March 2014 The Scoop Newsletter Volume 8 - Issue 3 THIS NEWSLETTER IS A WORK OF LOVE BY A COMMITTEE OF FOLKS IN ASHLAND. THE NEXT ONE WILL BE PUBLISHED SHORTLY AFTER THE FIRST OF EACH MONTH. IDEAS OR ITEMS FOR THE NEWSLETTER? DROP OFF OR CALL PRINTERS INK AT 217-476-3764, OR GIVE THEM TO NANCE BRYANT, LINDA DEVLIN, CYNTHIA GUTMANN, BOB HEATHER, OR LIZ WALLBAUM. ITEMS CAN ALSO BE E-MAILED TO MATT HOBROCK, ASHLAND.SCOOP@SBCGLOBAL.NET. DEADLINE WILL BE THE 25TH OF EACH MONTH FOR THE FOLLOWING MONTH’S NEWSLETTER. YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS APPRECIATED. OUR WEBSITE: http://ashlandscoop.tripod.com Great 4BR 2BA ranch with over 1600 sq.ft. on a corner lot offering many new updates. Totally remodeled kitchen with new tile flooring, cabinets, and countertops in `05. Roof, siding and exterior doors were replaced in `09. On demand water heater was installed in `07. Fenced back yard with nice outdoor area for relaxing on the deck or in the hot tub that stays. Original hardwood floors in the living room with a new fireplace that was installed in `09. Seller is offering a home warranty.
517 W. Mechanic Ashland Reduced! $89,000
Dawn Stremsterfer Realtor®, Broker Associate Direct: 217-741-1865 2475 West Monroe Springfield, IL 62704 (cell) 217-741-1865
BUYER NEEDS… Buyer A: $≤150,000 ≥ 5 acres w/ house Buyer B: $≤130,000 westside…can be Duplex Buyer C: $≤80,000 Spfd, ≥3BR, ≥ 1000 sq.ft.
Nancy J. Heather May 29, 1945 February 10, 2014 Nancy J. Heather, 68, of Ashland, IL passed away following a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer on Monday evening, February 10, 2014,at her home surrounded by her family. She was born May 29, 1945 in Pleasant Plains, the daughter of George and Opal Hayes Clemons. She married Bob Heather on June 19, 1966 at the Ashland United Methodist Church in Ashland and he survives. She is also survived by two daughters, Melissa “Missy” Eskew (husband, Shannon) and Tammy Eskew (husband, Shawn), both of Ashland; two grandchildren, Stacey Eskew and Brandon Eskew, both of Ashland; and an aunt, Lucille Cruzan of Jacksonville. She was preceded in death by her parents and a brother, Danny Clemons. A 1963 graduate of Pleasant Plains High School, Nancy worked in the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services for 10 years prior to spending time at home raising her family. She returned to assist Dr. Uhland at the AshlandPleasant Plains Veterinary Clinic for 25 years. In addition, she assisted her husband with the operation of the family business, Printer’s Ink in Ashland. She was a member of the Ashland United Methodist Church. A devoted grandma, Nancy enjoyed supporting her grandchildren’s various activities. In her spare time, she was an avid reader making frequent visits to the library. Nancy was an instrumental part of the Ashland Scoop newsletter .
Funeral services were held 11:00 am Friday, February 14, 2014, at the Ashland United Methodist Church in Ashland with Buyer D: $≤115,000 Ashland, 3BR, w/ large garage burial at Ashland Cemetery. The family met friends from 5:00 to 7:30 pm Thursday at the church. The Buchanan & Cody Buyer E: $≤90,000 in Ashland or Pleasant Plains Funeral Home in Ashland was in charge of the arrangements. Memorial gifts are suggested to Ashland United Methodist Church, St. John’s Home Health Care, or Prairie Skies Library Call if you would consider selling a District. Condolences may be sent online at www.buchanancody.com. home that meets the above criteria!
