WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Creating a Vision for the Macomb School District

Mar 18, 2015

An updated strategic plan is close to completion for the district. Superintendent Patrick Twomey said the district has spent about a year-and-a-half working on its vision for "what education can look like here in Macomb."

Upgrading Classrooms

Twomey said the district’s school buildings are well maintained – they’re in good shape – but they’re also woefully out-of-date.

“I show pictures of our current day classrooms and pictures from classrooms from 1940. And they don’t look much different,” Twomey said.

Superintendent Patrick Twomey is now in the process of prioritizing the goals in the district's strategic plan.
Credit Rich Egger

The district does not have an architect’s estimate on how much it might cost to update classrooms, though Twomey said it would likely be millions of dollars.  He doubted the state will have money for construction grants so local school districts will be forced to come up with their own funding.

“Every community is going to have to decide for itself what type of school system it wants, and then whether or not the community as a whole is willing to do what it takes to get that type of system,” Twomey said.

“If you really want 21st Century classrooms throughout the district, that would take a considerable amount of money.”

However, it’s not known if the district will hold a building bond referendum or come up with some other means of paying for the work.  He said, “That’s a discussion for the community at large (and) it’s one that I think at some point we need to have.”

Twomey said the vision plan also recommends a separate middle school facility. He said middle school students have been “shoehorned” into the high school building.

And the superintendent said there have been no serious talks about consolidation with neighboring districts.

Improving Reading Skills

Twomey said another goal from the strategic plan is to create a reading center at Lincoln School.  He said it’s imperative to help all students read at grade level.

Currently, 47% of third grade students in the district do not read at that level.  Twomey said it’s a challenge to improve that figure because of poverty levels in the district.  He said 58% of the students enrolled at Lincoln come from low-income families.

A community-based program might help improve reading skills for students at Lincoln School.
Credit Rich Egger

“As a group statistically they come to school with less vocabulary, less reading, and therefore they’re behind other students when they enter kindergarten,” Twomey said.

The strategic plan also suggests creating a program to help the children before they ever set foot in a classroom. Twomey said he’s working with Bill Jacobs, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of McDonough County, to connect the district to new parents.

“It’s about adult education, adult literacy. Helping to-be parents learn how to read to their children (and) how often they need to read to their children,” Twomey said.

He said teachers and students from Western Illinois University could play a role in making the community-based program possible.

Timeline for Strategic Plan

The superintendent said the district is close to rolling out the strategic plan.

Twomey said he must prioritize the goals and make sure “we’re all in agreement and we’re on the same page” before the district goes public with its plan, though he added that input from the community and district employees helped guide creation of the document.