd lowest tax rate of any of our partner districts. Over the last five years, we’ve adjusted staffing to reduce administrative costs and invest our limited funding into classrooms. And in response to COVID-19, this year all our administrative and support staff took pay freezes. Our fiscal responsibility has earned the district Financial Recognition status by the Illinois State Board of Education the past five years with a nearly perfect score.
Unfortunately, while we do our best to provide our students a 21st century education, our building holds our teachers and students back. Built in 1954, our aging school building has had few infrastructure updates over the past thirty years. We’ve maintained our mechanical systems so well they’ve lasted way beyond their life expectancy, but now replacements are needed as they’re so old we can’t even get parts for some of them anymore, leading to hot, stale air in some classrooms while others are very cold. We have lead in some of our water sources and asbestos still in the building. Our science lab is so old we’ve had to shut down all the sinks and gas burners, and our library is two former classrooms with the middle wall removed and some bookshelves thrown in. Our building isn’t ADA accessible, forcing special needs students to crawl or be carried up the stairs. And our 70-year-old bathrooms are so run down we have students who won’t use the bathroom at school, they hold it until they get home.
Our community collaborated on a plan to solve these urgent infrastructure challenges. Working together, we developed a fiscally responsible long-term plan that will allow us to improve educational environments, better maintain our building, and empower our teachers to fully implement 21st century learning for our students. This $10.9 million plan is now on our ballots to approve as a referendum.
If the referendum is successful, we will be able to:
- Fix Our Aging Infrastructure and Keep Our Children Safe
- Reduce Long-Term Maintenance Costs
- Provide 21st Century Learning Environments for Our Students
We will be able to address urgent life safety, infrastructure, and mechanical needs, leading to a safer, better-maintained school. This includes investments in heating and air conditioning, roofs, floors, electrical, energy efficiency, asbestos abatement, and safer locker rooms. We will also be able to address plumbing needs including bathrooms and drinking fountains, which is especially important after lead was found in our water. This will provide healthier water for students, safer and more accessible bathrooms, and access to drinking fountains and bottle filling stations. And we will be able to improve classrooms and create new 21st century learning spaces including a STEM lab, library media center and maker space. This will allow our staff to fully implement our modern curriculum and will lead to increased student achievement.
Right now, our community has #PennoyerPride in our students, our curriculum, and our staff—but not our building. CNN even featured our school in a national report on crumbling infrastructure. Providing our students and community a school building they can be proud of would benefit us all, expanding opportunities for our children while increasing our property values.