By ALYSE THOMPSON
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Three former Quincy Public Schools superintendents asked residents to invest in the community's students and educational facilities Sunday, two days before voters decide an $89 million bond issue for new schools.
Joe Bocke, Myrl Shireman and George Meyer, along with retired educator Dick Thompson, Mayor Kyle Moore and two QPS students, spoke in support of the bond issue at a small gathering in Madison Park.
If approved, the measure would allow the district to build five new elementary schools and reorganize grade configurations without boosting property tax rates. If it fails, the school district will have to spend about $66 million on repairs to existing buildings that otherwise would have been replaced.
Bocke said project feedback has largely been positive, but he encouraged the Committee for Building Quincy's Schools to keep pushing forward in the final stretch before Tuesday's election.
Bocke also made an appeal to Quincy's voters.
"You're not just voting for yourself," he said. "You're voting for the betterment of this total Quincy community. You're voting for your children, our grandchildren and the children of future generations who are going to benefit primarily from being housed in a more appropriate and a more proper educational environment."
Meyer served as superintendent in the mid-1990s. He said the measure would help QPS move toward a grade configuration that's been in the works for years. It would put sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Quincy Junior High School and move ninth-graders to Quincy High School.
"Now, it is perfect timing for that to happen because they are able to build these buildings, get that grade configuration which is best for kids without raising tax rates," he said. "It should've happened many years ago, but we were not able to get it done. I applaud the current board and the committee that's worked on this for being able to bring this all together to the community."
Sophomore Abby Biswell said a new 9-12 grade configuration at Quincy High School would allow freshmen to take part in classes and activities that should be available to them. She also pointed to the time wasted busing QJHS students taking certain classes between the two schools.
"Quincy Junior High is a great school, but it's not high school," she said. "Most kids in Illinois get to take advantage of all the opportunities that a high school has to offer."
Shireman said as superintendent he heard parents considering relocating to Quincy comment on the quality of programs offered, as well as the age of the schools in which they were being delivered. He said five new elementary schools would accommodate up-to-date educational programs.
"This is an opportunity to have a school system -- especially the elementary system -- that matches a 21st century model of what education ought to be," he said.
Nicholas Seibert, a seventh-grader at QJHS, echoed Shireman.
"Although these buildings may have life left in them, they no longer serve the purpose of being a place where future doctors, lawyers or politicians can learn what they need to learn to be upstanding members of our fine community," he said.
After the brief rally, about 20 supporters split into teams to canvass neighborhoods surrounding Madison Park.
Shelley Arns, president of the QJHS Parent Teacher Association, took to the 2000 block of Maine Street to speak to residents about the bond issue. She noted making one-on-one connections and being visible were significant parts of the committee's efforts.
"The more they see us out, they realize the importance of this vote," she said.