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D161 Budget-Tightening Could Include Closing a School

Arbury Hills School or Frankfort Square School could be shut down under a proposal to restructure the district. But that's just one idea officials are considering in order to cut costs.

As a way to cover about a $2 million budget shortfall, officials are considering a variety of cost-cutting measures, including entertaining the idea of closing either or .

But interim Superintendent Barb Rains said Thursday no decisions have been made, and any move to eliminate financial and educational inefficiencies in the district are only at the discussion level at this point.

More research needs to be done before detailed proposals are created, and January would be the soonest that would happen, she added. The full board also would need to discuss and vote on the matter before any action is taken, Rains said.

The idea of restructuring district schools was brought up at the Nov. 28 meeting for the D161 finance committee. Because of reduced payments from the state, a decreasing property tax base and an upcoming contract increase in teacher salaries, the D161 budget will be about $2 million over this fiscal year, and committee members--which included Board President Mary Kenny and board members George Perros and Stacey Borgens--talked about ways to make up for that deficit. Suggestions mentioned were:

  • Use the district's reserves to cover the difference.
  • Make major cuts from the budget.
  • Realign the D161 schools to streamline second through fourth grades, which would result in the closing of a school.

Rains introduced the realignment proposal at the meeting, outlining two different approaches that could be considered:

  • Grades 2 through 4 would be contained in three schools instead of five.
  • Create "attendance centers" for grades 2 through 4, with one district school being the home for each of those grades.

In either case, the district would be able to eliminate one school and create a financial savings. How much of a savings hasn't been determined yet, Rains said. Arbury and Frankfort Square were identified as possibilities because of their small enrollments, she added.

READ: Follow D161 Coverage at Patch's Summit Hill School District 161 Topic Page

Although such a radical realignment would come as a way for the district to make its budget, it wouldn't be done at the cost of sacrificing the quality of education for Summit Hill students.

"The goal is to provide the best education environment for students," Rains said.

In fact, Kenny said Thursday using grade-level attendance centers could have a positive scholastic effect, creating more focused classrooms for students and making it easier for teachers in the same grade to collaborate and support one another.

But convincing district parents on the benefits of having their kids change schools could be a tough sell, Kenny said. That's why the district plans to hold public hearings to community input on the matter before they make any decisions, Rains said.

In the meantime, the board needs to approve the district's 2011 tax levy before it tackles budget cutting. Action on the levy is set for Dec. 14.