CHURCH DIRECTORY BEREA CHRISTIAN CHURCH Minister Edward J.Moretto firstname.lastname@example.org www.bereachristianchurch.com Sunday Christian Education Hour - 9:30 pm Sunday Worship - 10:30 am Wednesday Eve. Prayer Mtg. - 7:00 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH Father Chris Brey 476.8856 Ashland Sunday Mass - 9:00 am Beardstown Sunday Mass - 11:00 am Sunday (Spanish) - 12:30 pm Virginia Saturday - 5:00 pm UNITED METHODIST CHURCH Rev. Pam Hoffman 476.8858 www.ashlandunitedmethodist.com Sunday Worship - 8:45 am Sunday School - 10:00 am
We’re Open On Sunday!! CHURCH OF CHRIST Minister Jimmy Coyle Sunday School - 9:00 am Sunday Worship - 10:00 am FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH Pastor Rev. David L. McHenry 476.3678 Sunday School - 9:30 am Sunday Worship - 10:30 am ASHLAND COMMUNITY ECUMENICAL BIBLE STUDY Tuesday Eve. Baptist Church Hall - 7 - 8:30 pm
NEW BEGINNINGS CHURCH, s.b.c. Pastor Darin Peterson Ph. 217-675-2124 www.newbeginningschristianfellowship.net Sunday School for all ages @ 9:15-10:15 am Worship Service @ 10:30 am YOUTH4TRUTH Monday evening @ 6:30 pm Saturday’s Men’s Prayer Breakfast @ 8:00 am
Norm Bryant Enterprises Distributor of Fine Quality Vacuums Furniture
Cell (217) 741-3758 Phone: (217) 476-3508
608 W. Franklin Ashland, IL 62612
A-C CENTRAL SCHOOL CALENDAR MARCH 14th - End of 3rd Quarter-Early Dismissal 1:45/1:50 (Elementary), 2:11 (MS/HS) 17th - 21st NO SCHOOL-Spring Break APRIL 17th - Mid-Term for 4th Quarter 18th - 21st NO SCHOOL-Spring Break 25th - Early Dismissal 11:05/11:10 (Elementary), 11:30 (MS/HS)-SIP DAY
New Construction Remodeling Gutters
A-C Central Foundation Treasurer, Matt Greer, presented a $1500 check to A-C Central School Superintendent Tim Page to be used toward the purchase of a promethean board, which will be connected to the individual students PC’s and allows interaction by the teacher with the board and the students. Total cost per classroom is estimated to be approximately $3,000. Superintendent Page is pursuing grants through Monsanto and other organizations to place approximately 10 of these boards in additional classrooms. There are several already being used in classrooms and have proven to be a useful educational tool. Greer stated that the A-C Central Foundation was created to act as a conduit to provide funds to A-C Central for education enhancements that could not be met by the regular school budget. The A-C Central Foundation has received contributions from numerous businesses and individuals (Including Ashland, Chandlerville and A-C Central alumni), and has been named by several families as a memorial recipient for deceased loved ones. The Foundation was established in August 2011 with total contributions of approximately $11,300 to date. The Foundation has previously distributed $2500 to A-C Central schools for projects. Greer further stated that the Foundation is fulfilling its objective in assisting A-C Central School District with funds to continue the quality of education provided and preserve the future integrity of the district. Present A-C Central Foundation members are: Scot Atwood, President; Matt Greer, Treasurer; JR Blair, Secretary; Milton Edge, Harold “Butch” Hoagland, and V. Todd Jokisch. There is one open board seat due to the death of Homer G. Rieken. Superintendent Page is also ex-officio board member.
West Central Bank Cashier, Zachary Flinn, presented a $1,000 check to A-C Central Foundation Treasurer Matt Greer. Cashier Flinn stated that West Central Bank has always supported and partnered with the A -C Central School District and felt that a check to the foundation could be utilized to assist future unmet financial needs of the school district. Flinn further stated the A-C Central School District continues to provide the opportunity for a quality education and the Foundation provides a support network to the district to ensure that opportunity continues to thrive in the future. Breann Knapp named Student of the Month at A-C Central Congratulations to Breann Knapp for being selected Student of the Month for January at A-C Central High School. Miss Knapp is the daughter of Chuck and Jennifer Knapp of Ashland.
If you are interested in displaying a yard sign or in you are an Ashland resident and need a ride to the polls on March 18th to vote, please contact Kelly @ (217) 691-9380.
World Day of Prayer STREAMS IN THE DESERT Friday, March 7, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. Hosted at: Ashland Church of Christ Join us for Coffee and fellowship after the program.
Breann is a leader both in and out of the classroom as evidenced by her involvement in various school activities. She is a member of FFA (Reporter), Band (Secretary), Marching and Concert Band, Foreign Language club (Secretary), Student Council (Secretary), STAR, Natural Helpers, OTSD, Project 2000,Honor Roll and Volleyball. She is also the Senior Class Secretary as well as a participant in the Spring Musical. Away from school Breann is a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jacksonville. Miss Knapp plans on joining the Air National Guard, then attending Lincoln Land Community College for two years before transferring to Illinois State University majoring in Occupational Therapy. Congratulations to Breann Knapp on this significant honor!
220 N. Yates - Ashland Office: 1-866-225-8126 Garrett Savage - Bob Savage Ron Ahlers - Salesman cell: (217)691-9631
**GIVE US A CALL**
Circa “21” Rock Island, Illinois March 30, 2014 Price of trip is $100 A deposit of $50 with final payment by March 21st. Last day to sign up for this trip is March 17th.
