By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
SAVANNA, Ill. —
The West Carroll Board of Education approved cutting 12 employees following a lengthy meeting and closed session discussion Wednesday night.
During a Thursday morning interview, Superintendent Craig Mathers said the board has cut $3.9 million from the district’s operating budget during the last seven years due to declining revenue from the state and low Equalized Assessed Value growth. During the meeting Wednesday night, he told the board that the state of Illinois cut $730,870 in general state aid between 2008 and 2012 and an additional $274,385 in 2012 and 2013.
He added that a total of $198,039 was cut from the transportation fund.
“Based on previous cuts made there were only three options left: staff, programs, or close the building,” Mathers said Thursday.
After coming back from closed session, the board approved releasing kindergarten teacher Rachel Jaborek, third-grade teacher Amanda Montross, Title One teacher Sarah Richmond and part-time high school math teacher Tyler Vandendooren. Part-time instructional aids Rebecca Storjohann and Manuela Sander were released. The board approved cutting the following bus drivers: Karen Philips, Robert LaShelle and Paul Wurster. Bus aide Natashia Hensen was dismissed, pending the attainment of a preschool grant, and the three-hour custodial position at the primary school was eliminated. Music teacher Mark Bressler was released as well.
Parents, students and staff attended Wednesday’s meeting to ask the board not to eliminate staff in general and Bressler in particular. Music students stood out in the cold by the road with signs protesting the possible dismissal of Bressler. Dozens of people stood up during the public comment portion of the meeting and emphasized the importance of a good music program and a teacher like Bressler.
“There are many of us that are leaving the district if our music program ceases to exist. We will go elsewhere if we cannot participate in what improves our school experience and makes us happy,” Junior Katie Woods said. Mathers wanted to make it clear that the program is not being cut, only Bressler’s position.
Many parents asked that staff be the last cut made. Some, such as Dan Woods, would rather see some athletic programs cut before music class. He felt parents could step in to create athletic programs, but could not teach music as easily.
In a presentation before the public comment, Mathers discussed some of the reasons the board could consider closing the intermediate school in Thomson, Ill. He pointed out that this building has the least amount of square footage and classrooms and is not American Disabilities Act compliant. However, the public wanted to know what the exact costs of moving into the other buildings would be.
The board decided not to close the Thomson building at this time. However, Mathers said that if the federal government does not put funds in its 2014 budget for the opening of the Thomson prison, they could be looking at a building closure. He added that the district cannot continue to be held hostage, as it has for 12 years, waiting for the prison to open.
Mathers said on Thursday that the board is interested in working with the community for solutions to the district’s problems.