SAVANNA – The West Carroll school board faced a public armed with a litany of issues on at its meeting March 15. They included a lack of communication between the board and the public, the efficacy of the 7-period day and its relation to test scores, and staff budget cuts. But most of it came back to the same fundamental issue: how to shore up funding for the financially troubled district.
“The 7-hour day is just one of many concerns the community has just learned about,” Laura Shelly of Mount Carroll said. “The reason for the 7-hour day was to raise test scores. So, now you’re going to cut the district’s librarian? ... Lack of funds is the root cause and this community needs to know what the school administration and the school board are doing about it.”
She had a list of questions for the board.
“Why is there not an active campaign to get the 1 percent tax passed?”
“Why has the board and administration not formed committees to combat specific difficulties?”
“Why isn’t the public made aware of what votes are going to be on the table at board meetings?”
District Band Director Emily Bressler had some ideas for how the district can save and make money.
All coaches and directors of extracurricular activites should be certified to drive buses, eliminating the need to pay drivers to “sit and wait” and then drive home again.
She also suggested having teachers “give up something from a list of things they’ve always done”, clean energy initiatives, and “pay to play” athletics.
On the 1 percent sales tax issue, Bressler said she would agree to a pay freeze if the district could convince the tax’s loudest opponents to speak out in favor rather than in opposition.
“If our prominent business owners wish to remain an enemy of the 1 percent sales tax, then as a board, I think you should challenge them to use their good business sense to come up with some other idea to help keep our district open,” she said. “…As business owners, they should want our local education system to be creating intelligent hard-working employees for the workforce.”
Board President Jerry Anderson said the 1 percent sales tax is not a current option, as the district no longer has a majority of the students enrolled in the county and can’t force its placement on the ballot.
“I’ve been on the board for 6 years,” he said. “We’ve put it on every ballot since I’ve been here. It has failed.”
Shelly asked if people in the Eastland district, where the sales tax has consistently failed to get majority support, understand that if West Carroll falls, the districts might be put together, or as Bressler put it, that “our problem is their problem?”
“We’ve done everything we can with Eastland to get them to understand this,” Anderson said. “We’ve had meetings; we’ve partnered with the ones we could get to do it to go door to door. We’ve done everything we can in the 6 years I’ve been on the board for the 1 percent sales tax.”
Board member Jon McIntyre said, “We can talk to voters all we want, but we can’t control them once they get into the ballot box.”
Audience member Ray Skiles said, “We’ve got enough people in Savanna that we need to worry about our town. We don’t need to worry about what Lanark does, or Milledgeville. We can make it pass in Savanna. ... We can’t wait ‘til it gets to this point where we’re starting to cut jobs and do it. We need everybody to be involved with it, from the beginning to the end.”
Board member Jamie McCombie said “people are just tired of hearing about the 1 percent sales tax.”
“It’s failed so many times,” McCombie said. “And we can explain to people all day, and we would, but we cannot be the only ones that explain and express how badly our schools need this.”
Shelly said, “Let us help you help our school survive, and then get better. ... Let us start helping you, because we’ve never been informed enough or asked,” Shelly said.
“I don’t see any problem with doing that,” Anderson said.
“You don’t need us to get together to help us solve our problems,” board member Fred Tipton said, encouraging the public to form ideas independently and bring them to the board. “We’re all in this battle together, and just about everybody sitting around this table has kids just like yours.”
Librarian Jennifer McGuiness presented a document with a long list of reasons why the district should retain a librarian. These included the end of the RAILS membership, which would mean no interlibrary loans, no continuing education opportunities, and no per capita grant money.
McGuiness also explained the ways a librarian can promote information literacy through educating and guiding students in various forms of information gathering.
She also noted the librarian’s ability to help teachers select books and help teachers participate in various book award programs, help administer the yearly library budget, control inventory at all three schools, supervise library support staff, participate in book fairs, and other functions.
PERSONNEL ACTIONS TAKEN BY BOARD
After closed session March 15, the West Carroll school board:
• Approved leave without pay for Kendra Sipe
• Approved the hiring of Karen Hoffman as part-time COTA for the 2017-18 school year.
• Approved the volunteer coaching assignments of Tim Randecker as youth football coach for the past 2016 season due to filling in when the position was vacated; and Paul Waitkoss as WCHS softball coach.
• Approved with resignation of Kathy Kreuder, WCHS Servant Leadership advisor.
• Approved the re-employment of Angel Hagge as part-time non-tenured certified staff for the 2017-2018 school year.
• Approved the re-employment of the following first-year non-tenured certified staff for the 2017-2018 school year: Travis Hartman, Charlotte Johnston, Paul Waitkoss, Aubrey Winslow, Claire Rypkema, Mariah Pratt, and Sarah Jordan.
• Approved the re-employment of the following second-year non-tenured certified staff for the 2017-2018 school year: Stephen Rudnicki, Danyelle Ehredt, Carmen Wright-Holcomb, and Mary Nolan.
• Approved the re-employment of the following third-year non-tenured certified staff or the 2017-2018 school year: Laura Albrecht, Amanda Galor, and Abby Bradbury.
• Approved the re-employment of the following fourth-year non-tenured certified staff or the 2017-2018 school year, granting them tenure: Dawn Hansen, Matt Leitzen, and Lisa Kuper.
• Approved a resolution to honorably dismiss the following part-time certified staff due to a reduction in force effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year: Patricia McIntyre and Kathleen Eaton.
• Approved a resolution to honorably dismiss the following certified staff due to a reduction in force effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year: Kathy Kreuder, Joe Meade, and Kelsie VonHollen.
• Approved a resolution to reduce the following certified first-year probationary staff members for reasons other than reduction in force effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year: AnnEtta Young.
• Approved the resolution to honorably dismiss the following non-certified educational support personnel due to a reduction in force effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year: Rebecca Storjohann, Julia Themas, Kendra Sipe, Elizabeth Schroeder Torres, Shenel Handel, Angela Knight, Tevan Campbell, Monica Rieck, Peg Paxton, Terry Johnson, Jill Holtman, Kristen Hughes, Christina Pagakis, and Angela Appel.
• Approved the following transfers of personnel based on administrative recommendations for the 2017-18 school year: Jennifer McGinnis, to WCMS Self Contained Classroom; Rebecca Yochem, to WCPS; Anne Pudwill, to part-time at WCPS and part-time at WCMS; Lisa Kuper, to WCMS; Charlotte Johnston, to WCPS; Dawn Hansen, to WCHS; Grant Stiles, to WCHS; Dawn Beyer, to WCHS.