A Full Service Bank 400 E. Buchanan St. P.O. Box 467 Ashland, IL 62612-0467 PH. 217.476.3325 FX. 217.476.3342
Amity Nail Spa 116 N. Yates Ashland, IL 217-415-0558 Lana J. Pfaffe, Nail Technician A SUBSIDIARY OF THE WEST CENTRAL BANK E-mail: email@example.com
Have any nail service in March and get your name in the pot of gold for a free manicure and free pedicure in April.
108 W. Editor Street Ashland, IL 62612 217.476.3354 Jeffrey A. Donnan - Kay Handy Ora Lee Campbell - Kristen Arthalony
Other Locations: 116 State Street Beardstown, IL 62618 217.323.3018 Debbie Jones 815 W. Clinton Rushville, IL 62681 217.322.6230 Kala Peacock
3600 West Wabash Springfield, IL 62704 217-726-9885 Stacey M. Hester
St. Luke Annual Fish Fry St. Luke Hall, Virginia, IL Friday, March 21, 2014, 4:00 - 7:00 PM Price: $8.00 Adults, $5.00 Children Catfish Fillets or Walleye, Baked Potatoes, Slaw, Green Beans or Baked Beans, Drinks, Homemade Cakes & Pies. Hot Dogs & Chips Available for Children.
Thank you to the community for the generous donations given to help the Bill Griffin family, who lost their home in a fire recently. All of the food, clothing, household goods, monetary donations, and care of their pets are truly appreciated. The citizens and churches of Ashland came together to make this difficult situation a little easier as the family starts over. Thank You!
Plumbing - Heating Air Conditioning Backhoe - Trenching We Do It All 115 W. Freemont St. Phone: PO Box 136 In Just 1 Call! (217)476-3595 Ashland, IL 62612 Jim - Todd - Travis
1 - Bob & Jean Briggs 6 - Edgar Jr. & Joyce Robinson 22 - Gailen & Monica Thornley 29 - Scott & Mickey Anderson
RPA Farmers Co-op Email us: RPAFARMERS@CASSCOMM.COM Richland
300 N. Washington Pleasant Plains, IL 62677
220 North Niagara Ashland, IL 62612
20 - Stan Fulton 20 - Sue Pschirrer 20 - Brock Mayes 21 - Jennifer Allen 23 - Jackson Allen 28 - Barb Blakeman 29 - Amber Millburg
THOMAS R. JONES, AUTHOR WILL BE PRESENTING A PROGRAM AT THE PRAIRIE SKIES PUBLIC LIBRARY, PLEASANT PLAINS AT 10:00 AM, MARCH 11, 2014. PRESENTED BY THE ADULT READING PROGRAM
3090 Richland Elev. Rd. Pleasant Plains, IL 62677
4 - Michelle Ann Davin Jolly 6 - Heather Watkins 9 - Tom Heather Jr. 10 - Diane Heather Boehme 17 - Jim Briggs 17 - Kathie Blair 18 - Sara (Dodds) Maybus
Smith Chiropractic Clinic Dr. Kathie G. Smith 111 North Hardin Ashland, IL 62612 (217)476-3547 Office Hours by Appointment Monday and Thursday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
The building formerly known as “Extra Innings” was purchased by Donnie Gorbett and he is in the process of rehabilitating it and will then be offering it for lease. If you are interested in leasing the building, please call Mr. Gorbett at 217-306-6929.
As a reminder to those that leave houses empty for part of the year, please don’t turn your heat off if you leave your water on. We do recommend that you have your water turned off if possible. If you are in possession of a stray dog, please call the county sheriff’s office (217/452-7718) and ask them to contact Jim Birdsell. If you see a street light out, call the Village office (217/476-3317) and we will contact Ameren CIPS for repair.
Water $27.50 $14.75 $ 1.05 $39.00
First 1,000 gallons Per 1,000 gallons after first 1,000 EPA Testing Fee Minimum monthly charge
Sewer $10.45 $ 4.40
E-mail: Ashland@casscomm.com Facebook: Village of Ashland
Village of Ashland Board Members & Staff:
Terry Blakeman, Mayor Jim Birdsell, Chief of Police Ron Cave, Public Works Director Phyllis Sutphin, Village Treasurer Vanessa Doellman, Village Clerk Kitty Mau, Deputy Clerk
Kelly Sutphin-Gutmann, Trustee Fadra Birdsell, Trustee Stan Fulton, Trustee Greg Pettit, Trustee Frank Wallace, Trustee Dave Troxell, Trustee
SATURDAY LOVE FEAST FOOD KITCHEN The Ashland Church of Christ has opened a Food Kitchen for ANYONE IN NEED, including the elderly, on each and every Saturday @ 12:00 Noon in the church basement. DINE-IN OR CARRY-OUTS available! Deliveries made to Ashland residents. Reservations SHOULD be made by Wednesday before the Saturday meal so enough food is prepared. Call 217-248-5665 or 217-691-8163. Donations from area businesses and individuals would be greatly appreciated as well as volunteers. LOVE FEAST - a service dedicated to Christian Love and to strengthen the bonds and spirit of harmony, goodwill and congeniality.
