Wednesday, May 13

Repurposing Roosevelt, Changing School Bells, and Staff Cuts, Oh My!

No one said being a school board director was a glamorous job. The pay is non-existent, you make unpopular decisions; but one qualification for it must be the ability to meet late into the evening. Last night was no exception. In a meeting that went until 11:30 pm, the school board managed to make West High Principal Jerry Argenbright, elementary school librarians, teachers, district parents, and students upset. At the regular meeting, they voted to reduce elementary school librarians and media center assistant positions to save $168,000 out of a proposed $6 million dollar deficit (which will mostly be made up by using the overage from prior year budgets). They refused to reconsider a change to the school bell schedule that will make it likely that teachers will have less time to meet with students after-school at West High School. In an especially heated exchange between a concerned parent and the board in the open discussion period over the funding of projects at Mann and Longfellow elementary schools, Toni Cilek chose not to answer the parent's question saying that the purpose was to receive input and that her concern had been addressed in previous meetings. Patti Fields much later in the meeting did discuss capital items that totaled approximately $153,000 for the two schools.

Former board member Lauren Reese sympathized with her former colleagues, and challenged them to consider the boundary issues around the schools as part of their decision process about Roosevelt. Charles Stanier presented information about energy consumption at the schools and encouraged the school board to consider lowering energy costs at all schools which could save them $275,000 per year.

As for the work session, where the board discusses business without public comment, which started after 10 pm, board members listened to the district superintendent Lane Plugge's recommendation to build a new elementary at the Crossings and his new view that Roosevelt should not be closed, but should be "repurposed" without elaborating his vision of how. After his presentation, the six members present did not have any questions for him, but vigorously defended their process in front of the remaining audience of about 20 people and made assertions that the opposition to the tentative plan had been dishonest in discussing the facts before tentatively laying out their likely votes to support superintendent Lane Plugge's recommendation. At the end of the evening, the board decided to calendar the vote for approving the plan for June 9th when all members are scheduled to be on hand.

The sleep deprived reporter Gregg Hennigan from the Gazette "Live Blogged" the meeting (go here for more details).

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