New school board majority leaves community out

New school board majority leaves community out

By Barb Dent

New school board

majority leaves community out

As 2002 begins, it should be a time of hope for improved education and finances for District 205. However, the new majority of Mike Williams, Mike Bliss, Nancy Kalchbrenner, Mark Burns and Jay Nellis have made that hope disappear quickly. They are justifying fears of “the district going back” to their old ways.

They are borrowing more money than any previous board, which means more taxpayer funds are going for interest, not for education. The new board has promised to be more inclusive, but cut their number of committees from five to two, and the number of community representatives from five to four. They have held NO COMMUNITY FORUMS to discuss educational or financial issues. They have changed their agenda to keep discussion at their bimonthly meetings to a minimum so the public will be less informed.

With half of its schools on the state academic watch list, Nancy Kalchbrenner’s Education Committee has had only one meeting since she took office in November. They should be meeting weekly to address the serious educational deficiencies present in our public school system and the “cleansing” of the district’s test scores by the Brown administration. It appears that precious taxpayer dollars will continue to be used to fund the expensive and ineffective court-ordered educational programs and magnet schools after June 30, 2002.

Financially, the board majority is trying to pull the wool over the taxpayers’ eyes. They are considering only two options to fund the tax protest refunds. The majority wants to sell revenue-generating bonds and create more debt for the district. They can do this with our permission or without through a back-door referendum. They don’t want to consider a third option—CUTS. There are $15-18 million in court-ordered programs/personnel, which are no longer required next school year. NO CUTS means that the dual administration remains intact. The new majority has had more than six months to receive community input on how to fund these refunds. They chose, however, to meet behind closed doors and waged a failed “waive your refund” campaign with Ryan Petty from the Chamber of Commerce. Less than 3 percent of the tax protesters have chosen to waive their refund.

Unbelievably, Jay Nellis has decided to exclude the community from asking questions or making any comments about how to fund the tax protester refunds at his Jan. 2 Operations Committee meeting. There are no plans for any community forums prior to the board’s vote. You have to go back to when Linda Griffin was in charge of the Curriculum Committee to find a board member who muted the public at their committee meeting.

The new board majority promised us change, and they are keeping that promise. Unfortunately, the changes aren’t good, especially for the students and the taxpayers.

Barb Dent is the president of Rockford Educating All Children (R.E.A.CH.)

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