A-C First Website http://acfirstinfo.wordpress.com
Mission Statement We believe that a thoughtful analysis of the facts will indicate that the proposed consolidation of A-C Central and PORTA should be rejected by the voters of A-C Central. While there may be some short-term benefits to be achieved through the merger, we believe that the long-term interests of our children (and, thus, our communities) will be better served by retaining our current school district. Accordingly, we are committed to gathering and communicating relevant facts regarding the proposed consolidation and responding to issues raised by A-C Central parents, teachers, community leaders, taxpayers, and voters.
A Few Citizens Who Agree with our Mission Butch Hoagland, Steve Aggertt, J.R. Blair, Don Parsons, Harold Showalter, Louis Jokisch, Terry Blakeman, Bob Savage, Edward J. Moretto, Ron Aggertt, John R. Jones, Bob Sutphin Darren DeGroot, Kelly Sutphin-Gutmann, Kris Gardner, H.O. Brownback, Milton Edge
A-C CENTRAL STUDENTS ACHIEVE AWARDS Three students from A-C Central have been selected to participate in the Illinois Music Educators Associations All-State conference. These students auditioned for the All-District band and that score qualified them to be part of the All-State organizations that rehearsed and presented a concert at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria in late January. Ty Kesselring is a senior bari-sax player from Ashland. Ty is the son of Jackie and Brett Kesselring. Hoaby Hoagland is a junior tuba player. Hoaby is the son of Ron and Dawn Hoagland of Ashland. Allyson Quick is a senior French horn player. Allyson is the daughter of Claudia and Gary Quick of Ashland. This is the highest honor that a band student can receive. Congratulations to these outstanding musicians.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY POSTER/PROSE WINNERS Four A-C Central Jr. High 6th graders were chosen to compete in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Poster/Prose Contest. Winners of the Poster Contest were Maggie Merwin and Kyia Privia. Winners of the Prose Contest were Maggie Merwin, Kyia Privia, J.T. Donnan and Kassidy Kirchner. Their projects will be sent in to compete against 5th and 6th graders across the state of Illinois. Congratulations!!!
Gardner Construction Co
2878 Panther Grove Road Ashland, IL 62612
Cell: 217-341-3415 Leave Message 217-476-8135
Remodel Kitchen & Baths Replace Roof & Room Additions
PLEASE JOIN US IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER Again this year, the Cass County Food Pantry is participating in the Feinstein Challenge to increase awareness of hunger in our midst and to raise funds for the purchase of food for those who require assistance in providing this basic need. This is the 17th year that Alan Shawn Feinstein has done this for food pantries across the United States. The Cass County Food Pantry is presently serving over 360 families each month. Your support will help us receive a share of one million dollars which Alan Shawn Feinstein will divide among antihunger agencies nationwide. Donations can include cash, checks, food items, and pledges received between March 1st and April 30th. Please mail or bring your donations to: Cass County Food Pantry, 210 S. Main Street, Virginia, IL 62691. Collections canisters will be located at Casey’s and Allen’s Market. You may also contact our coordinator, Joanne Anderson, at 217-452-7497 or 217-473 -5638 if you wish to have your food items picked up.
Prentice Farmers Elevator 2303 Elevator Avenue Ashland, IL 62612 217.476.3516 or 1.800.255.8659 firstname.lastname@example.org prenticeelevator.com James R. Blakeman, Manager 4 locations to serve you:
L-R: Maggie Merwin, Kyia Privia, J.T. Donnan, Kassidy Kirchner
Prentice, Philadelphia, Strawns Crossing, and Tallula.
Dealers in Grain, Seed and Kent Feeds.
