Education Committee discusses school closures
* Public meeting underway at District 205 Administration Building
By Jim Hagerty
A special meeting of the Rockford Board of Education’s Education Committee has commenced in Room 207 of the Administration Building.
The meeting was called to discuss Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s proposed $45 million in cuts for fiscal year 2012.
It may also be the community’s last chance to hear talks about budget cuts before the school board votes next week.
The school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 22.
Sheffield has recommended closing Jackson Elementary, New Milford Elementary, Stiles Elementary, West View Elementary, Auburn Freshman Campus, Dennis Early Childhood Center, Academic Career Education High School (ACE), Page Park School and Haskell Elementary.
Academic Career Education High School classes would be taught at West Middle School.
The superintendent said her office will propose cutting Montessori, gifted classes and more programs if the teacher’s union does not agree to more than $10 million in labor concessions in coming weeks.
Additional cuts could include gifted, Montessori, language immersion, and layoff dozens of social workers, principals librarians and guidance counselors.
Meantime, the Rockford Education Association (REA), the district’s teacher’s union, has requested a review of the accounting method District 205 used to arrive at a $50 million deficit.
The union, led by President Molly Phalen, claims Sheffield’s office has grossly overstated the deficit and that the actual shortfall is somewhere around $15 million.
Saturday, Feb. 12, the school board agreed to the request, however, board members Harmon Mitchell and Bob Evans have been elected to choose a review panel.
That, union reps said, may not allow for the report to be an independent juxtaposition of numbers. The union, offering to pay $50,000, to foot the bill, requested the board appoint auditors with no association with the school board and district.
The board is expected to make an announcement about how the review will be conducted by Wednesday, Feb. 16.
The Rockford Board of Education meets every Tuesday evening, at the District 205 Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St., downtown. Meetings are open to the public.
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