Video: Mayor Larry Morrissey questions school closings, deeper cuts delayed
By Jim Hagerty
After more than two hours of public comment from more than 50 speakers, votes on deeper budget cuts were taken off the table by the Rockford Board of Education Tuesday, March 8.
About 390 people filled the Ellis Arts Academy gymnasium as speakers representing Barbour Language Academy, Washington Academy, Maria Montessori and a host of others, challenged the board to rethink its plan.
Among the speakers Tuesday was Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), who attended the meeting as a parent of a 12-year-old Montessori student.
The audience roared with applause as Morrissey questioned the process the board has taken to usher-in Superintendent Dr. LaVonne Sheffield’s $45 million cost-slashing plan.
“I’ve received many phone calls, e-mails and personal visits from concerned parents like my wife and I and Rockford taxpayers,” Morrissey said. “I’m here tonight to help give them voice and help echo their questions: ‘Why these schools and why not involve our community?’”
Morrissey cited steps the City of Rockford has taken in the last two years in implementing community campaigns while it mapped the 2010 and 2011 spending plans. A similar system of public input while district officials close at least six schools and make deep program and staff cuts, Morrissey said, has been void.
“Here’s my problem tonight,” the mayor continued. “Does anyone really understand the criteria for the building closings and program cuts? What are the criteria, who set the criteria and why wasn’t our community invited to help set the criteria?”
Before Bob Evans (Sub District-F) moved to suspend votes on deeper cuts, the board decided to eliminate all non-tenured teachers, part-time teachers and teachers on probation because of substandard performance reviews. The layoffs are not final, however. Teachers could be rehired for next year if the budget allows.
Jude Makulec (Sub District-D) was out of town because of a family medical issue but took part in the session via telephone. Local television stations made it possible for Makulec to watch the meeting remotely.
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