A-Consolidation Parable In ancient central Illinois, there lived a husband, Thrift, and his wife, Wisdom. They were elderly but vigorous. Their only daughter, Patience, had two children and had been widowed five years earlier. Both Patience and her beloved husband had been industrious and became wealthy in their middle age. While financial stress increased after her husband’s death, Patience was healthy and able to keep both family homes in good condition. However, she was lonely and was considering marrying again for both her sake and that of her children. When Patience received an offer of marriage from Tenacity, a prominent businessman in the area, she went to her parents for advice. Patience explained that she had been to Tenacity’s very large home and found it clean and well-kept. Tenacity had many children by several wives, but all seemed well-behaved and happy. “Several wives?!” exclaimed Wisdom. “Yes,” said Patience, “I know, it’s not a perfect situation, but I am lonely and always trying to better my babies’ situation. It isn’t like multiple wives aren’t common for rich men.” “Have you investigated his background?” asked Thrift. “Yes,” said Patience, “but I don’t trust the results. When I spot-checked the investigator’s work, I found several inaccurate statements. I just don’t know what to think.” Her parents promised to make some discrete inquiries, and the conversation moved on to lighter topics … On Patience’s next visit, Wisdom said, “Honey, we haven’t yet heard from all our contacts, but we have heard a little more about Tenacity’s marriages. Did you know that his wives had separate homes before they married him and that, over time, all the homes have been sold?” “I knew that some had been sold,” said Patience, “but I understand that the law permits such sales if all adult members of the household agree.” “That’s true,” said Wisdom, “but from what I hear, some of the wives left their homes only grudgingly. In other words, they were simply outvoted.” “I don’t know, Mom,” said Patience, “at least he didn’t try to hide his actions. In fact, he told me that he thought it might be a good idea for me to get rid of one of my homes if we got married.” “I don’t know either, Honey,” said Wisdom, “but I spoke to one of his wives that lost her home pretty recently, and she felt like he had betrayed his prenuptial promises.” Then, the conversation moved on to lighter topics … On Patience’s next visit, Thrift said, “Honey, our financial inquiries have been answered. Did you know that Tenacity’s credit rating was recently downgraded? The report states that his business costs are exceeding revenues and that the trend is projected to continue for some time.” “I didn’t know all that,” said Patience, “but I knew that he’d had a couple bad years. I understand that he expects to do better this year and that the government has increased his financial rating.” “That government rating bit is true,” said Thrift, “but my accountant tells me that the credit rating is a far better indicator because the government rating was easy to upgrade. In fact, he did it primarily by increasing a special type of debt, apparently something like credit card debt, that actually hurt his credit rating.” “I don’t know, Dad,” said Patience, “why would he ask me to marry him then?” “I don’t know either, Honey,” said Thrift, “but you do still have a pretty fat savings account.” Then, the conversation moved on to lighter topics … On Patience’s next visit, she told her parents that Tenacity had asked for an answer by March 18. “That’s not much time for such a big decision,” Wisdom said, “do you feel comfortable making it?” “I’m hesitant,” said Patience, “but maybe my babies will be better off. There are economies of scale in a large home … and lots more kids to play with.” “Patience,” said Thrift, “you are such a beautiful girl, and our grandkids are so great. I just hate to see you settle when there are so many other guys in the world. We hear that other women have recently rejected Tenacity’s proposals. And if you became unhappy, you know that divorce is virtually impossible in our culture.” “Mom and Dad,” said Patience, “I’m at a loss. I wish it were simpler. Can you just tell me what you think?” What would you advise if Patience were your daughter? If the Internet had been available in ancient times, Patience and her parents might have considered doing additional research at http://acfirstinfo.wordpress.com. Submitted by A-C First
The “No Crowd” wants to tell you half-truths and scare you into voting “No”. To quote Ronald Reagan, “There they go again.” Last week, the “No Crowd” sent voters a letter but only told us part of the story. They think if they tell us the Ashland school will close, we will believe it, even though it is untrue. After spending months denying consolidation will lower property taxes, now they say “yes” taxes will go down but only for one year – without offering facts. Here is what their letter left out: The “No Crowd” refuses to acknowledge that last year A-C Central had the 6th Highest Property Taxes among this region’s 80 schools. Consolidation will lower A-C voters’ school tax rates by 24.8%. The number is real and it will provide long-term tax relief. Without any evidence, the “No Crowd” says the Ashland School will close. What they left out: The Petersburg Elementary School is full. The new district needs the Ashland school building; in fact the school will have more teachers and 100 more students. The “No Crowd” brags that A-C has “national recognition from U.S. News & World Report. What they left out: PORTA has that recognition, too, and so do Greenview and hundreds of other schools. The recognition only means each of our schools has good students – U.S. News & World has never been to our schools, never talked to our teachers and knows nothing about what is going on in our schools. The “No Crowd” uses a discredited Moody’s report to criticize PORTA’s finances, even though the No Crowd is aware the report is factually incorrect. What they left out: The state-mandated audit of PORTA found dramatic progress in PORTA’s financial condition. PORTA has reduced staff and made budget cuts – just like A-C – to balance its budget. PORTA will end the year with rising surpluses and have a balanced budget in 2014. PORTA has a property tax base that is nearly 3 ½ times larger than A-C Central, and it is growing significantly faster than A-C’s property tax base. This chart shows that PORTA’s property tax base growth over the last 16 years was 58% larger than A-C Central’s: A-C Central
2013 District Property Tax Value: $43,775,318
1997 District Property Tax Value: $29,308,272
