As a result of state aid shortfalls, the Vandalia Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to honorably dismiss three first-year teachers who had been placed on Reduction In Force (RIF) status.
Those teachers – Bethany Nave (Pre-K), Annette McClintock (fourth grade) and Robyn DeMoulin (second grade) – were released because funding from the state is delinquent, causing the district to make preparations to drop the Pre-K program in the 2010/11 school year.
“They all have done a very good job,” said Superintendent Rich Well. “It is a financial decision only. If the money shows up, they will be rehired.”
Following the meeting, Well said the RIFs were “predicated on the Pre-K program being dropped and the staff reductions being made at the Okaw Area Vocational Center, also because of funding shortfalls. RIF decisions come down to seniority and qualifications.”
In all, four Pre-K positions and one child care position at the vocational center were eliminated. Two of those teachers had several years of experience and were moved to first grade, replacing two retiring first-grade teachers. Another of the Pre-K teachers was moved to a second-grade position, causing a first-year teacher to be riffed. A fourth Pre-K teacher was riffed because there was no place to move her and she was a first-year teacher. And the OAVC child care instructor was moved to fourth grade, bumping out another of the first-year teachers.
In other personnel action, the board gave tenure status to six fourth-year teachers. Those teachers are: Scott Wright, Kevin Jackson, Mandi Austin, David Koleson, Nick Niemerg and Chris Irwin.
The board also approved the rehire of 25 first-, second- or third-year teachers. Rehired were: Jaclyn Daniels, Jessica Eckard, Shelly Forys, Kathleen Grandt, Tammy Hall, Lee Hicks, Tony Hicks, Lori Johnson, Beth Obrien Schmidt, Renee Whightsil, Maggie Abendroth, Amber Connor, Mary Flack, James Moore, Susan Strange, Kathleen Doll, Alissa Segrest, Ruth Chesney, Kelly Hardiek, Anne Winchester, Walt Kinney, Michelle McNary, Ashlee Gibbs, Danielle Matlock and Brianne Henry. At the board’s request, two of those teachers were singled out for a separate voice vote by the board. Both Renee Whightsil and Tony Hicks were approved for rehire by a 4-2 vote, with Jay Carroll and Joe Lawson voting against Whightsil, and Judy Wasmuth and Joe Lawson voting against Hicks.
Resignations were approved for the following: Cyndi Zobrist, VJHS “Just Say No” sponsor; Luke Hohlt, VJHS eighth-grade basketball coach; and Rick Meyer, Vandalia Elementary School custodian.
And finally, planned retirement dates were approved for three employees, all at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year. Those planning to retire are: Boneva Wamser (VCHS), Jacquelene Durr (VCHS) and Duane Houghtaling (VES).
In his report to the board on district finances, Well said that the district’s fund balances are currently “in solid shape,” but he expressed concerns over future funding from the state.
The district has a total bottom-line balance of $4,998,071, with a balance in the four operating funds (education, building, transportation and working cash) of $4,144,397.
In the operating accounts, revenues are at 70 percent of the annual budgeted total, while expenditures are at 64 percent of budget.
“The operating balance is staying steady around $4 million,” Well said. “We’ve let our teachers know that we won’t be making any unnecessary purchases from now through the end of the year.”
The transportation fund currently includes a balance of $157,540; however, a new bus has been ordered and will be delivered soon. It will cost about $72,000, Well said.
“Last year, we cut our bus purchases from two to one, and this year we only ordered one,” Well said. “We can’t let our buses go to pot.”
Well also reported that several state payments have fallen significantly behind:
• State categoricals are behind budget by $265,707;
• Vocational grant payments are behind budget by $189,346; and
• Pre-K grant payments are behind budget by $168,381. The Pre-K program involves three other districts in addition to Vandalia – Ramsey, Brownstown and St. Elmo.
Regarding the future of the Pre-K program, Well said in his report to the board that, “Based on the lack of state funding for the Pre-K program, the district will not be offering Pre-K next school year. If this year’s full funding does come to the district and the grant is reinstated for the 2010-11, the district will reinstate the program to the funded level.”
In another program that involves several area school districts, the 12 superintendents of the districts that participate in the Okaw Area Vocational Center voted to reduce the center’s costs by 16 percent for the 2010-11 school year. They approved the elimination of one secretary and one classroom teacher, and the reduction of one shared guidance counselor from 50 percent to 10 percent. That guidance counselor position previously was split 50-50 between the OAVC and Vandalia Community High School; it now will have 10 percent allocated to OAVC and 90 percent to VCHS.
In a discussion with The Leader-Union after the board meeting, Well said that cuts in state education funding proposed last week by Gov. Pat Quinn could have a devastating impact on local programs.
Currently, the Vandalia district receives about $6 million in state aid, Well said. Quinn’s proposal to cut education funding by 17 percent would mean a reduction of more than $750,000 for Vandalia – a loss of about $450 per student.
“That’s what we’re bracing for,” Well said. “We’ll see how it plays out. Next year, we may have to use some of our reserves.”
He said that while state payments have frequently been late, they always have eventually come. But that may change.
“The state’s not guaranteeing a thing right now,” Well said. “What would help us is if the state would tell us what we’re going to get, and then stick with it. Right now, we’re shooting at a moving target.”
In his report on technology issues, Well said that the district recently received 40 Hewlett Packard 5150 computers from the Department of Defense. Those machines will be refurbished and used to replace older computers in the typing lab at the high school.
The School Reach program, which has been used to communicate with students and parents for the past two years, will be replaced by a new system – called School Messenger – beginning this spring.
“School Messenger has more bells and whistles for the same price,” Well said. “It will be able to do a lot of other things for the district.”
Well also said that the new program “meshes with the student database,” allowing addresses and phone numbers to be changed instantly in the School Messenger system when contact information is updated by school building administrators.
In his report to the board, VCHS Principal Randy Protz said that the high school will present a play – “Onions in the Stew” – this Friday and Saturday, starting at 7 p.m. both nights.
Protz also reported that VCHS students in accounting II and III attended an Accounting Challenge last Wednesday. Of the 18 schools competing, the VCHS team –composed of Kendra Purcell, Sarah Hutchison and Marcus Mosley – placed first. In individual competition, Hutchison tied for first and Purcell placed third. More than 250 students participated in the event.
The VCHS Scholar Bowl team competed in the Illinois High School Association regionals last week – defeating Cowden-Herrick in the first round and then falling to Greenville in the second round.
In the Vandalia Junior High School report, Principal Rod Grimsley said that Morgan Hall, daughter of Dave and Tammy Hall, won the Organ Donor Poster Contest for the state of Illinois. She will be recognized at an awards ceremony at the Secretary of State’s office next Wednesday.
Grimsley also reported that Megan Godoyo, daughter of Mark and Tammy Isiah, and George Godoyo, has been selected as the Illinois Principal Association’s Outstanding Student Award winner for VJHS. She will be recognized at a breakfast banquet next Wednesday at Greenville College.
Kendall Leander, daughter of Tom and Karen Leander, has been chosen by the eighth-grade teachers at VJHS to receive the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizenship Award at the school. She was honored at an awards assembly in Greenville last Saturday.