Editor’s Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances the publishing of this story was delayed.
The PLT #3 school board once again wrestled with various options being considered to alleviate the district’s financial deficit during their June meeting. After hosting a community presentation in early June board members once again tried to narrow down the options being considered. Options include closing a district elementary school, creating attendance centers at the elementary level, holding a tax referendum, and a combination of a tax referendum and attendance centers.
The board received results of the surveys taken at the public forum in early June, which asked attendees to give their input on several of the options being considered. They also received survey information from the district staff which included additional ideas for cost savings.
“The district is not dying (financially) but over the next five years if we don’t make some changes then maybe that statement will be more accurate,” said Board President James Melton, speaking about the seriousness of the situation. Melton went on to say that increases in wages that the district will be required to implement over the next several years by the state will put the district in financial trouble if something is not done. Adding, he would prefer to attack the problem now and look at various options before it becomes a crisis.
Board member Pam Plautz suggested that the district contact the Illinois State Board of Education office to have a representative review the district’s budget to see if there are any additional monies that can be saved.
Plautz also asked for input suggesting that perhaps the financial situation is not as bad as it appears. 6-12 Campus Principal Keith Stewart said, “To put it simply the district has been borrowing out of one fund to pay the bills of another fund on a regular basis but has managed to keep a fairly balanced budget.” In terms of spending, he added that he feels, along with his fellow administrators, “when we make a decision to spend district funds, we have a purpose behind it. It is not something we do lightly and is something we weigh heavily before we ask for approval.” Melton supported Stewart’s position saying he had approached each building principal and asked if there were any additional cuts that could be made in their buildings and they unanimously said no.
Melton said the district has been looking at cost-saving measures for the past year and that uncertainty is not a good emotion for the district to run on, which is why he wants the board to make a decision so that everyone can move on.
Kim Purvis commented that her priority is to get the teachers’ salaries competitive with other districts. Her thought was to continue to find ways to be lean financially using the savings to improve the salaries.
Melton said he felt that the situation boiled down to two issues. One being a change relating to grade centers, or closing the school, and two, being a referendum. He said he feels if the board decides to go forward with a referendum that would then leave the ultimate decision of what to do with the schools to the public.
Board member Chad Abell suggested that the board move forward with a referendum and make further decisions based on its outcome.
It was decided that Superintendent Colmone would contact the ISBE to initiate a second audit of the district budget specifically looking at ways to reduce costs and check into the costs and logistics of running a referendum.
An additional piece of information on a staff survey indicated that the number of sections of 3rd-5th grade should be based on the number and needs of the students. Superintendent Colmone will be working on a policy that will be used in the future based on that input.
Several citizens spoke to the board to share their thoughts on cost savings options:
Ann Cooper, a teacher at Tampico Elementary School, asked the board to carefully consider a decision involving closing a school. Cooper reiterated a remark she had heard in a previous board meeting suggesting that the attendance center option would simply be a Band-Aid on the financial problem of the district. “Will we have to close a school in the future? Possibly, but I don’t think that time is now.”
Tampico Mayor Kris Hill spoke to the board asking them to consider other options before closing Tampico Elementary school. She pointed out the age and lack of facilities at the current Prophetstown Elementary school as compared to the Tampico Elementary School. She asked that the board address the problem of declining enrollment by improving programs throughout the district making it more inviting to families. Hill cited a report from Rural Education.Org showing that towns with schools are much more likely to increase in population and maintain property values. She asked the board to consider the long-term consequences of closing Tampico Elementary School as it would likely decrease property values, which would lower revenues for the school district.
Tampico resident, Mike Siegel, spoke in favor of grade centers as opposed to closing a district school. He commented that momentum builds both going up and coming down and currently sees the downward trend in the district. Siegel said his sons commented to him that they felt they were not seeing positive changes in the communities and would be hard-pressed to raise their families here.
District resident Jennifer Ringenberg-Malone expressed her frustration with the boards lack of decision-making. She also asked that the board to consider keeping this year’s Prophetstown’s 4th graders in Prophetstown as opposed to busing them to Tampico as in the past. her reasoning is that as the district is considering moving the 5th grade to the middle school in the ’20-’21 school year. if that was done it would require this year’s 4th graders to change schools twice in two years. She suggested that the district is still not running as financially efficient as it could, and that decisions on moving students should be put on hold. After further discussion no decision was made.
6-12 Campus Principal Keith Stewart
He thanked to all the summer work crews for their hard work so far. He reported that all administrative offices on the campus will be located in one area which should maximize efficiency and security. Summer courses are underway helping those students who need additional support to acquire course credits. The Campus will be receiving new textbooks in math and social studies.
6-12 Dean of Students/Athletic Director Mark Lofgren
The tennis court and batting cage projects are both completed and ready for use.
Curriculum Committee- met to get new members up to speed and review the previous school year’s action.
EP Board of Control- A coaching stipend was agreed to for bowling, which will become an IHSA co-op activity this winter. The stipend will be the same as that paid to the golf coaches.
It was agreed to have cooperative team banquets by season and not by sport beginning with the new school year. The locations will alternate between the two high schools.
Difficulty in scheduling JV basketball games was discussed. Mark Lofgren said continue to work to put a schedule together.
Another cheerleading coach will be hired due to the large number of athletes participating.
Erie High School has purchased new weight room equipment and will be donating their use equipment to the Prophetstown High School.
Held a meeting with the district architect and maintenance supervisor to discuss maintenance projects that will exceed $50,000. Projects discussed included resealing of the 6-12 campus track, repair to the old high school gym roof, and new doors in the high school and Tampico and Prophetstown Elementary Schools.
The Pre-K grant has been submitted as of June 5 with several sets of eyes looking over the document before its submission. The grant will be awarded sometime in September.
Submitted prices on a new and used activity bus.
Athletic Director Mark Lofgren proposed the idea of honoring coaches in the same area where state qualifying athletes and teams are currently recognized in the hallway that connects the two buildings on the 6-12 campus. Qualifications are still being discussed but may include teams that qualified or placed in state competitions and coaches that have been selected to state Hall of Fames. No action was taken.
Board Action (approvals)
- 2019-2020 school calendar
- New transportation waiver for EP Co-op participants
- Removal of language in the EP co-op agreement to split revenues.
- Changes to the 6-12 campus student handbook
- Moving funds to repay the working cash fund.
- Bid from Gibson Oil for transportation fuel.
- Consolidation District Plan for grant purposes.
- Merger of all activity funds on the 6-12 campus.
- Increase the parking permit fee on the 6-12 campus from $5 – $20 per school year
Executive Session Action
Resignations- Mike Hart, Teacher and Coach; Jessica Wroble, Teacher; Kyle Foster, Assistant Wrestling Coach; Amy Workman, Assistant Cook
Retirement- Roberta Konneck, Lead Cook
Employment- Kimberly Souba, Teacher; Misty Judd, Teacher; Kaylee Coffey, HS Asst. Girls Basketball Coach; Maggie Linden, 8th Grade Girls Volleyball Coach; Lindsey Milem, HS Asst. Volleyball Coach; John Widener, Teacher.
Other Personnel Items- Non-Certified Staff were given a $.50 an hour salary increase.
Transportation Director and Food Service Director were given an $1,500 increase for the 2019-2020 school year.
Superintendent’s Goals – Approval of the Superintendent’s Goals as presented.
The board’s next meeting will be Monday, July 29 at 6:30 PM