Growth Rate over 16 Years:
Question: The critics say PORTA is in financial trouble; is that true? No. PORTA, A-C Central and nearly all rural districts have struggled financially, but 1)PORTA is NOT on the State’s Financial Watch List, 2)PORTA’s expects to end the year with more surplus funds C)A-C Central and PORTA have each borrowed about 60% of state allowable levels – and neither district is in trouble, and D)PORTA will pay off its bonds in 2022, two years before A-C. Submitted by Kids First
VOTE NO VOTE NO- DON’T BE MISLED- PORTA School District has reported nearly THREE MILLION DOLLARS In Deficits for their school system. (Who do you think is going to help pay these deficits?) ANSWER: YOU ARE! Moody ‘s Investors Service has downgraded PORTA’S credit rating and stated they expected PORTA’s position to deteriorate further. VOTE NO! How can the COMMITTEE OF TEN expect us to believe PORTA can lower A-C’s Education Fund Property Tax Rate to PORTA’s when PORTA School District is not making it Financially at PORTA’s Current Educational Fund Tax Rate? Vote NO! Did you know that normally when Two School Districts Vote to Combine, the School District with the Higher Educational Fund Rate is automatically adopted. But in this case the COMMITTEE OF TEN did TWO THINGS: Drop A-C Educational Fund Tax Rate to tell A-C voters they were lowering their taxes and thus misleading and convincing A-C Voters to vote for consolidation. They did not increase PORTA School District’s Educational Fund Tax Rate to the A-C Education Fund Tax Rate , in order to insure PORTA voters would vote for passage of the Consolidation. How can the NEW PROPOSED SCHOOL DISTRICT lower the A-C Education Rate from $2.85 to $2.48 and use the $2.48 Rate of PORTA’S for the New Proposed School District, when PORTA is not making it NOW using the $2.48 Rate? The obvious answer is, they can’t, without increasing the bond amount and taxes everyone will have to pay in the new school district. VOTE NO! Did you know that Bonds levied by a School District have to be paid no matter what. Bonds are a DEBT that has to be paid for money already spent! The Total Bond Debt for PORTA School District last year was $1,496,384. The Total Combined Bond Debt for Beardstown, A-C Central, Virginia, Meredosia, and Triopia School Districts was $1,445,530. This means that PORTA ‘s bond debt was greater than 5 area school districts combined. Who do you think is going to pay PORTA future debts in the new school district? You Are! VOTE NO- ON CONSOLIDATION WITH PORTA- WE CAN’T AFFORD THE DEBT AND BAD SPENDING HABITS of PORTA SCHOOL DISTRICT - VOTE NO-March 18th
Information Available on Levies & Tax Extensions from Local Public Schools Districts & Your County Courthouses- BE INFORMED- DON’T PAY HIGHER TAXES -VOTE NO A-C FIRST COMMITTEE
The Future of A-C Central’s Curriculum by Superintendent Tim Page I was recently asked to write an article featuring the curriculum and the future at A-C Central High School. A school’s curriculum is driven by several different forces. The first and most obvious of these forces is the state of Illinois and the requirements it has set for graduation. These requirements are the same at every high school in Illinois. If you look at the historical trend, these requirements have also steadily increased over the years. This makes sense as the demands in society for higher education and skills have steadily increased as well. A second driving force is the consideration of college and university entrance requirements. These requirements are typically above and beyond the state minimums before students are even accepted into most college programs. Typically, they involve an extra year or two of science, math, foreign language, and other electives that are probably related to the student’s choice of major. A third factor is the school’s own community and culture. There are generally three categories involved here: urban, suburban, and rural. For example, one would rarely find an agriculture program in an urban school. The values and culture of the local community are reflected within its schools. When these students mix later on in life, there is often some cultural clash that results from their differing background, but this is one of the ways our country is still a “melting pot” of culture - even within our own borders. This is why schools value local control – in order to address the values and culture of the local community and culture. A-C Central’s traditional classroom choices may not be as diverse as larger suburban schools. Certainly size plays a factor. One way A-C Central has chosen to combat this issue is to utilize the Capital Area Career Center as a center for vocational classes. A-C Central, along with many other schools have pursued much of our vocational curriculum choices there where a wide array of classes are offered that provide training and valuable skills in the work related trades. This eases the burden on the school to find teachers (highly qualified industrial/vocational arts teachers are hard to come by!), and fill classrooms in courses that are not typical college prep classes where the emphasis has been. It pools those resources in a central location for students from several area schools to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. In addition, technology can break down much of this barrier for small schools through options such as online courses and distance learning. This method of instruction has met some resistance in the past because of its non-traditional, outside-the box approach. Change is sometimes hard to accept, but these same obstacles were also once in the way of the internal combustion engine and the cell phone. I remember not too long ago when I had to actually walk up to the television and turn a dial to change channels and my only phone was hard wired to the wall and had a rotary dialing mechanism. Education must keep up with these technological advances if it is to stay relevant. Our kids don’t learn the same ways we did when we were kids. We can argue about the positives and negatives of how kids have changed from the past, but the fact remains that they are different and we can serve them best by meeting them where they are. With this in mind, A-C Central plans on embracing more of these nontraditional classroom settings. I feel this will benefit our students in many ways. We will be able to offer classes that we would never have been able to offer before without creating a financial burden on our school. Our students will be able to pursue their interests in a much more individualized way to prepare themselves for the future they want in this modern, technological society.