Are you kidding me? December 04, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Keith Pain? Ask your buddy Mary, she's on the board! Pain has been gone for months, why ask him? When he left, our district was in the BLACK! Six months later we have a 2 million shortfall, Director of Finance is leaving, Board member just resigned, possible closing of 2 schools. ASK CURRENT BOARD MEMBERS!
informed December 04, 2011 at 03:20 PM
I said it before we should FOIA how much it cost for dinner and drinks for the board member and their guest. It's taxpayers money your intitled to now the truth. Are you kidding me...you should find out the truth before you have a nervous breakdown.
Are you kidding me? December 04, 2011 at 03:40 PM
You should learn how to spell informed, whats the matter? truth you say...you have no idea! Nervous breakdown? That was a evil thing to say. Your colors are showing. Just like your kronies...
taxpayer December 04, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Not understanding the need for mud slinging. I don't know any of the board members but obviously Mary Kenny is a well liked individual otherwise we (the taxpayers) would have ousted her years ago. With that said. I don't know about everyone else but my utilities have increased double and sometimes tripple what they were a few years ago. I was in the (green zone) and a happy camper. NOW with EVERYTHING increasing, I need to pinch my pennies. I would assume the same thing with our district. Everything has increased which would explain the shortfall. We can't blame the Board for the economic downfall. What we can do is express our feelings for the need for them to pinch the district pennies before increasing our tax bill. Also, for people to be in a huff about bussing the kids to a different school.
taxpayer December 04, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Also, eventually every kid will need to ride the bus, unless they are picked up by a parent. Some kids have to take the bus all through grammer school. The district can't make every person happy, they need to make cuts. I would rather see a school closed then see cuts made to our childrens education or after school activities.
Teach84 December 04, 2011 at 09:50 PM
Some of you really need to attend a school board meeting. Mary Kenny has been on the board for 30 years!! She is about 70 years old and has trouble walking around, and her husband helps her out quite a bit, so I highly doubt she will be "partying it up" downtown. If any of you have ever attended a convention, you know how tiring it is to be there and sit through seminars all day. Some of you seriously need to go to a Board meeting and get informed before making comments. Also, why is this all ONE person's fault? Whenever there is a change in leadership, there are messes that need to be cleaned up and problems that need to be solved. it is not going to happen overnight. I invite every one of you who think this is an easy undertaking to volunteer YOUR time to even just attend a meeting, let alone balance the district's budget and find solutions to problems that you had nothing to do with.
Missy Goodman December 05, 2011 at 03:14 AM
I don't know how I feel about this. I guess I will have to wait and see what they really propose as the time comes. I do want to say that I think that the Frankfort School District is the best school district that I have ever had the pleasure to have a part of. My son is in 2nd grade and has been a part of this district since kindergarten. He loves his teachers, the principal and the students he's in his classes with. My family lived up north and the school district was terrible. They actually blamed my husband and I for the issues that my son had. They made us feel like we were terrible parents. And this was just his pre-school year! This school district has helped us with our son. They have taught us as they teach my son. They are patient with everything. And with that, my son has really blossomed. He has overcome so many obstacles that I believe that if we still lived up north, we would still be dealing with. The teachers are fantastic. They work so hard to provide for our children. They use their own hard earned money to help supply the classrooms with extras, while only asking when needed for help. I think we all need to find out more details and if there is something that we don't like, yes, speak up. However, let's not jump to conclusions. The schools may not close if we can find a solution. They may not make attendance schools if an answer is found.
All 4 Kids December 05, 2011 at 03:26 AM
A 2 million dollar deficit does NOT happen overnight! There were obviously problems that we did not know about before Pain resigned. Just like you can't blame it all on the current President, you can't blame it all on the current Board. My kids have gone to Arbury Hills and are Straight A kids. My youngest will go there HOPEFULLY next year. Why does Arbury or Frankfort Square have to be the ones that close?? Why not Mary Drew?? They were the last to open their doors. Go back to the way it was before Mary Drew opened and there should be no problem with finding enough kids to go to the schools!! I prefer small schools and smaller classrooms....kids learn better that way! And I sure as heck don't want my kids to have to go on a bus rather than me walking them down the street!! How is bussing all these kids around going to save money?? How are larger class sizes going to help their edcuation?? This is messed up, it really is!! I
