By Terry Dean
The District 97 Board of Education and administration finalized the size of its planned April 2011 referendum on Dec. 14, as well as what cuts would need to be made in case that ballot measure fails next spring.
The board did not formally vote on both the size and cuts — that's scheduled to happen at their Jan. 11, 2011 meeting taking place at Brooks Middle School, 325 S. Kenilworth.
At Tuesday's meeting, words and phrases like "painful," "gut-wrenching" and "distasteful" were used to describe the list of $5.7 million in proposed reductions to such notable and popular programs as CAST and BRAVO, the Multicultural Center and summer school. Board members and administrators, though, also expressed optimism that the district's $75 million working cash bond sale referendum would be approved by voters. But officials maintained that if the referendum fails, deep and painful reductions would need to be the alternative to cover its structural deficit, projected to reach $6 million by 2014.
As for the reductions — which will be implemented for the 2011-2012 school year — Supt. Albert Roberts insisted these were cuts that no one wants to see.
The reductions would be to staffing positions. The board talked about whether volunteers could be recruited to help run what would assuredly be modified programs. Roberts added that volunteers were worth exploring but said the district would need to do proper vetting of those individuals. Currently staff, he noted, are fingerprinted and background checks are done.
Roberts and board members stressed that if the referendum does pass, the district would still pursue some cost savings.