District needs to change way things are run

13 May 2019 | 10:15

    To the Editor:
    It’s time to re-think how we run our schools.
    We need to roll up our sleeves, be practical and make it one community of schools instead of six school communities.
    After reading through our District’s Auditor’s Report, it’s clear that we are not providing a thorough and efficient education for our students.
    Although we do some things very well, it is clear that we don't do everything as efficiently as we could, thereby wasting tax dollars.
    As we have already faced a $1.75 million decrease in state aid during the past two years, with an another $5.25 million decrease on the way over the next five years, we need not only to be practical but efficient with our tax dollars since we already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.
    The following statistics come directly from the school district’s auditor’s report.
    We have the capacity for a total of 5,249 students with a breakdown as follows:
    High School capacity is 1,840 with an enrollment of 1,060 last year.
    Macopin capacity is 869 with an enrollment 519 last year.
    Westbrook capacity is 508 with an enrollment of 315 last year.
    Maple Road capacity is 373 with an enrollment of 295 last year.
    Marshall Hill capacity is 486 with an enrollment of 256 last year,
    Apshawa capacity is 367 with an enrollment of 264 last year.
    Paradise Knoll capacity is 350 with an enrollment of 273 last year.
    Upper Greenwood Lake capacity is 456 with an enrollment of 306 last year.
    Last year’s total district enrollment was 3,288 and this year’s numbers I know are lower
    We could, after reviewing this information, do the following:
    • Move Macopin students to the high school and still have room for several hundred students.
    • Move all kindergarten and first graders to Maple Road.
    • Move 2nd and 3rd graders to Westbrook.
    • Put 4-6 graders at Macopin.

    By doing this, we would potentially save approximately $6.5 to $8 million in operational costs, thereby eliminating the need to increase taxes to offset the lost aid and further reducing our maintenance costs.
    It is easier to maintain four rather than eight buildings.
    From 2009-18, we had a drop in enrollment from 4,311 to 3,288.
    Yet during that same time period, our instructional staff increased from 359.6 to 371.
    So while we lost 1,023 students since 2009, why did we increase our instructional staff by 11.4 teachers? This year’s instructional staff reduction of 12 puts us back to where we were in 2009 with a student population of 4,311.
    Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?
    If we had 12 students per teacher with a student population of 3,288, we should have 274 teaching staff.
    That's an additional 85 teachers that I don't think we need costing us conservatively $6.8 million.
    Our test scores haven't increased with the overabundance of teachers.
    During the same time, support services which consists of adult school, food service, transportation, operations and maintenance, central services, school administrative services, general administrative, and student support services have gone from 689.7 employees to 626.8.
    The drop comes from; student support services 10.7, food service 20, adult school 22, transportation 2.5, operations and maintenance 26.5, and administrative services 3.75, but those cuts have been off set with increases in general administrative and central services and administration.
    Should we be dropping support employees?
    We have the same amount of schools to take care of, so why have we dropped almost 27 employees in maintenance?
    It might explain why we have spent millions on maintenance and improvements during the past eight years.
    There are two parties interested in the Hillcrest property, excluding the field, that could not only generate approximately $150,000 in new ratables, but also about $500,000 for the district for the sale of the property.
    Instead of doing what’s right for the township and its residents, the board is looking into demolishing the building at a cost of $3 to $4 million to abate the asbestos and other hazards in the building.
    The one field that we could get would end up costing $4 to $5 million when done.
    Neither the town nor school board can afford that at this time.
    Nobody likes change, but we desperately need to reel in costs and start living within our means.
    By having one school campus, we become a tighter and more cohesive community.
    We are at a crossroads in the survival of our township and home values.
    We need to act and act fast.
    These are ideas that are put forward to start a discussion that desperately needs to happen.
    Our school board business administrator just told us our taxes are going down but in reality they are going up.
    I can tell you with certainty that has happened many times before.
    When does it stop?
    The Township Council has the ability to put the school board elections back to April, and we need them to do that to allow voter approval of the budget again.
    Maybe then, they will stop misleading us.
    Jim Foody,
    Hewitt