As the current Board President for the PORTA School District, I wish to express my hope that our two districts can come together to create a new, stronger district. Our two districts have terrific students who get along well and outstanding teachers who are dedicated to our kids’ futures. Also, I wish to offer some history and respond to some misleading statements that have been made about PORTA. PORTA has been actively seeking to consolidate with another school district for two reasons. During the past two decades, rural population has dropped or stagnated and student population has declined in rural schools all over Illinois. According to state records, since 1997, A-C Central’s student count has dropped by 22%, Virginia’s 33%, and PORTA’s 24%. Another area school, Triopia, has dropped 27%. A school district cannot maintain its high level of academics with fewer students. A-C Central, Virginia, Triopia and PORTA have all cut programs and staff. The good news is that student attendance is stabilizing and in some recent years, our districts have actually seen student attendance rise. Second, every rural school district has been harmed by the failure of the State of Illinois to properly fund rural schools. A-C Central and PORTA have received only 89% of the education funds owed by the State. The state has funded only 69% of the transportation dollars. We are all trying to maintain a high level of classes even though we are being short-changed by the state. I have read criticisms that PORTA is in debt. That is unfair and misleading. It is true we faced serious funding issues, as have all schools in Illinois. Our board made a conscious decision to maintain programs as long as possible, knowing that it would eat into our reserves. Had we consolidated earlier, both PORTA and A-C could have avoided some program cuts. Complicating matters is that state funding has declined. Fortunately, PORTA’s board had a fallback plan. We reduced staff from 96 teachers in 2004 to 63 for 2014, while maintaining programs needed for our students to succeed after graduation. During the past two years, PORTA took strong action to reduce spending while not hurting school children. We cut spending and expect to increase our surplus by $200,000 - $300,000 this fiscal year. PORTA will have a balanced budget for the 2014 – 15 school year. Some A-C board members asked PORTA to get its budget in balanced and we have done that. Consolidation opponents have criticized PORTA for borrowing $3 million in working cash bonds but they ignore two points. First, this is a common practice among schools and the funds are backed up by a dedicated PORTA tax. Second, not a penny of the $3 million has been spent. Critics have erroneously stated that we borrowed money to pay for school operations. That is entirely untrue. The entire $3 million is in surplus and will be part of the new consolidated district’s surplus funds. I have read false reports that PORTA needs to consolidate to pay for its bonds. Our bonds will be entirely retired within 6 years of consolidation and NO A-C Central taxpayer money will be used. In fact, state law prohibits a new district using A-C funds to retire our bonds. We don’t need anyone else’s money because we have already committed PORTA tax dollars to retiring ALL of our bonds. Ironically, PORTA’s bonds will be paid off two years before A-C bonds are retired. I am a candidate for the new consolidated school board and want to address the issue of the Ashland school building. It is impossible for the new district to operate without the Ashland school. The elementary school building in Petersburg is FULL. The central school is nearly full. The new district needs the Ashland building. In fact, the Ashland school will have 100 more students than it does today. Neither the new board nor taxpayers would agree to raise taxes to build a new building or expand space in Petersburg. Statements that the Ashland building will close are entirely false. I believe the new board will invest more money in the Ashland building. The principal reason people in the PORTA district wish to consolidate is because a new district will provide a stronger academic program for students than either district can offer today: More vocational education classes; more classes for college-bound students; more electives and classes for students. We want what every parent wants and that is a better education for our children and a greater chance for their success in a more competitive world. Joni Churchill, President PORTA School Board
July 25th, 2013 To Whom It May Concern: My name is Kelli Ruppel. I graduated from AC Central in 2007. I have recently gained interest in the controversy over the AC and PORTA merger. As a former student, and one who came out of the district fairly recently, I feel it is my duty to voice my opinion about this issue. In case some of you do not know me, I will start with a little background about myself. I was born and raised in Chandlerville and attended Chandlerville/AC schools my entire life. I graduated valedictorian of my class in 2011 with a very high GPA and an ACT score of 34. I was blessed with a full scholarship to MacMurray College. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry, with a 4.0 GPA, I am currently enrolled in the Physician Assistant program at St. Louis University. I have recently viewed the curriculum report from the Committee of Ten (COT). My initial reaction….WOW! Let me start off by saying that when I was a student at AC, I found it very frustrating that I was only offered a very small and select amount of cl asses, many of which did not interest me but I had to take for lack of anything else being offered. Upon reviewing the COT’s presentation, I see that even more classes have been cut from the AC curriculum just within the past six years since I graduated. For instance, I was able to take Honors English I-IV. Now, all that is offered is Honors III & IV, only by contract. I also had the opportunity to take Sign Language I. This happened my freshman year when AC and Virginia joined forces for classes. However, my sophomore year, we no longer did this so AC decided to have Sign Language II and III together in the same classroom for those who were eligible. Instead of getting the full amount of instruction and attention we needed, we were forced to split our time with the other group. This would be eliminated in the event of a merger and more opportunity