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Fieldcrest votes no on attendance centers

Thursday, December 18, 2003 Posted 10:30 p.m.
The Fieldcrest Board of Education voted against establshing attendance centers in the school district in a meeting Thursday night in Toluca. After much discussion among board members and citizens on the pros and cons of attendance centers, board member Tim McNamara made a motion to vote on attendance centers. McNamara, Tom Barth, and Joe Kirkpatrick voted yes while Kris Klieber, Melinda Tiraboschi, and Pat Schmillen voted no. Board president Jeff Pickard broke the tie by voting no.

Prior to the vote former Fieldcrest Board of Education President Joe Knapp addressed the board asking that they preserve the original structure of the Fieldcrest school district and not to vote for attendance centers. Knapp said that attendance centers will cause an erosion in property values because people will be reluctant to move into a school district with attendance centers. He recommended that city and business leaders get together to provide a stable source of income for the district by imposing a 1/2 to 1 percent sales tax in the various communities. Knapp said this will not unduly affect farmers or other property owners.

Board member Tom Barth supported the concept of attendance centers saying that very few consolidated districts have several middle schools like the Fieldcrest school district. Barth said if attendance centers were instituted when the district was consolidated in 1992, the district could have saved over $900,000. He said the original promise of no new buildings being required with the consolidation was dashed when a middle school was built in Toluca.

Board member Tim McNamara said that he received a dire warning from state officials at a meeting. He was told that the school district had better plan on cutting because there will be no extra money from the state. McNamara said officials told him that insurance costs will increase by 20% and not to count on the 23rd and 24th payment from the state next year because they may not have the money. McNamara said that the school district is being watched. He was told that if the state takes over the school district, the school board will be told what to do, and if they don't do it, they will be thrown out and replaced with handpicked members for a new board.

Joan Hartnet from the Woodford County Special Education Association told the board that the savings and benefits that result from attendance centers will also apply to special education. She said under attendance centers at Fieldcrest, one special education teacher will be required for each grade above the second grade. The savings in special education would be $75,000 to $132,000 per year. The low end of the savings represents a reduction of one (1) FTE teacher and two (2) aides. The high end represents reducing two (2) FTE teachers and four (4) aides. The total cost savings for attendance centers would be from $121,000 to $199,000 per year.

Board member Pat Schmillen objected to the concept of attendance centers because she felt that there will be costs associated with them that will substantially reduce the net savings. She objected to the long bussing for kids and said that K-8 schools in one building are better for the students. She said attendance centers may be better for the teachers but she said that the students needs come first.

When McNamara made a motion to take a vote on the attendance centers that was seconded by Kirkpatrick, board member Kris Klieber said that didn't think that the board had enough information to take a vote on the issue and was not ready to make a decision.

After the vote, board president Jeff Pickard said that the attendance center issue is not dead yet. He said, however, that things have to change. There will be cuts that nobody will like. Pickard said that if we remain the same, we will not survive. He asked for volunteers to help raise money to fund school expenses.

Other business

The board approved the letting of bids for one new 2004 8 passenger van and 4 conventional 71 seat passenger busses. Earlier the Board contemplated leasing the buses. However, closer analysis revealed that the District would be saving money over the long run by outright purchasing. District 6 will depreciate the buses over a period of years receiving approximately 20% of the value of the buses. Leasing on the other hand is not subject to depreciation and the main benefit would have been to protect cash flow. According to Superintendent Dr. Michael Stagliano the transportation fund is healthy so cash flow will not be a problem.

Per a recommendation from the Citizens Advisory Committee, Joe Kirkpatrick made a motion that the board pay $25,000 for transportation costs for extracurricular activities. This amount is half of what the estimated cost would be. The CAC said that it will attempt to raise the remaining amount if the board approved their request. The motion passed.

The City of Wenona donated $20,000 from its TIF district for capital improvements at Fieldcrest East in Wenona. Improvements will be for athletic facilities such as the baseball diamond renovation, new glass backboards for the basketball court, new lockers in the gym and a new batting cage.

Fieldcrest student Sammy Catarainicchia made a plea to the Fieldcrest Board of Education to keep the French Club and the teaching of French as a language. He said it is important for students applying to college to have a well-rounded education on their resume. He stated that dropping French will result in much larger class sizes for Spanish which means that students will receive less personalized attention.

Accepted the resignation of Sean Cunningham as Assistant Football Coach.
Accepted the resignation and retirement letter of Suzanne C. Coons.
Appointed Abby Unger as 7th grade girls volleyball coach.
Appointed Carol Bauer as 8th grade girls volleyball coach.