By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
Several members of the public asked the River Bend Board of Education on Thursday night to look for savings somewhere besides cutting teachers and programming.
The school board met in the River Bend Middle School to allow people to make comments on possible cost-saving methods discussed during a Feb. 28 budget meeting. Statements made at the meeting were discussed in closed session and a decision will be made during the Monday meeting.
Several speakers asked the board to reconsider the elimination of one of the elementary school intervention teachers. Four elementary school teachers spoke about the importance of these response-to-intervention professionals. They said that RtI teachers have a positive affect on students with difficulties in reading and math.
Currently the school has three interventionists. Teacher Elizabeth Byam said reducing one of them would put the strain on teachers and paraprofessionals not trained for RtI.
“Fulton Elementary struggles to service all of the students in need of tier three interventions due to being understaffed. And by taking away an interventionist, more will suffer the effects,” Byam said.
Parents Brook and Shane Boyson know the importance of the RtI program. Their son is currently on the third tier for reading and speech. Shane remembers when his son was frustrated and did not want to read. Now he is excited to sit down with his reading assignments. Shane said that as a hands-on father, he doesn’t have the training to do what the interventionists did with his son.
“We understand that cuts need to be made and the money needs to come from somewhere. And I am just asking as a Mom, that you don’t make the cuts from this category,” Brook Boyson said.
Shelby Tiesman said she worries as a parent, employee and community member what will happen if the board makes these cuts and the Thomson prison opens. She asked if people coming into the area would choose a district with large class sizes, limited options and a weakening academic level. She also asked that the board decide against eliminating a high school science position.
Neal Luker defended the community involvement program he is involved in. This is one of the programs that could be cut. He said it provides opportunities for student to learn skills used for a job they are considering. He added the program allows students to learn if a particular career fits them.
“But I am concerned that first and foremost we’re trying to protect athletics over the education of our children, because that should be our priority,” Michelle Snyder, mother of a senior at Fulton High School, said.
As an athlete and former coach, with a family that is very passionate about athletics, Snyder said she hates to discuss eliminating athletics. However, she feels it is a decision that should be made before cutting any teachers. According to the plan presented on Feb. 28, the board is considering reducing the number of coaches without eliminating any athletic activities. Snyder also suggested the board use any “rainy day fund” it currently may have and plan on selling the district’s rental properties.
Sara Pessman and Ted James thanked the board members for being involved in this difficult process, but asked that they try not to cut teachers. Pessman said she does not envy the board’s job.
“As a community, we have to come up with solutions. We have to be more positive, think outside of the box and do something different there also,” James said.