Schools may lose out on state funds

Though the Vandalia Board of Education dealt with a variety of issues at its monthly meeting Tuesday, an announcement by Superintendent Rich Well about the possibility of diminished state funding was cause for concern among board members and school officials.

Well told the board that hes hearing from other superintendents and others in the states educational hierarchy that theres a distinct possibility that the state will not make the final two state aid payments of the fiscal year in June.

Though the actual payment situation wont be known until that time, Well said state education officials are encouraging districts to go public with the issue to put pressure on state legislators to complete the final two payments (of the 48 made each year) to the states school districts.

For Vandalia, Well said, that would mean the loss of about $600,000 in state aid about 4 percent of the districts annual $15.5 million budget.

It would be devastating to us, Well said. Everything weve worked so hard to do would be for naught.

Cutting those two state aid payments of $300,000 each would wipe out the $400,000 in increased state aid we were promised. (Cutting the final payments of the year) has happened before, so it wouldnt be the first time. And, because of the overall state budget situation, theyre looking to cut costs anywhere they can.

(Legislators) beat their chests and said We helped the schools, and then they do this. Its disheartening.

In response, Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville) said Wednesday that there is no proposal hes aware of on the legislative side that would cut state aid payments to schools. Instead, he pointed to the governors office.

The FY08 budget needs to be managed properly by the governors office to make it work for the last few months of the fiscal year, Watson said. Significant savings can be realized in the Medicaid program where costs are exploding. Reforms need to be put in place to properly manage it.

‘Its particularly important when the states budget is so tight and bills are not getting paid. There is also $100 million in special projects that could be cut until the state can afford them,’ Watson said.

In other matters, Well told the board that the district will have increased costs of more than $120,000 for its special education programs. That cost overrun is due to a loss of funding for the programs and an increased number of students with special needs.

Well also reported that the bids for the third phase of the Health Life Safety projects (safety vestibules, building locks and other mandated safety-related measures) came in under budget. Because of those savings, a fourth phase now will be possible. That phase will involve repairing and paving the VCHS main parking lot, particularly in the area around the bus garage, where excavation to remove old underground fuel tanks has left the surface very uneven.

Well told the board that a second T1 telephone line will be installed for the schools because Internet traffic has become so great that speed on the current T1 line has slowed down.

He also said that the transportation committee has recommended that the district purchase two new buses for the coming school year. That committee also recommended that bus drivers be trained in emergency first aid before the 2008/2009 school year begins.

At Tuesday nights meeting, the board took the following action after a 40-minute closed session:

Approved the transfer of two Vandalia Elementary School teachers Kelley Bellever (to third grade from fifth grade) and Jill Jewell (to second grade from third grade).

Approved seven fourth-year teachers for tenure status, beginning with the 2008-2009 school year. Those teachers are: Stacia Braun (VES), Kim Perkins (Okaw Vocational Center), Melissa Dreas (VCHS), Beth Kern (VCHS), Todd Ehlers (VCHS and Okaw), Shannon Webster (VJHS) and Brandon Taylor (VJHS).

Approved 22 first-, second- and third-year teachers for rehire for the 2008-2009 school year. Those teachers are: Jessica Eckard (Jefferson Primary School), Beth OBrien-Schmidt (JPS), Jerri-Lynn Burnam (JPS), Jaclyn Daniels (JPS), Misty Philpot (VES), Kelley Bellaver (VJHS), Mandi Austin (VJHS), Chris Erwin (VJHS/VCHS), Shelly Forys (VJHS), Kathy Grandt (VJHS), Renee Whightsil (VJHS), Lee Hicks (VJHS/VCHS), Kelli White (VCHS), Marissa Shoemaker (VCHS/VJHS), Nic Niemerg (VCHS), Kevin Jackson (VCHS), Carrie Soloman (VCHS), Tony Hicks (VCHS), Lori Johnson (Okaw), Laurna Knebel (Okaw), David Koleson (Okaw) and Scott Wright (Okaw).

Approved a joint agreement with the Alternative Education Programs.

Accepted resignations from Doug Forbes (for his duties as seventh-grade boys basketball coach) and Jennifer Ades (history teacher at VCHS).

Approved the employment of Mary Flack as VCHS special education teacher (to replace Luke Hohlt, who last month was named counselor at VCHS).

Approved the second reading of the risk management plan.

Approved the Illinois State Board of Education-approved school calendar for 2007/2008 (with snow days included). Under that new calendar, May 28 will be the last day of classes and May 29 will be a teachers in-service day.

Approved Mike Dokey as volunteer girls softball coach.

Approved a retirement request from Sherry Schneider after the 2011/2012 school year.

Approved Tina Ashdown as the VCHS flag corps sponsor.

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