maye December 07, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Closing both schools will mean significant jobs lost within the district. Every individual including the students will be tremendously affected by the closings and cuts. Those who are saying that the teachers need to stop being greedy do not have their facts right. I'm more than sure that the teachers and staff will gladly choose a pay freeze rather than risk losing their jobs. The teachers and staff are the last to know what is going on. Do you not think that most teachers and staff memebers have families who depend on their pay to survive? Families are going to be affected. The community must fight against this. Your childrens' academic future is at stake!!! Perhaps the administrators should take a pay cut? Or what about the two individuals who are receiving extraordinary pay to sit and watch students during inschool suspension. If your going to make cuts then make the right cuts. Don't let the STUDENTS, teachers, and support staff suffer due to irresponsible spending.
nick December 09, 2011 at 12:13 AM
For years and years District 161 has spent money like drunken sailors. The schools are filled with all kinds of administrators that didn't even exist a few years ago.
nick December 09, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Public school class sizes have been falling since the 1980's, unfortunately there has been no increase in student performance. The private schools have larger class sizes and higher student performance.
Amy December 10, 2011 at 02:56 AM
I do not understand how this school district was supposedly one of "the best" and their budget was so reserved and we were in such a good place, and then overnight we are told we have this huge deficit and that our kids might be losing their schools that they love!!! So what is the real issue? Either we were lied to about what we had, or some fraud took place. I feel like we should have been informed sooner about this. We pay a lot of money in taxes, they go up every year, and now my son will possible lose his school (Arbury) which he has grown to love???? When he started Kindergarten last year, we were told we had the best school district. #1 !!!!!! Well, what the heck happened?? Now our school district just fell apart? Don't close our schools that our kids have grown to love. They have a close knit family and you want to tear them out and put them in a school and paste a number on their forehead and make them ride the bus half the morning and half the afternoon. Sounds like a last resort!!!!!!!!!!!! Get some fresh ideas and use our hard earned tax dollars wisely. We sure don't have a choice on how to spend our tax money..so you need to use it wisely.
All 4 Kids December 10, 2011 at 06:22 AM
I'm with you Amy!! We're from Arbury too and I have a Kindergartner that is due to go there next year and is so excited! Now who the hell knows hwere he'll end up. This makes no sense whatsoever! This is NOT going to be better for the kids or the teachers, I don't care what kind of bull they are feeding us. We all need to band together and go to the meeting on the 14th. A show of angry parents will hopefully go a loooong way!! Get over there and support our schools...support our teachers!! Do it for our kids!!!
taxpayer December 12, 2011 at 07:14 PM
RHLW, You honestly can't say that the teacher raises and healthcare increase amounts to 2 mil.?? You can't blame the teachers for a healthcare increase either, do you really think they asked for the increase? Mine has increased too and I don't blame my employer, I blame the healthcare system. With that said, I don't see how you can blame the current new board members for the 2 mil. shortfall when they haven't even been on the Board for a year. I'm wondering if you think its ok that the ousted board members OH and some current board members, approved a raise for Keith Pain as did himself before he decided to "retire". Would you be griping right now about Keith Pains raise if he was still around? My guess would be mismanagement by the Lovely Mr. Pain and the ousted board members along with some of the current are to blame for the shortfall. It doesn't happen overnight. The economy was in the dumps a year ago, 2 years ago, and 3 years ago. Pennies should have been pintched then.
informed December 12, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Are we going to move forward? This board was not in power when the teachers signed a five year contract that will expire in 2013. In order to support the future we need to let go of the past. We need to come together. This new board is doing fine job cleaning up the huge mess that was left behind.
informed December 12, 2011 at 08:21 PM
To the Summit Hill School Board - I believe Pain, Macek and Doyle are going to keep you unbalanced with half truths aimed at keeping you from concentrating on your plans for the next school year. Mr. Pain you walked away with a great retirement, isn't that enough? You should be satisfied! Dave you had your chance to be re elected and the voters decided otherwise. Sean you have the priviledge to work with this current board, pull up your sleeves and get busy for the benefit of our children. Don't abuse the priviledge the community elected you to do.
taxpayer December 12, 2011 at 09:51 PM
