Shrinking state funding prompts Pikeland cuts

Posted: Mar. 21, 2013 9:17 am Updated: Apr. 11, 2013 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The Pikeland School Board has cut three teachers, seven support staff, five bus drivers and days or hours from teachers with extended contracts for the 2013-14 year.

Superintendent Paula Hawley said shrinking state funding prompted the cuts.

"When we get all the state funding, we pretty much maintain what we have," Hawley said.

As of Wednesday, the state owed the district $373,196. Hawley expects that number to double by this time next month if categorical payments due in late March don't arrive.

State aid payments prorated at 89 percent for this school year, combined with other missing payments, stand to cost the district $1 million this year. At the same time, the district faces more costs from continued unfunded mandates from the state, and projected cuts in transportation funding will disproportionately hurt large rural districts like Pikeland.

"We always had state aid in a very timely manner, but the people in Springfield have chosen not to make that a priority," Hawley said. "Next year we're hearing it may be 80 percent, another $500,000 loss on top of what we had this year. That will be devastating, not just to us but to every school district."

Hawley said a combination of cutting expenses and projected savings compared to this school year could help the bottom line. The district expects to save $125,000 by not replacing a retiring elementary teacher and hiring less experienced new teachers; $150,000 in health insurance costs by switching to a health reimbursement account; and $140,000 with no anticipated early retirement costs.

Board member Al Brokaw sees the state pushing its budget mess down to counties, townships and school districts, forcing them to cut people doing a good job. He said that lets the state "off the hook."

Some of the staff could be rehired based on numbers in special education and kindergarten, as well as state funding for pre-kindergarten.

Hawley said board members will decide over the summer what type of pre-K program to offer.

"Maybe we can serve 4-year-olds next year, have part of a program," she said. "We may not have the program at all."

How that program plays out will determine whether the district will rehire its pre-K parent coordinator and any or all of the pre-K noon route bus drivers.

The district also looks at the pre-K program status and incoming student numbers to determine kindergarten staffing. If the district does not offer pre-K, the pre-K teachers could bump other teachers for classroom positions.

Special education needs also could bring back some or all of the five paraprofessionals included in the support staff cuts.

The district does get some special ed reimbursement funds to cover part of the paraprofessional cost, but Hawley said the state has made only one payment this year.





The Pikeland School Board made several personnel moves for the 2013-14 year:

º Did not re-employ first-year teachers Megan Bowen, kindergarten; Andrea Weirather, kindergarten; and Angela Willard, fourth grade.

º Did not re-employ seven support staff -- bus aide Monica Geiselman; paraprofessionals Emily Hoover, Kiley Howland, Megan Laux, Becky McIntire and Chris Sydney; and pre-kindergarten parent coordinator Gretchen Petty.

º Did not re-employ pre-K noon route bus drivers Becky Graham, Diane Hamilton, Rhonda Laux, Randy Lemons and Jennifer Ruzich.

º Reduced 10 days from extended contracts for teachers Don Bigley, Jody Heavner, Jennifer Schmidt, Brittney Shoemaker, Mike Smith and Brad Tomhave and reduced an "overload," or one extra period every other day, for Brian Armstrong.



In other action, the Pikeland School Board:

º Set graduation dates of Thursday, May 30, for Pikeland Community School and Friday, May 31, for Pittsfield High School. Both ceremonies will begin at 7:30 p.m.

º Adopted a calendar for the 2013-14 year calling for teacher in-service days on Aug. 19-20, the first day of classes on Aug. 21, a two-week break at Christmas and the last day of school on May 21 if no snow days are used.

º Heard a spotlight presentation by kindergarten teachers Darlene Corgiat and Jody Gengler on new author study lessons added to the curriculum this year.

º Gave final approval to four policies, including measures that prohibit the district from accessing credit history of potential employees in most cases and from requesting passwords from employees for social networking sites.