Coles and Cumberland counties board of educations discuss budget concerns
An audience of hundreds attended Community Unit School District No. 1’s meeting on Jan. 20, as the district's board of education assessed the Illinois budget impasse’s impact on the district’s immediate fiscal needs.
New uniforms, scholarship funds, programming considerations and personnel changes also figured prominently into the discussion. The event featured 325 visitors and a large amount of public participation.
Coles and Cumberland counties’ regular session at the administration building opened with a discussion to “Chart a Course” for Charleston’s schools. Superintendent Jim Littleford stated that the board of education is seeking public opinion before making any decisions on revenues, reductions and related matters.
Littleford revealed that the district has saved millions in the last few fiscal years via prudent cutbacks in budget, staff, consultancies and vendor contracts. Having recently partnered with PMA Financial Network for revenue forecasting analysis, the district is in a better position to manage financial affairs. Littleford presented options of reducing expenditures, raising revenues or a combination.
The superintendent revealed community suggestions and presented summaries of possible scenarios. One previously addressed topic -- the concept of reorganizing the middle school, with comparisons made to a junior high school model -- was raised again.
Charleston Middle School Principal Chad Burgett supported leaving the system as is, stating that middle school has a valuable sense of community and strong communication. Reverting to a junior high school, Burgett said, would result in fewer student-teacher connections, increased behavioral problems, and less communication among teachers, parents, administrators and students.
When Littleford invited comments, no fewer than 21 individuals spoke: Ashmore Village Mayor Kurt Crail; school counselor Barb Haddock; teachers Yvonne Larson and Cindy Goodchild; Charleston High School (CHS) students Lauren Mellott, Austin Orlick, Anna Houston, Dallas Golloday, Emma Walker and Brandon Wambach; and citizens Erin Fleming, Bryan Watson, Danielle King, Betsy Mellott, Jeff Coon, Donna Flight, Gary Sims, Jeff Ashley, Michelle Lassak, Bill Monke and Tim McCollum.
CHS band students Katie Mueller and June Baumann presented a PowerPoint program on a fundraiser for new band uniforms. Existing uniforms are more than 15 years old and “falling apart," the girls said.
In new business, CHS was tentatively granted permission to establish a scholarship activity fund, pending state approval.
Additionally, Charleston Middle School physical education instructor Randy Harpster’s letter of retirement was accepted in advance, effective at the end of the 2021-22 school year. Three other resignations were accepted: from Sandburg Elementary School special education paraprofessional Kim Shambo; Jefferson Elementary School Title 1 paraprofessional Susan Banyai; and elementary school health care professional Karla Yocum.
In appointments, Sean Hussey was named head coach of Boys’ Tennis and Steve Kuchefski was named assistant Boys’ Track coach, both at CHS. Substitutes and volunteers were approved for the next two weeks. Athletic Director Jim Wood announced that CHS and the Trojan Booster Club successfully hosted the 2014 Girls Holiday Basketball Tournament during winter break.
Based on Special Education Coordinator Cathy Chaplin’s advice, the superintendent recommended purchasing “Fee for Service” programs and tuition-based services from the Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education for the 2016-2017 school year, specifically for vision, pre-vocational, OT, and PT and adapted PE. The district will continue to collaborate with tuition programs with regional resources.
Standard consent agenda items were also approved, including minutes, bills and payroll, in addition to decisions concerning previous closed session minutes.
Replacement of bleachers in the middle school gymnasium was approved, with an estimated $180,000 cost. After two resolutions to transfer loan funds, the board went briefly into a closed session before adjourning.