So you justify a raise for an individual making WELL OVER 100K and did much of nothing. There is no "Pain card" being played here. The dude skipped out and left the taxpayers picking up the pieces. He's cost the district more than he's saved. As for the schools being closed. I was against turning the old Jr. High into a 1-4 building in the first place. Who's idea was that?? Was that the new board members that you are blaming for district 161's woes? We need to move forward in a positive manor and get this district where is needs to be financially. In my opinion, our teachers are underpaid in the first place.
Ready for Change December 12, 2011 at 11:35 PM
RHLW, just so you get your fact's straight...This is the last year of a 5 year contract the teachers signed 5 years ago. The old Board and Pain negotiated that contract, not the present board. Please stop teacher bashing. Anyone who thinks teaching is an easy job is completely ignorant of what the job entails. Unfortunately teachers are paid for directly through property taxes which everyone agrees are too high. The problem is not that teachers salaries are too high. The problem is education should be paid for through sales taxes so the base would be expanded. Then home owners wouldn't feel like they were being over burdened and teachers wouldn't be scapegoats for angry tax payers. The teachers are only earning a fair wage for their level of education.
Ready for Change December 12, 2011 at 11:41 PM
The current board had nothing to do with the teachers current salary!!! Except for a couple board members who sat on the board 5 years ago.
Ready for Change December 12, 2011 at 11:53 PM
If a school needs to be closed to save money then the board may have to make that decision even though parents in those school seems to think their children would suddenly get a terrible education. Yes your child may have to ride a bus, but it's a short bus ride and they will be doing it eventually anyway. Just because it is not what you are used to and what is personally convenient for you doesn't mean that your child won't receive a quality of education. The small schools in the district are not the only good schools in the district. In tough times, it's the big picture that counts. We need to support keeping the level of education and opportunities for students at a high level for the entire district and if a few students have to do that in new surroundings then so be it!
All 4 Kids December 13, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Ready For Change.....You obviously don't have a child at either of these schools. It isn't the inconvenience whatsoever about busing our kids. It's the fact that our kids have grown to love and respect the school that they are at. It isn't just a "few"...we are talking 600 kids! This would be an inconvenience for THE KIDS to have to get used to new enviroment, new teachers, new kids, new schedules, etc. They get a fantastic, quality education right where they are!! I know they won't be getting a terrible education anywhere in this district, but why should they have their lives disrupted and turned upside down?? I don't want my children to be just another face at some big school. I want my kids to have personal attention like they are getting now. I don't care if I am inconvenience....I don't want my kids to be!!!
taxpayer December 13, 2011 at 01:51 AM
I think parents need to remember that when they opened Mary Drew and, redrew the map of which kids will go there, kids were pulled from other schools. Some kids within birds eye view of their school were sent to Mary Drew starting 4th grade which would make them leave the school that they had loved for 3 full years. These kids left their friends and teachers that they had loved. Guess what......they survived. My child being one of them. Children are adaptable and they will get the personal attention they need. A teacher isn't going to ignore a child just because they came from a different school. If our board can do this without increasing class sizes then I think it would be good for our district financially. 16 years and 2 houses later, my children have been in Trail, Rogus and Mary Drew. All the schools have been wonderful and I have nothing negative to say.
All 4 Kids December 13, 2011 at 05:23 AM
Taxpayer...Maybe it was ok for you but when it comes down to it, we didn't need Mary Drew. We don't NEED Mary Drew now. The lines should never have been changed, the school should never have been put into use. It was a waste of resources and tons of $$. I don't want my kids only to "survive", I want them to flourish!! My oldest went thru Arbury and Walker with Straight A's and is doing extremely well academically. I believe that is solely die to her teachers at Arbury! I agree that no teacher would ever "ignore" a child but there is no way they will be able to give the kids the one on one attention they diserve and get in the schools they are in. The teachers at Arbury have been absolutely wonderful since I've known them and would hate to see any of them lose their jobs or get lost in the shuffle (like are kids will) because the PREVIOUS Board screwed up!
Missy Goodman December 13, 2011 at 05:46 AM
I LOVE Mary Drew. My son does fantastic there and has a lot of support from his teachers, classmates and the rest of the school staff. I think that a lot of people are missing what the real point is. It's not a matter of what school is better than what in the district. It's what can be done to prevent schools from being closed or other drastic measures from being taken. All parents will want to put up a fight from having their childs' school closed down, regardless of if it were Mary Drew, Frankfort Square or Rogus or any of the others. This is a large school district and a lot needs to be considered.
