Guest Column: ‘No’ vote on Hononegah referendum explained

The overwhelming defeat of the Hononegah referendum was not due only to the teacher strike of 2003. This is what the school board and Mr. Marshall would like us to believe. Thankfully, we have people within this small school district that have memories.

We remember the 1992 $5.5 million referendum for an auditorium and much-needed classrooms. Last I heard, we are at $12 million for that project. We got the auditorium, a couple of classrooms and luxurious executive offices. We are, as set up by the superintendent and school board, paying only the interest for the loans. They will leave it up to our grandchildren to pay off the cost.

We remember that even though we’re operating in the red, we kept hearing from the superintendent and school board that we were in need of more classroom space. To accomplish this, we built the IGLOO—that landmark of Rockton. This is the first school in Illinois to have one.

We remember that virtually no one knew of this igloo until we read of it in the paper.

We remember that even though we were up to our necks in debt, instead of draining the superfluous staff, we decided to pursue another spending agenda, only to go deeper in debt.

We remember that a school with 1,500 students was run by a superintendent, principal and vice principal. Today we have 2,000 students run by a superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, two associate principals, and eight supportive directors and staff. This is top heavy enough to pay for at least 75 percent of the proposed 26 teacher cuts. What is needed is educators, not executive staff.

We remember when this district was put on financial watch by the state. Mr. Marshall’s reply was—it was nobody’s fault. These things happened on your watch, Mr. Marshall and school board. Whose fault?

We remember the teacher strike and the real sense of urgency displayed by the school board and superintendent. The superintendent, out of town for the strike, and the school board had meetings once per week instead of daily. The strike was settled by the students’ and parents’ pursuit of educational justice and turning public opinion.

We remember the ongoing item that looms large. Word has it around River City that the school board allows our full-time paid superintendent to be in Bloomington two-three days per week and then adds insult to injury by giving him travel expenses. This is not general public knowledge because we were never told publicly about it.

What we can’t forget is that we have a huge debt that will be passed to our grandchildren. Now you want more for your agenda. We are in one of the highest property-taxed areas in the U.S., according to the newspaper, and that is for only one school.

We know what is needed in this situation is truth, integrity and honesty to the taxed public. These must be more than mere concepts. They should be the way of life.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it best: “Liberals and their self-serving agendas will come to an end when conservatives run out of money to pay for them.” Hononegah School Board and Mr. Marshall—we are there. That should be evident by the 72 percent “no” vote.

Richard Ott has been a Rockton resident for 27 years.

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