Columbia readies for school year - Republic-Times | News

Columbia readies for school year

By on July 26, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Columbia schools will open regardless of Illinois’ school funding situation, superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano told the school board Thursday at Columbia High School.

The usual board meeting location, Parkview Elementary, was undergoing HVAC renovations.

Segobiano said that, unlike Columbia, some school districts in the state cannot open without general state aid because of insufficient revenue and reserves. Schools will not receive state aid until an evidence based funding formula becomes law.

“We’re in good shape. We have no fear, so we’re relaxed,” she said.

Senate Bill 1 is the evidence based school funding proposal that passed the Senate and House, but has not yet reached the governor’s desk. Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday that a special session would be taking place today (Wednesday) to resolve the school funding issue.

Rauner originally said he would veto the bill outright, but is now saying he will amend language regarding additional funds for the Chicago Public Schools teacher pension system, then sign SB1 into law.

“We must put Illinois school kids first – not a pension bailout for Chicago. This must be about making sure all students in Illinois get the education they deserve no matter where they live,” Rauner said.

Columbia schools would receive $61,979.37 in additional funds with SB1. With Rauner’s amendment, the governor’s office estimates Columbia would receive an additional $98, 552.10. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti has launched a petition for Illinoisans to voice their desire for the Senate to send SB 1 to the governor at

School board action
In addition to voting on a list of procedural items, the school board accepted the resignation of Courtney Gerstenecker, CHS agriculture teacher and Columbia FFA adviser. She began her employment with the district in January. Gerstenecker, who could not be reached for comment, accepted an agriculture teacher position at Webster County High School in Dixon, Ky.

Another personnel change Segobiano said was decided in June involved moving new CHS principal Kevin Moore to the Columbia Middle School principal position. Consequently, former CMS principal Brian Reeves will now serve as CHS principal.

“The administrative teams were re-assigned to balance a new administrator with an experienced administrator,” Segobiano said.

The district hired Moore as CHS principal in the spring of 2016. In his 13 years with the district, Reeves has served as CHS assistant principal for seven years and CMS principal for five.

The board scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. Aug. 1 to award a bid to construct additional parking spaces at CHS on the flat ground directly across from the concession stand. The special meeting is also likely to include the hiring of a new high school agriculture teacher, Segobiano said.

The board also voted to approve the purchase of a 2017 Chevrolet Express in the amount of $24,400 for the custodial, maintenance and transportation department.

Edwards addresses board
During the meeting, Carla Edwards, an Eagleview Elementary paraprofessional and the ex-wife of former Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards, addressed the board on topics similar to those that appeared in her recent lawsuit against the district.

“This is an attempt to clear the air and restore my reputation in the district,” she told the board.

Carla Edwards alleged, among other items, that the district obtained text messages between she and her children from her cell phone, but she could not find any evidence that the district asked for a parent’s permission to examine these texts.

“The public comments by Carla Edwards referenced a personnel matter and items related to her children. As you know, I am prohibited from commenting on personnel or student matters,” Segobiano told the Republic-Times following the meeting.

The district renewed Carla Edwards’ employment contract this summer. Last year, she filed a 10-count complaint in federal court, alleging unnamed school district employees violated her Fourth Amendment rights, the federal Stored Communications Act, and the state’s eavesdropping statute.

She dismissed her legal complaint in January. According to her attorney, Russell Watters, she can re-file the lawsuit should additional information come forward that her ex-husband provided her phone records to the district.

Carla Edwards received a $150,000 settlement from the city of Columbia last year after a lawsuit alleged her ex-husband, while acting as chief of police, used police resources and technology known as “spyware” to unlawfully access her cell phone to obtain private communications such as texts and emails in September 2015.

Joe Edwards resigned as police chief last year.

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.