For some background, consider the statements made in the following excerpts from the Peoria Journal Star
PJstar, Sept. 13, 2005-The facility committee in a presentation stated that consolidation was recommended because of the district's budget deficit. Closing schools and building new facilities would cut down on maintenance costs and improve the quality of education. The committee's goal is to save $5 million with the consolidation.
Some residents questioned the committee on why school renovation wasn't an option. Beth McDaniel attended the forum and said she believed the district was not focusing on the right things for bettering students' education.
"You guys jump too much. You're like a school district with ADHD," McDaniel said.
Residents said they understood the cost of maintaining a building, but thought renovating the schools would cost less than building new ones.
"I wouldn't mind a new building, but that's not going to make a better educational community," Katz said. "Renovate what we have. Keep what we have and don't look at ways to replace the buildings, but look at ways to alter the community involvement and engagement at the schools."
Sound familiar? It seems these remarks could have been made only yesterday. The beauty of history, however, is that we can look in retrospect at District decisions and see how their promises and consequences thereof held up. Although past behavior is not necessarily prediction of future, it's the best we got.
It would be reasonable to consider selling off real estate as an option for balancing a budget. At least that is what the district has argued. Is their intention to really save money, or could there be other conscious or subconscious agendas of which the public is not aware.
Peoria Journal Star, October 12, 2005
The district will try to swap vacant buildings for land to construct new buildings. If that doesn't work, it will try to sell the buildings. If no buyers are found, the district will attempt to transfer the properties to a financially sound organization with a plan for the space. If all that is unsuccessful, the buildings will be maintained or demolished.
Let's fast forward to Blaine Sumner today, closed as a middle School in 2006. Here is an exterior pic of this beautiful, all brick historic building.
The District instead of closing the school, thereby eliminating the maintenance and rehab costs as well as forfeiting its value in a sale, did in fact rehab it and moved Student Services personell in. The Student Services personell relocated from the Diagnostic Learning Center (DLC) on Wisconsin Avenue and into the Blaine Sumner School. The original DLC space remains vacant, and is still retained and maintained by the District.
Below is a pic of the Building Managers "office". His office is in a fullsized classroom the same size that my K-gartner shares with 28 other children! Next year, if Hinton gets his way, all classes will be further increased by 3.
From another angle:
This building is roughly 65,000 square feet. There are 80 employees that work out of it. According to an old Peoria Journal Star article, it had an occupancy permit for 500 people. There are approximately 2 people working out of each full sized classroom. Immediately after they closed it as a school, the district moved to AIR CONDITION it, and added FULL SECURITY complete with video monitors. There is also indication that they encapsulated some asbestos insulated heat ducts (not uncommon). In fairness, it is possible the asbestos remediation was done prior to its closing - not sure about that. Perhaps the District would clarify.
The building contains two lovely gyms. Here is the first one, used only as storage:
Here is the second one. Occassionally children from neighboring schools are bussed here to use this gym. The other gym (the one being used as storage) is definately the newer, nicer and larger of the two.
Here is the old school library. Completely vacant and not in use.
and more storage:
Here is a room that is used by a few for child evaluations. I asked how often this room was used. Once person told us once a week for about 30 minutes, and someone else told us twice a week. It was beautful - fully lit up, furnished with play area and sofa and ready to go.
Here is a pic of the thermostat. It's hard to read, but the temp in the room was over 90 degrees. Not kidding!
Most of the employees that work there are part of the DLC. They provide support services to the students by way of speech, hearing, testing and act as a resource in recommending services. Much of their time is spent in the schools. Sources told us that over the summer, this 65,000 sq.ft. building is occupied by about 20 people. Over the Spring Break, there were about 5. This building costs roughly $250,000 year to maintain. The space they moved from - about $20K. I ask, where has been the cost savings to the district for justification of closing a school?
Some employees reported that they love the conveniance to each other for meetings and the space the building offers them to spread out. I don't blame them. Conveniant for them... too bad about the kids though. I would like to say though, that the employees that we all talked to were great. I have no problem what-so-ever with any of them or the work that they do.
Last night board member Jim Stowell posted the following on the Peoria Chronicle:
Either we drastically reduce labor costs across all functional areas, or we can’t afford to operate the current number of facilities. Those that we do operate, we hope take on the qualities of a “community center”. It is not 2005 and our costs have been greater than our revenue for an extended period. My desire is to help our district achieve financial stability while providing vibrant learning opportunities for our children. Every effort will be made to minimize hardships and inconveniences (unfortunately, there will be many), but these steps are necessary, in my opinion, to get us to where we need to go. The process will create obstacles and challenges, but it’s time to right size the district while planning for a better day.
I have a problem with this on so many levels. The excessive waste, (some of which is documented here and on numerous other blogs) overspending, and mismanagement by this Administration (and others) and this board which has given them the green light on just about everything has put this district where it is today - on the brink of financial ruin. Why is it that when the adults screw up, they look at our youngest, most vulnerable citizens - the students of which they exist to serve to shoulder the burden? My understanding is that the children that were moved out of Blaine Sumner have struggled even more academically since. I have not yet personally verified that claim yet.
It should be noted that current Board member Martha Ross voted NO to closing the Blaine Sumner School:
Peoria Journal Star November 22, 2005-Board President Alicia Butler and board member Martha Ross voted against them. "I'm fully aware that we need to cut costs. I can't in my heart of hearts look at this as a positive for our children," Ross said, adding she's concerned about the effect on displaced children, both academically and socially.
Martha is the board member that the other members felt didn't exhibit enough leadership or vision to be deserving of the board presidency.
Folks, I try to keep this blog happy and upbeat. I love Peoria and most everything about it. But when I see stuff like this, I realize sometimes, Peoria doesn't rock.
I'm not done...