Last night presented an opportunity for parents, teachers, and education leaders to speak their minds regarding the recent vote by the D150 School Board that essentially robbed our primary school children of 7 months worth of an education. A diverse group of parents and educators met at Godfather's Pizza to discuss options for affecting a rescission of the ill-advised vote.
To save myself the trouble of re-capping events I'll just link to this article by Elaine Hopkins, who summed it up nicely.
The energy, intellect and drive in the room was electric as Bill Collier, the liaison between the City of Peoria and The Board of Education addressed the crowd and attempted to slow our speeding freight train. Mr. Collier came at the request of Regional Superintendent Jerry Brookhart and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, who had been inundated with phone calls and e-mails from enraged citizens.
Mr. Collier advocated a more "soft sell/back door" approach via meetings with the Superintendent and solution driven negotiation. Initially, this suggestion was met with cynicism from our group. We felt that that had already been attempted and rejected in the few short days available prior to the time of the vote.
But Mr. Collier insisted that we "had the Admins attention" and that they were willing to put options on the table. Ultimately, we were persuaded to "call off the dogs" and place them on a back burner, for now. In the interim, we will meet a few more times to explore options for saving $600K. We don't anticipate this to be too difficult of an undertaking given the fact that it is less than 1/2 of 1% of their budget. There is a meeting scheduled with the District for May 22. The goal: a full rescission of last Mondays vote.
Fortunately, we were blessed with the presence of two former board members as well as a few retired teachers and District personnel that felt they had enough working knowledge of a budget to sift through and find options.
Simultaneously, Whittier Parent Bill Luthy will form a private Yahoo Group which we will all use to disseminate information, channel resources, and utilize as a "Call to Action" for future agenda items deemed to be significantly relevant.
Mr. Collier also suggested that our group consider higher level meetings with State Representatives Aaron Schock and David Leitch, and State Senators Dale Risinger and David Koehler, to help insure that District 150 receive all the state funds they are entitled to. He also feels a need for a child-focused Parent/Teacher's Union liaison to assist in mediation of future contract negotiations. It is also imperative that we identify and support a well qualified candidate with a broad and clear vision for the District to run for Mary Spanglers spot on the school board, which will be vacated in 2009. Our newly formed group will explore all of these issues in regular on-going meetings.
I am pleased with the outcome of the meeting, and although there exists an innate sense of unease with the Administration given the callousness they have exhibited towards the expressed will of the community, I, personally, am willing to put differences aside and work on behalf of the children as well as every citizen of Peoria.
The bottom line is this. It is one thing to not think things through, buy property, sell property, randomly knock down and build new buildings. But taking school time and specialty teachers away from our youngest children to compensate for the lack of vision is fundamentally impacting the very foundation of the city of Peoria. Mondays decision, if it stands, would have far-reaching consequences that go way beyond the boundaries of District 150.