Friday, March 15, 2013

The New Illinois Licensure System

Most educators are aware that the ISBE has adopted a new process which will switch all current teacher and administrator certificates to licenses.  As of July 1, 2013, all previously held certificates will no longer be valid as all will be exchanged for Illinois educator licenses.  Even though this major change is right around the corner, there has been very little information shared from the ISBE as to the specifics of this process.  I contacted our Regional Office of Education earlier this week, and they stated the same frustrations.  However, they assured that as soon as information is available, they will be sharing with school districts.  In the meantime, this is what I currently have been able to ascertain.

As of July 1, 2013, all of an educator's current certificates will be exchanged for a Professional Educator License (PEL).  For example, let's say an educator has a Type 09 Certificate with a Middle School Math Endorsement and a Type 75 General Administrative Certificate.  Under the new licensure system, that person would now receive a PEL which contains all of their certificated areas and endorsements under a single license.  Each license will contain an educator's specific areas and grade level ranges he/she is eligible to teach.  For example, instead of "Middle School Math Endorsement", the license will specify eligibility to teach math in grades 5-8.

Currently, educators will not have to do anything as this switch will automatically take place on July1, 2013.  An educator should lose nothing (endorsements) in the exchange to licenses.  However, there are still renewal requirements, which to my knowledge, are yet to become finalized.  Once those requirements are finalized, educators will need to adhere to the determined timelines for renewing their PEL.

If an educator fails to pay the necessary $50 fee to renew their five-year PEL within six months of the PEL lapsing, then it can only be renewed by paying a $500 fee or completing nine college credit hours.

Another important point to remember is that there will be no paper copies of the PELs provided.  Educators will need to go to the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) to print a paper copy if needed.

Finally, until the new renewal requirements are finalized, educators should keep all documentation of completed professional development.

I am sure there will be much more to come on the process for exchanging certificates for licenses.  Once that information becomes available, I will be sure to share.  In the meantime, if there is someone who has more information on this process, please feel free to leave the information in the "Comments" section of this blog for all to see.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

School Closings: How, When, Who & Why?

As all of you are aware, the decision was made to close school today due to the impending severe winter storm warning.  I receive many questions about the school closing process, so I thought I would take a moment to explain how such decisions are made.

As District #1 Superintendent, I make the final decision about whether or not weather conditions merit closing school.  However, I never make such decisions without first consulting with the District #1 School Board President.  Prior to making such an important decision, there are many variables to consider.

Discussions begin with area school district superintendents the night prior to an expected weather event.  All of us watch the local news forecasts, and we also receive weather alerts from the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.  I am sure all of you have experienced inaccuracies in local weather reports.  Therefore, if at all possible, I try to wait until early the next morning to make a decision, so my determination is based on the most current weather information.  I usually start looking at local weather reports and forecasts at 3:00 a.m. to see if anything has changed from the previous night.  If it has been snowing, I start driving our school district's country roads at 4:00 a.m. in order to make an informed decision by 5:00 a.m.  If we close school, the school district begins its communication process to the public at 5:30 a.m.

The safety of our students is always our school district's top priority.  There have been times in the past where the weather report calls for snow mid-day, and some parents wonder why we don't let school out early in such cases.  My experience has been that in such situations, by the time school is out, the snow plows have done their jobs and the roads have been cleared.  The absolute worst time to let students out is in the midst of a snowstorm.  Last Tuesday was the perfect example of this.  We received a midday snow, but by 3:00 p.m., the roads had been cleared.  Therefore, the timing of a snow event is an important consideration.

I recognize that canceling school places a significant inconvenience and burden on working parents who depend on the consistent child care provided by sending their children to school.  Therefore, I try to be very judicious in canceling school due to a weather emergency.  However, when a serious safety concern is present, it takes precedence over child care issues.

Some are under the impression that State funding is impacted by the district canceling school due to weather emergencies.  This is not true, as the State requires that we have 174 student attendance days no matter what.  Therefore, we build five emergency days into our calendar to utilize in case of such events.  The canceling of school due to weather has absolutely no impact on school district funding.

Finally, everyone with students in our school system should have received notification of school being canceled via our automated phone system.  If you did not receive such a call, please refer here to make sure we have your correct information in our system.  Also, on "snow days", the District office remains open and on regular hours.

As a reminder, the day missed today must be made up at the end of the year.  Therefore, the end of the year calendar will be adjusted as follows...
  • Friday, May 24               Last Day of Student Attendance
  • Monday, May 27            Memorial Day--NO SCHOOL
  • Tuesday, May 28            Teacher Institute
  • Wednesday, May 29       First Day of Summer Vacation
If you have any further questions or concerns about the school cancellation process, please comment on this blog, and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.