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School board debates attendance centers

Friday, October 17, 2003 Posted 9:30 a.m.
The subject of attendance centers brought about a heated debate among members of the Fieldcrest Board of Education at their regular monthly meeting Thursday night. Fieldcrest South Principal Rebecca Oltman presented a preliminary study on the effects of creating attendance centers within the Fieldcrest school district. Oltman, along with the principals from Fieldcrest East, West, and Fieldcrest High School conducted a study of attendance centers using the SWOT method of analysis. Their preliminary study said that creating attendance centers could save the school district $150,000 to $200,000 a year, mostly in staff cuts. Their study suggested that kindergarten through second grade be held at Fieldcrest South in Minonk, grades 3 through 5 at Fieldcrest West in Toluca, and grades 6 through 8 be held at Fieldcrest East in Wenona.

Board member Pat Schmillen challenged the study by saying that the study doesn't specify exactly where the cost savings will be realized and whether these cost savings are worth the price. Schmillen also said that this analysis should be performed on other areas to determine if cost savings can be made. Schmillen said that she thought the administrators did a good job on the study but felt that their conclusion was premature and should not be considered the final answer. Fieldcrest South Principal Rebecca Oltman said that their study was not a dictate on policy but rather an information gathering study for the board to consider. Board member Tom Barth told Schmillen that this study was given more thought than the decision to cut all extracurriculars. He said the board should have done the same type of analysis on extracurriculars.

Board member Melinda Tiraboschi also objected to the attendance center concept. She said the savings of $150,000 a year isn't squat compared to the school's $9,000,000 budget if it means giving up a middle school in Toluca. She said that if the attendance center becomes a reality, the residents of Toluca will not likely support another tax referendum.

Board member Tim McNamara told Principal Oltman that the attendance center study offered a very workable solution and encouraged her to continue with the study. Board member Joe Kirkpatrick said that the administration has taken the right approach to reducing costs by using the SWOT method of analysis. He said that we need to move along on the attendance center study. He said that even if attendance centers don't save money, if they result in a better education for the student then it is worthwhile. Kirkpatrick said that the school needs to be able to cut costs before it can think about asking voters to pass a tax referendum.

Board President Jeff Pickard said that the study of attendance centers is just a start in determining how to cut costs but that doesn't mean that attendance centers will be a reality. He said the adminstration has got a good start on analyzing our situation and is providing information for the board. Pickard said that we need the faculty's help in analyzing problems. He said that teachers have an opportunity to determine what is the best solution. They will have to live with the results. Pickard said that if the school district was not in debt, we would not be considering attendance centers. But we have to face reality and make the hard decisions. Pickard said that he hoped that the community can pull together to resolve this financial crisis. He said the students at Fieldcrest get along with each other just fine and have no problem with the consolidation. It is the adults that are having a hard time working together.

Wenona TIF

The Wenona TIF district also provided a debate between the board and Wenona City Manager Simmons. Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Michael Stagliano gave an explanation of how the Wenona TIF district affects the school district. Stagliano said that the school has received 3 checks in excess of $12,000 within the past three months as a result of an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Wenona in 1997 which stipulated that Wenona's TIF will help pay off a school bond issue. Stagliano said that prior to this year, the largest checks were less than $2000 and doesn't understand why the checks are suddenly much larger. He said that the Wenona TIF district results in a net loss of $83,139 to the school district last year. Stagliano said that the school district decided not to contest the legality of the Wenona TIF district because of laches which is a term that refers to the reluctance to challenge something after it has been in existence for a certain period of time thus giving it the aura of legality. Stagliano said that payments on the current intergovernmental agreement will end in 2005. He hopes that Wenona will consider creating another intergovernmental agreement at that time.

Wenona City Manager Bill Simmons explained that TIF districts are tools that are available to cities as a means to help develop their infrastructure. "It is there and we took advantage of it", Simmons said. He said that much of the TIF money is used to fund a new sewer system for Wenona. Simmons said that Minonk has a TIF district and nobody is complaining about it. Stagliano replied that Minonk's TIF does not cover the whole town. Simmons asked why Minonk's TIF district should be considered any different from Wenona's. He said that maybe Dave Uphoff can tell us why Minonk's TIF district is any different. Uphoff got up and said, "I can tell you why Minonk's TIF is different from Wenona's". At that point Board president Jeff Pickard called for order and reprimanded Simmons for inducing an argument. He told Simmons that if he wants to talk to Uphoff about the TIF to do it on his own time, not during the board meeting. Pickard concluded by saying that he hopes when Wenona gets its sewers fixed through proceeds from its TIF district, that it will negotiate an agreement with the school that will provide more TIF funds to the school.

Citizens Advisory Committee

The newly appointed Citizens Advisory Committee elected new officers at its meeting on Wednesday night. Russ Martin of Wenona was elected president, Tim Sanders of Minonk was elected vice-president and Garilyn Wells was elected secretary. The committee also has added Marsha Weld and Derik Klendworth from Dana to the committee. Committee members have already talked with other communities that have problems funding education. The committee is considering setting up a special account at banks in each community to allow people to make deposits towards an extracurricular fund.


Superintendent Stagliano reported that there are 1346 students in the Fieldcrest School District which includes 20 out of district students and 2 Department of Corrections students.

Stagliano told the board that one approach to raising revenue that is used by other districts is to pass a tax referendum that will be effective for a finite number of years and then reverts back to the old tax rate. This type of referendum would be used to pay off debt and allow the district to get back on its feet until EVA values start to go up again.

The board passed a resolution recognizing the accomplishments of Fieldcrest East's baseball team which finished second in the state elementary tournament and had an 21-1 record.