School Board Report: District officials face resistance to school closings
Rockford Public School officials stood firm on their plan to use massive cuts and school closings to eliminate District 205’s $50 million deficit, Monday, Feb. 7.
Administration officials met with the school board’s Operations Committee last night, in a room filled with those in search of answers to why certain schools are on the block to be closed.
Several questions were asked about the eight schools Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield announced would close or be consolidated for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Committee member Jeanne Westholder, who represents Sub District B, recommended the board examines the matter further before making final decisions. Westholder requested a complete list of schools and the location of each building.
“We need to be looking at where our students live to start with,” Westholder said, saying it is important to know where students will be assigned for special programs.
While public comments are usually not allowed during committee meetings, the committee allowed them Monday.
District 205 Chief Operations Officer Todd Schmidt took the brunt of questions, and stuck by the size of the looming deficit–$50 million– and the administration’s necessity to make difficult decisions during an economic crisis.
As those with questions stopped short of accusing the district of unethical segregation, and voiced concerns about whether students would be sent from highly performing schools to poorly performing student bodies next year, Schmidt stood firm.
“We have $50 million in budget cuts we need to make,” Schmidt said, citing that district officials examined enrollment numbers carefully in the decision to close schools.
Tuesday, Jan. 25, Sheffield presented the school board with a plan to close Jackson Elementary, New Milford Elementary, Stiles Elementary, Auburn Freshman Campus, Dennis Early Childhood Center, Academic Career Education High School (ACE), Page Park School and Haskell Elementary.
School Board President David Kelley said the district cannot operate efficiently during times of economic upheaval if officials do not control enrollment numbers.
“District-wide we’re only averaging roughly 75 percent at capacity,” Kelley said. “We can’t meet this goal of $50 million dollars running our buildings at an average across the district of 75 percent. We have to tighten it up. People aren’t going to be happy with the things we have to do, but we have to have a balanced budget or we will go over the edge.”
The matter is expected to be on the table tonight, Feb. 8, at the regularly scheduled school board meeting.
The Rockford Board of Education meets each Tuesday evening, at the District 205 Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St., downtown. Meetings are open to the public.
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