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Loss of funding forces changes at Forrestville

Eight teachers cut; realignment at grade school

Eight teachers were let go and elementary classes were reconfigured last week as part of the Forrestville Valley School Board’s ongoing effort to pare down spending.

Approximately 50 people attended the school board meeting held March 20 at the Forreston Grade School.

The board voted not to rehire first-year probationary teacher Michael Ensign, who teaches vocal music throughout the district.

Seven tenured teachers were also dismissed at the end of the current school year through reduction in force (RIF).

Teachers riffed included Sarah Rowland, fourth grade teacher at Forreston Grade School; Trent Sellers, driver education and industrial arts teacher at Forreston Junior-Senior High School; Jennifer Pitts, special education teacher at German Valley Grade School; Lisa Kuper, special education teacher at Forreston Grade and Junior-Senior High Schools; Nancy Taylor, second grade teacher at German Valley Grade School; Linda Borneman, first grade teacher at Forreston Grade School; and Sharon Winterhalter, preschool teacher at Forreston Grade School.

The board also approved a realignment of grade levels at the district’s two grade schools for 2013-14.

The third, fourth, and fifth grade classes at German Valley will move to Forreston Grade School. Kindergarten, first, and second grade will remain at German Valley.

In addition, the Little Cardinals Preschool Program will move from Forreston to German Valley.

In a letter to district families, Superintendent Lowell Taylor said declining state revenues was the main reason for the cuts.

“Unfortunately, the legally-required financial support for schools is one of the huge promises the State of Illinois has broken,” Taylor said in the letter. “Forrestville Valley has received nearly $1 million less than owed by the State of Illinois over the past couple of years. Next year, in the school year 2013-14, the projected shortfall of state revenues is another million dollars.”

School board president Robert Ebbesmeyer said Monday that the decisions were made for mostly budgetary reasons.

“It’s primarily based on budget issues,” he said.

The class reconfigurations were also based on the district’s declining enrollment over the last few years, a trend that is projected to continue.

According to Taylor's letter enrollment has decreased by 15 percent over the last five years.

“The size of our graduating classes has decreased. Where it used to be 70 [in a graduating class], now it’s down to 55 to 60,” Ebbesmeyer said.

Adding to the problem of diminishing state revenues was Gov. Pat Quinn’s recent announcement that he is recommending a drastic reduction in the transportation reimbursement paid to Illinois school districts in the 2013-14.

Ebbesmeyer said he does not yet know the exact amount the district would lose if Quinn’s proposal is approved by the Illinois General Assembly.

However, he said the reimbursement is expected to be only 19 percent of what the district is entitled to.

“It’s huge,” he said. “I don’t know what schools are going to do. We’re mandated to transport students and that’s fine – it’s appropriate. But they’re forcing schools to do things they don’t want to do.”

The situation is especially difficult in geographically large rural districts like Forrestville Valley and others in Ogle County.

The district covers 178 square miles with an enrollment of 912 students.

The state reimburses districts for transportation expenses related only to education. Expenses incurred for sports or other extracurricular activities are not allowable.

Ebbesmeyer said he has become increasingly disillusioned with the state’s lawmakers.

“People need to get vocal with state legislators,” he said. “They’ve increased our state income tax, and we’re getting less for it. I don’t know what they think we can do.”

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