Shannon Connelley

Bement school librarian Shannon Connelley speaks to the Bement school board on Sept. 18.

Each month Bement has someone present a “Bulldog Minute.” At the Sept. 18 meeting, Superintendent Shelia Greenwood asked Librarian Shannon Connelley to speak. She has been with the district since 2017, starting out as a teacher’s aide. This year she became the district librarian and talked about the changes she has made to the curriculum to encourage all kids to read.

This summer Connelley started a YouTube channel called “Destination Reader.” She stated her plan was to bring the world beyond central Illinois to her students.

“It was heartbreaking to hear sophomores and juniors that have never been passed the Decatur. I said, ‘Well, we gotta fix that.’ So I went around on my way to stay in Alabama for the summer, and stopped at many places and told lots of stories and reading books. And many of the high school kids did watch it, believe it or not. I brought back sand and oyster shells. And some of the kids have never in their life touch them. And they just thought that was amazing. We kind of brought the vacation to them.”

Connelley has recess duty with the students and regularly eats with them, so she feels she has a particular bond, making the library a comfortable place for her. Her library has an open door policy allowing students to check out books at all times.

The first day of school, 108 students checked out books, blowing away the record for the entire previous school year.

Connelley states she has a more “free spirited” direction with the library.

“My thought for the library was a comfortable place. It made me nervous when I had an eighth grader visibly shaking this year, when they were in the high school reading section. And I said, `You know, what bud, you don’t have to get a book today.’

She has games such as a life size Jenga blocks, tic tac toe, and 3D puzzles if the students want to come in, but not read. However she sees it as an opportunity to get more students to pick up a book.

Connelley openly admits to her students that she has her own issues to overcome, showing that they can too.

“I tell the kids all the time I was in special ed, I do have dyslexia. I am a 40-year-old college student. You know what, I make mistakes. It’s okay. Because I have these barriers. Let me help you work on those. And I think once I’ve opened that door to them, there is no question they have ever asked they feel like they don’t have help or support behind it.”

Connelley also wants students to record their own podcasts.

“The other thing that I want to tell you guys about is my fundraising. I’ve got fundraising from donors that paid for a mini soundproof booth and a microphone. My goal and I’ve talked to the high school elementary, ELA teacher, we are going to get the kids reading on a podcast so that you can hear her older cousins or people in high school, read a kids book, and it’d be on the radio while you’re going somewhere. And you can say to them, you know what, that was a great job reading that.”

Connelley also has put up walking book reads in the hallway, basically taking some books and putting them in sheets by rooms to help teachers out when necessary. She also has around 455 Monical's Gift cards to give out as well as some Subway gift cards. She ended with, “If we get them to read, they’ll love it.”

Co-op costs settled

For a few months there has been some disagreement surrounding expenses related to the intergovernmental cooperative sports agreement with Cerro Gordo. Bement noticed some charges they did not feel they were responsible for. Greenwood said the issue has been resolved.

“The conclusion that I can share with you is that they will cover those expenses,” she said.

Board President Todd Rogers stated that, after speaking with Cerro Gordo Superintendent Brett Robinson directly, “he was surprised that we were billed what we were billed. I don’t think it will happen again from what he says.”

The board did discuss changing the contract language next time the contract is up to ensure it will not occur again.

Greenwood states the district has found ways to save on energy costs and attributed most of the work to staff members Steve Cline, Brown, and Jani Hamilton.

“Those types of things are the things over time make a big difference.”

Greenwood added that she appreciates her radio time on WHOW with Seth Laurence. “We need to diligently continue to make an extra effort to tell our story.”

The board approved all Press Plus policy updates and briefly reviewed this years budget.