Budget approved, new teachers welcomed at Mendota High School

Several new Mendota High School teachers were introduced during the Sept. 21 board of education meeting. They include, seated left to right, Nicole Cromwell, science; Kristi Barajas, special education; Paula Baker, band; back row, Joe Hughes, science and Jon Steben, choir. (Photo contributed)

MENDOTA – Mendota High School Principal Denise Aughenbaugh introduced five new teachers, Paula Baker, band; Kristi Barajas, special education; Nicole Cromwell, science; Joe Hughes, science and Jon Steben, choir, during the District 280 Board of Education meeting on Sept. 21. Aughenbaugh praised the new teachers for their resilience, hard work and professionalism during this unusual start to the school year.



Aughenbaugh said the U.S. Department of Education and the State of Illinois are still mandating in-person SAT testing for students to earn a high school diploma. Because seniors did not take the SAT last spring during the shut down, they will be given the SAT on Wednesday, Oct. 14. The test will be given to about 125 seniors in multiple rooms at MHS. Seniors who do not take the test that day will have to take it with the junior class in April in order to graduate.

Prusator said he was very disappointed that there was no flexibility from the federal government on the SAT waiver and he felt the state could have pushed back harder as well. “It’s just common sense to be flexible with the SAT right now,” he stressed. “Many colleges are not requiring it any more and not all students are going on to college. It’s hard enough to open the school year under these circumstances and then a few weeks in we have to do this. It’s just stupid. The remote learners will have to come to school when they are not comfortable doing so. It makes absolutely no sense.”

Professional Development

Due to the calendar changes, there are no early dismissals this school year for professional development. Teachers utilize time after school each day for professional development and share planning needs. The emphasis is on innovative technology and teaching with teachers introducing and exploring numerous online learning resources. MHS also provided additional training to teachers on COVID-19 precautions and safety.

Homecoming & IHSA

Homecoming week will be held during the spring semester when football schedules are finalized. Activities will be based on Coronavirus guidelines for safe gatherings at that time. Aughenbaugh said MHS hopes to at least have a spirit week for students.

The IHSA Board of Directors met on Sept. 14 and updated their Return to Play guidelines for sports. (Visit www.ihsa.org for the complete report.) IHSA waived the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring, and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week. The winter, spring and summer seasons will now revert to their “normal” season game limitations as dictated by IHSA by-laws. The IHSA summer season will also meet two weeks earlier than previously announced.

Aughenbaugh encouraged everyone to visit the high school’s activity calendar link at www.mendotahs.org for all athletic and activity updates and changes. “We will have a year of constant rescheduling and will make every attempt to keep our community and families informed,” she said.


Russ Rumbold of Gorenz & Associates, who presented audit report, said the district remained in the Financial Recognition category again this year with a Financial Profile Score of 3.65. The score is determined by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Rumbold noted that District 280 receives most of its funding from local sources including real estate taxes (48 percent) and local revenue (20 percent). The remaining revenue comes from state funding (24 percent) and the federal government (8 percent).

Currently, MHS spends about $4,000 less per pupil than the average school district in Illinois. He noted that the district’s fund balances are strong and said this was another good year for the district financially.


  • The board approved the FY21 budget: revenue of $9,826,282; expenditures of $10,408,240; deficit of $581,958. Prusator said the deficit amount is misleading because $780,000 is for work that will be done on the building next summer. While that is not the full cost of the projects, that amount has to be paid this year and the rest will be paid next year. “If you subtract the projects, there is actually a $306,000 surplus in the budget,” he said.
  • Prusator thanked board members for agreeing to delay the start of the school year until Sept. 8. “It was a great decision by the board - the number of COVID cases declined during that time and because of the work everyone did to get ready, no one batted an eye at coming back to school,” he said.

Because students and teachers have now had 10 days to get acquainted with each other, Prusator said the high school is much more prepared if it becomes necessary to go completely remote. “We’re ready, but we couldn’t have accomplished that without being here these past 10 days,” he emphasized. “You trusted what we recommended and your decision benefitted us.”


The board accepted the retirement resignation of Rich Johnson and the resignation of Katie Fox, freshman girls basketball coach.

The next regular board of education meeting will be held at the high school on Monday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.


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