ST. CHARLES – New St. Charles District 303 School Board President Carolyn Waibel said she is looking forward to working with the new members of the school board as the board wrestles with several big issues, including what to do with Haines Middle School once it closes it doors at the end of the school year.
New board members Rebecca "Becky" McCabe, a former District 303 assistant superintendent, Jillian Barker, executive director of curriculum and instruction for a group of therapeutic day schools in the area and Michael Bryant, a business education teacher with the Batavia School District, took their seats on the board at a special school board meeting on April 29.
They were among five candidates running for three four-year seats on the board in the April 2 election. Former School Board President Kathleen Hewell was not re-elected in the election.
At the meeting, the majority of board members tabbed Waibel to be board president. Incumbent board member Nicholas Manheim, who was re-elected to an unexpired two-year term on the board, will remain board vice-president.
"We have a very talented team of professionals on this board now," Waibel said. "They bring a diverse and robust portfolio of expertise. I'm pretty excited to be working with all of them."
Waibel was first elected to the board in April 2017. She attended St. Charles schools and her son is a student at St. Charles East High School. Waibel is a 1990 St. Charles East High School graduate.
One of the board's most pressing issues is what to do with Haines Middle School. In 2016, the board approved a plan to upgrade Wredling Middle School, renovate Thompson Middle School and close Haines Middle School by fall 2019. Officials had said the district would save $2.4 million a year in operational costs by closing Haines and taxpayers would see a significant reduction in the district's portion of their property taxes because of the payoff of bonds in 2018.
Board members are studying four different options for the building, with a cost ranging from $3.7 to $4.7 million. The district's programming needs include finding space for the district's college and career center (which includes both the district's transition program and the NorthEast Academy); growing and expanding the community preschool program; creating professional learning spaces for staff, parent and community education; creating a district board room and having a unified department of instruction office along with a unified district administration office.
The St. Charles Park District continues to voice interest in using a portion of the campus for its programs, such as the school's gym.
"I'm hoping that we can reach a decision in the near future," Waibel said. "As you know, construction costs rise with time, so we don't want to sit too long. But we do need to get everyone up to speed and that's going to take a little bit of time."