Following a public hearing June 13 at the Madison County Administration Building, Regional Superintendent Dr. Robert Daiber heard testimony concerning a petition to add a Nov. 8 ballot issue that would merge the East Alton-Wood River High School District and the Wood River/Hartford and East Alton school districts.
A certified letter to individuals who attended the hearing stated Daiber considered testimony, comments and evidence presented as well as examined the totality of the schools’ needs before determining it was in the best interest of the schools affected as well as the educational welfare of pupils to allow the petition to be placed on the ballot.
The Illinois State Board of Education's deadline to issue a final decision is July 27. Once the Madison County Regional Office of Education knows the state's decision, Daiber will make an announcement about whether the issue will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Consolidation Committee of 10 chairman Charles Johansen looks to get as much information to the community as possible.
“We as a group are thrilled to bring the question of consolidation back to the voters,” Johansen said. “So much has changed since the last time consolidation was put in front of the community to vote. We have a state that is still without a budget and falling short on funding our schools’ basic needs. East Alton District 13 is now on the state’s watch list for lacking a solid fiscal footing. Both feeder schools are passing students on to high school that are not at or near prepared for the ninth-grade level.”
During the June 13 board meeting, Wood River resident and consolidation opponent Linda Hoffman said it would be expensive to align the schools’ curriculum and asked where the money would come from.
“I’ve said this all along; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and I mean that,” Hoffman said. “Our districts are not broken. There are problems, of course; there are problems in every school district. (This is) something we cannot go into without lots and lots of data. A big five-year plan or budget that says this will happen the first year, and this will probably happen the next year, and so on — that’s what you have to do. Once this bell is rung, you can’t go back.”
Johansen said too much is at stake not to take the opportunity to consolidate and he hopes the third time is the charm.
“I feel the majority of the opposition don’t have the best interest of our children in our community,” Johansen said. “Some have never had children in the system, so they don’t really understand as a parent having never had children attend our schools. As a committee we prepared to move forward and show how one district will help prepare our students for today’s challenges. We are three communities with one district.
“They can throw cooked numbers out there trying to back their same old talking points,” he said. “I think they fall short on what consolidation is truly about. It’s really simple: we want to make this old, broken three-district system into a single district with an objective to take our children from preschool through 12th grade in a system that prepares them to compete in today’s global world.”
Wood River resident Tom Dale shared concerns that are making him lean against consolidation. He said more data is needed before residents vote on the issue for a third time.
“I have a business degree; I’ve worked for a large corporation,” Dale said. “To me this doesn’t make a good business decision; which the school district and my taxes are a business decision. If you don’t have the proof, you don’t do it yet. I would love to save tax money, but I don’t want to put money into the district to give teachers more money if we can’t get a better education for the kids and improve the system. I say we keep it as it is until they can show me where we can even pay the same amount we’re paying now and see improvements. I won’t vote yes because of someone else’s gut feeling. We need to do our research.”