All 4 Kids December 13, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Missy, I too meant no disresepect when referring to Mary Drew. I have no doubts that it is a great school....just like Arbury and FS. I am just questioning why we needed it in the first place though. When they redrew the lines, they took half the kids out of Arbury and FS and put them in MD. Now they are telling us that they don't have enough kids there to keep the doors open. Who's fault is that?? I don't believe ANY school should be closed. There has to be a way to keep the doors open on all of these schools. We all need to go to that meeting tomorrow night and support our schools!!
Joy Hauser December 14, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Concerned Parent: Before you slam Rogus Kindergarten maybe there are some things you need to understand. First, the selection of students who receive reading support is not arbitrary nor is it driven by parent perception of reading ability. Students are progress monitored throughout the year in skills related to early reading. If they fall below a certain percentile within their grade level they are screened for reading support and receive intervention in their area of weakness. If your son wasn't chosen, rest assured his performance was within an acceptable range for students his age. Other things to consider...your son attended a grade center for kindergarten; He was one of at least 300 other Kindergarten students. He moved on to Frankfort Square where he was likely 1 of less than 70 First Grade students. With the present model of reading interventions in the district favoring intervention at the First Grade level it comes as no surprise to me that he could get assistance in First Grade. If the district moves to the proposed model of grade centers your son will once again be 1 of 300. His moderate academic needs will certainly once again be overshadowed by the students who have more severe impairments and will likely receive the specialist’s attention first. I think we would both agree that this option is not in the best interest of any .
Joy Hauser December 14, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Concerned Continued... I am happy you are pleased with the support your son has received at Frankfort Square. I agree, they are a warm, wonderful staff. The principal is also wonderful and kind. Losing Square would be a loss to the whole district. I am hopeful that does not happen. Further, the staff and Rogus Kindergarten are excellent, kind, caring, driven to provide their students with the highest possible standard of education. The special education staff is exceptional, competent, and true professionals in every sense of the word. I think we may agree on many points. Children come first. School closures may not be the solution. Frankfort Square is a terrific school worth fighting to save. Please do not slam hard working teachers, school employees and entire programs in an effort to make your point.
suspicious thoughts December 14, 2011 at 11:20 PM
I get the whole close a school to save $, what is going to happen when it's out with the old families and in with the new first home buyers with children who are going to end up growing up here? The enrollment will go up in each of these schools within the next year or 2. Then what will we do when we are over crowded again? build another school and waste more money. Enrollment varies year to year, let's look ahead here. There are several new families that have moved into Frankfort Square who now have children enrolled at the school and this continues to happen. There are several houses for sale and some already under contract for families with young children moving in. Overcrowding is an issue and will be one 2 years from now especially if we close a school. I hear Lincoln Way Special Ed will be taking over the unoccupied building. Let's look at how this all came about as to what seems like very suddenly. I am not concerned about my child adjusting, I am not concerned about who's school looks better, I am concerned with the jobs of the staff at the school and the issues of transportation, also the cost for registrations for this next year, school community support after it happens, etc. The budget will again be in the hole so then what? what will the excuse be then? who will be blamed? this district seems to be a good one, but maybe we are all being fooled here....something doesn't seem right.
taxpayer December 15, 2011 at 05:49 AM
I stated in an earlier post that I thought Mary Drew should have NEVER been opened in the first place. So we are in agreement. It was not "ok" with me that my child had to change schools. All I am saying is that my child survived and wasn't brushed under a carpet. My child also flourished and has been straight A's throughout school. All our schools have the same teaching standards, same text books, same hours, etc. I totally get what your saying. But IF and only IF they can do this without increasing class sizes, I believe your child and every other child will still get the same treatment and attention that they are getting. We LOVED LOVED LOVED Trail but were also pleased with the staff at Mary Drew. IF class sizes are to be increased, I say NO WAY!!!! My fear is yet another tax increase for 161 to make up the shortfall of our previous superintendent and board.
1Mom January 13, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Well said.

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