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School Board discusses options for financial woes

Thursday, August 14, 2003 Posted 10:30 a.m.
A citizens advisory committee and the possibility of attendance centers were the major topics at a special meeting of the Fieldcrest School Board Wednesday night at Minonk. Board member Pat Schmillen wants the board to set up a citizens committee to come up with solutions for cutting expenses in the financially strapped school district. Schmillen wants a committee in place by the end of September so that recommendations can be submitted to the board by the end of December. Superintendent Michael Stagliano said that the committee should be a cross reference of the community that would include financial people, teachers, ministers, etc.

Stagliano said that the community must get involved in the decision making for deciding what cuts are to be made and also for finding ways to come up with additional revenue. He said revenues for next year will remain flat while expenses will continue to rise which will result in a deficit nearing $100,000. Stagliano said that he doesn't have a handle on how much money the state will come through with for next year. Board President Jeff Pickard said that it is very difficult to establish a budget because the State is very slow and late in getting information to the schools. Stagliano said that the school has to spend less next year because there are no other sources of revenues. He said that we are going to have to change the way we are doing business. Board member Joe Kirkpatrick asked when are we going to put together a scenario to see if we can save money somewhere.

The possibility of establishing attendance centers was discussed as an appropriate way of cutting costs and also improve the classroom environment for the students. Fieldcrest Special Education teacher Jessica Stemlau said that attendance centers at the Putman County School District proved to be a success while she was a teacher there. Stemlau said that each of the four communities had their buildings utilized with different grades. All elementary students went to one building, middle school students to another, and the high school students all went to the same building. She said it required bussing children but the advantage for the students is that each class had the same students from kindergarten through high school rather than being separated as they are at Fieldcrest until they enter high school. It also eliminates the need to shuffle students around.

Sue Kleen said that the way things are set up now in the school district results in un-even class sizes. Kleen said that there are many more 5th graders at Fieldcrest West than there are Fieldcrest East. She said that the board knew about this disparity back in May and asked why students weren't reassigned then to make the class sizes more equal.

Board member Tom Barth agreed that something should have been done sooner but it's too late now to ask parents to shift their children's attendance to another school. Fieldcrest West Principal Jim DeMay asked why just try to equalize the fifth grade class sizes when all classes should be of equal size.

Board member Tim McNamara asked if it is feasible to set up a special education program at Fieldcrest so that special education students wouldn't have to be bussed to Roanoke and Peoria. McNamara said that maybe we could charge for special education students coming from other schools as well. Superintendent Stagliano said that space and staff requirements would have to be considered before determining whether this approach would be cost effective.

Fieldcrest Principal Steven Wallick said that registration at the high school should be around 400 to 410 students this year. Wallick said that there is still $10,000 of uncollected fees from parents for school registration and fees from last year. He said that last year the figure was $18,000 and has been gradually whittled down through letters and phone calls. Wallick said, however, that there are some parents who just are not going to pay. Board member McNamara said that the school should consider a collection agency because it is not fair for some families not to pay their fair share.