District 95 tackles corrective action plan in Larson's absence


The Paris 95 School Board met for the first time since federal agents searched the home of Jeremy Larson, the district’s Superintendent of Schools. Interim Superintendent Lorraine Bailey declined to comment about the status of her predecessor’s employment.

Bailey explained the board is waiting to hear the results of a June 21 U.S. District Court hearing before announcing plans.

Still, Bailey tackled plenty of other topics during the meeting – including the district’s corrective action plan to account for $3.24 million in misappropriated federal grant money.

"The Corrective Action Plan for Paris Union School District No. 95 has been completed and submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education by the July 15, 2023 deadline. The plan addressed the findings in the FSM Final Monitoring Report received by the District on June 14, 2023.," said Bailey in a statement following the meeting. " The District is to receive separate correspondence from the Funding and Disbursements Department at ISBE with information for how to proceed with the financials. The District is awaiting a response from ISBE for the next steps in that process."

According to Bailey, the plan was ready to submit on Thursday, July 6.

Bailey confirmed a search is underway to find Larson’s replacement as principal at Memorial School. Larson previously announced a plan to resign from Memorial in 2024 to focus his full attention on his superintendent duties, but recent events accelerated the search for his replacement.

“At this time, we have 10 candidates. About half of them are internal and about half of them are from out of the district,” said Bailey.

The window to apply for the position closed on Friday, July 14. A special board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, July 24, to hire the new principal.

Once selected, the new principal will start Aug. 1 and work on an 11-month contract. Carolyn Wenz principal Megan Carroll and Mayo principal Casey Pinnell have volunteered to assist with the principal’s training and workload.

In other news, District 95 is one step closer to finding the future location for its bus fleet. The board voted to approve a survey of land by MAS Engineering. Bailey noted the cost was not for an appraisal.

“They estimate their cost to be $12,500 to $13,500, and when I checked around they said that’s a very reasonable figure for doing that,” said Bailey.

Another new cost accrued by the district comes in the form of a 4.5% pay increase for non-certified staff. Custodians, maintenance workers, cooks, paraprofessionals, secretaries and other office staff are all classified as non-certified.

The rate increase does not apply to summer camp staff, tutors or Beyond the Bell program staff, as their compensation is outlined in the federal grants funding those programs.

Bailey and the board ratified a plan outlining the use of the remaining COVID-19 relief grant money (ESSER III grants). This is the last time the district can draw on emergency funding.

“This will be the last year for COVID funds,” said Bailey. “It ends at the end of the 2024 school year.”

Bailey briefly discussed the storm damage experienced by the school district during the June 29 derecho storm. Trees throughout the district fell due to high-speed winds but avoided damaging school property outside of some fencing.

The ensuing power outage cost the school district a cooler full of white milk, but Prairie Farms reimbursed the district for the loss. Outside of the milk, the loss of perishable food was negligible.

“Because of summer the food has not arrived,” explained Bailey. “So, we lost very little to minimal in food.”

Finally, Sean Blair was certified for employment as a mental health specialist at a rate of $20 per hour. Blair will work during the 2023-24 school year under the Illinois Department of Public Health Adolescent Health program.

District 95, Larson, money, corrective action plan