O’FALLON, IL. (KMOX) – It took about 48-hours for tears of sadness to turn into tears of joy streaming down the faces of O’Fallon Township High School students who packed Thursday night’s emergency Board of Education meeting.
Especially when District 203 School Board President Lynda Cozad made one particular announcement.
“There will be no reduction in the coordinator of student services (position) that is filled by Dr. Shackelford,” Cozad said. “Thus, there will be no need to reduce the music teaching position.”
The room erupted into cheers and at that point some, if not all, of the animosity that had built up since Tuesday’s decision by the board to slash $1 million from next year’s budget seemed to dissipate like air leaving a flat tire.
Cozad laid out the entire replacement plan that the school board drew up during an hour long executive session.
The amount cut from the 2017-2018 budget goes from $1 million to $610,000.
That includes a reduction in certified teaching staff of 4.0 FTE – based on student enrollment, which contains zero cuts in guidance or instructional media personnel.
The board also said no certified administrator positions will be cut next year, whereas the previous plan was to eliminate one full-time position.
The number of non-certified personal eliminated will drop from 5 to 4, and athletic fees will increase from $100 to $150, instead of $175.
The district is also scrapping plans to eliminate the early bird, or zero hour, program.
After the plan was laid out the President of the O’Fallon Teachers Union, Mike Day, stepped to the podium. Day said he was “devastated” by the budget cuts originally announced on Tuesday.
“I rise in favor of the proposed resolution being put forth here tonight,” he said. “In all the stress generated by this the teachers, well, we kind of felt uplifted and even kind of inspired by the passionate voices our students have raised.”
One of those “passionate voices” belongs to senior Olivia Kloeckner. Kloeckner along with junior Alec Busse, organized a social media campaign that called for, but ultimately stopped short of a student walkout in protest of Tuesday’s announced cuts.
“These teachers are what make O’Fallon, O’Fallon,” Kloeckner said prior to the new budget plan’s unveiling. “They make it worth learning. They’re the ones that give us the relationships and without them what is it going to be? They’re the ones that have made the past four years of my high school life amazing, and I owe everything to them.”
Day noted one thing they do not have to worry about, is kids having a sense of civic duty. He added they also don’t have to worry about their willingness to speak on things that they care about.
Injecting himself into a night filled with cheers, tears and hugs was parent Jim Burton, who said he felt the need to act as the voice of reason.
“I’m not trying to be a downer here but there’s still the deficit issue,” he explained. “Are we just kicking the can down the road for next year? Are we going to have to do this all again? The problem still exists and if we don’t do anything this year there’s going to be a problem next year, and actually it’s going to be a bigger problem.”
School board member Keith Richter, who cast one of two “No” votes against the original budget cutting plan Tuesday night, said Burton makes a valid point.
“In a sense, we are going to have to come up with some resolutions as far as the future is concerned. As we all know the state of Illinois is not (doing its share) when it comes to education funding,” he noted.
But that’s a problem for another time — on this night a new sense of unity and purpose spread across the OTHS campus as students and parents thanked school board members for revisting their earlier budget cutting proposal.