Tours reminds Well of OAVC’s purpose

Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook a gem that area students are offered through a center administered by the Vandalia School District.
“Looking around from the outside, you just don’t get a feel for what the programs we are able to offer (inside),” Superintendent Rich Well said at last week’s meeting of the Vandalia Board of Education.
Well talked about the value of the Okaw Area Vocational Center after assisting Okaw Director Nick Casey in leading a group from Shelbyville on a tour of the center earlier in the day.
That group included the superintendent of the Shelbyville School District and six business leaders from that community.
It’s one of many tours given to officials in other school districts who are contemplating sending students to the OAVC or developing such instruction in their own districts.
“Sullivan was here this year, Pana was here this year and last year, and Taylorville has also been here (recently),” Well said.
“Until you walk in there and see what the students are doing … these other groups repeatedly talk about, ‘Wow, what a great thing for kids,’” Well said.
“Our job is to serve all students. We have a faction that are going to go here and another faction that’s going to going there. The one thing that the Okaw Center does is that it combines some of these things, with a lot of dual credit and a lot of hands-on stuff,” he said.
“The students can walk out of there and get a great job in the community with their certification (from the OAVC),” Well said.
“Forty or 50 years ago, some people in this area had great foresight to do something like that. The problem (that other districts) have today is, they don’t have the money to start the programs to the depth that we have here,” he said.
Leading tours of the building, Well said, “Reminds me of how fortunate we are to have those programs in the district.”
Programs offered at the OAVC include building trades, power mechanics, auto body, office technology, commercial art, health occupations, drafting/machine shop/welding, auto mechanics, food service and electronics.
Also at last Tuesday’s meeting, the school board approved a $4.337-million tax levy for the coming year.
The new levy is 3.77 percent above last year’s tax extension, with the district’s numbers based on projections from the office of Fayette County Supervisor of Assessments Cindi Lotz, Well said.
Well told board members that in putting together a levy, district officials have to “ask for high-end numbers,” to ensure that the district doesn’t lose any tax dollars.
“If it goes up 2-3 percent, we lose that 2-3 percent” if the district doesn’t account for it, he said.
The levy is based on “zero growth” within the district boundaries, he said, noting that the district lost considerable tax dollars when Graham Packaging closed its Vandalia plant.
“We gain some new houses, but it takes a lot of houses to make up for a Graham,” he said.
“Our revenues are going to be the same, or lower, so we are going to have to continue to keep a handle on expenses,” Well said.
In giving the board an update on district finances, Well said that at about half way through its fiscal year, the district is “where we need to be,” with revenues at 41 percent of the projected budget figure and operating expenses at 42 percent.
At this point, he said, the district has yet to receive any money from the state for transportation, special education, driver’s education, lunch and Title I.
The board approved the transfer of $1,127,300 from the district’s working cash fund for education and operating fund expenditures.
School officials are hopeful that a change in leadership at the state capitol means positive things for school funding in Illinois.
But, Well said, “The hard part is, without revenue, how are they going to send out something when they don’t have anything (to send out).”
In other action at the meeting:
• The board approved Katrina Hanke as a National Honor Society sponsor at the high school.
• The board approved bids from South Central FS for gas ($2.198 per gallon) and diesel fuel ($2.619).

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