for classes. I have a lot of respect for the teachers I had at AC, but does this mean I was prepared for college with the education I had? No. When I got to college there were students with the same major as I telling me about all of their advanced science classes they had in high school, of all of the experiments they got to do, and so forth. Also, many students had the opportunity to take numer ous foreign language classes. I felt like I was never going to be able to keep up with them because I hadn't had the opportunity for the same experiences. I'm blessed with the ability to learn quickly and retain information, but that doesn't mean I wasn't at a deficit from the get-go as far as exposure to more challenging material and more expanded classes goes. Regardless of the fact that my grades were high and that I had a high ACT score, I was still at a disadvantage compared to those who attended schools with more options in their curriculum. Although I was lucky and found success out of high school, there are many of my peers that did not. They were burnt out on school before it even ended. The main priority of a school system should be the children; to give them every opportunity possible for success. This means we need to focus on giving students EVERY opportunity to take classes they are interested in and that they will enjoy. The merger would allow so much more for students of both schools. Students also tend to do better in classes that interest them. And what about students wanting to learn a trade like welding? Joining forces would also allow them to have experience right out of high school, making them more marketable in the work force if they choose not to go to college or if they m ust postpone college for a few years because of financial issues. I know this was a huge factor in my class. PORTA has a good reputation and the fact that their academics are on a similar level to AC is a major plus. It’s not like our students would have more choices but a lower quality education. There would be opportunity for a high caliber of education paired with a vast amount of choices. Additionally, a merger would allow students to be in classes based on similar learning abilities rather than just by age. This is the perk of having Honors and Advanced Placement classes. I think it's important for students at the same LEARNING level to be together in a class rather than divided simply because of grade. We all learn differently, and excel in an environment where we do not feel hindered in any way. I've been in both situations where there are students who can't keep up because the curriculum was directed toward those who understood the material better, but also when some students get bored because the curriculum is directed toward those who need more time with it. How can all of these aspects be overlooked when the focus should be the students and making sure they have every single thing they need to succeed in life? It saddens me that this is what it is coming to. I am proud of my small-town roots. I fear for the future of both Ashland and Chandlerville. Very few people will choose to raise their children in towns with a faulty education program. If I had children, I would send my kids to a place where they had the most opportunity to find something that suits them and that will enable them to grow individually and set them up for success, rather than conform within the constraints of a limited curriculum. I have always been taught that a wise, educated decision can only be made after looking at a situation from every angle. What are we teaching the students if we remain close-minded and won’t even take the time to at least look at and explore other options? Are we really sending them the message that this is in their best interest? Regardless of the decision made, it will never be a sound decision until all voices are heard rather than brushed aside. I as k that this letter be read aloud in open session. If I were not away at Graduate School in St. Louis, I would be present myself to express my thoughts and feelings about this topic. Sincerely,
Kelli A. Ruppel
SLU PA-S ‘14
The duty and responsibility to educate our children has been around a long time. Thirty-five hundred years ago Moses commanded the Hebrews to teach what they had learned at Mount Sinai to their children and their children’s children. Plato was giving instructions to the Greeks about 2500 years ago on how to best educate their children. Currently in the State of Illinois a parent who allows a child to be truant can be found to have committed a Class C misdemeanor. It seems to be a universally held truth that we have a duty to educate our children. Would it not be proper to fulfill this duty to the best of our ability? If we want to do the best we can for our children’s education shouldn’t we determine how to best achieve this? A scientific review of the education literature shows multiple studies designed to identify the ideal educational environment. If we want to do our best for our children’s education we should see what the scientific research says. I would refer the reader to the article “High School Size and the Education of All Students in 9-12: What the Research Suggests” (http:// www.educationnews.org). It is interesting to review this scientific literature and note how school size is defined. Approximately 70% of American high school students attend schools enrolling 1,000 or more students; nearly 50% of high school students attend schools enrolling more than 1,500 students. In the education research literature a small school is defined as a high school of 500 students and a moderately sized high school has 1000 students. Since 1999, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $1.8 billion to creating and studying 1,500 small high schools around the country, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has committed an additional $32 million to further their efforts. High school size does matter; a lot of time and money has been spent proving this. EducationNews has asked the question, “Is there an ideal size for a high school?” They answer their own question: We find an interesting convergence of evidence from several independent sources and periods of time. One source, a study reported in 1997 by Valerie Lee of the University of Michigan and Julia Smith of Western Michigan University, was highlighted by Diane Ravitch in an op-ed in the Washington Post on November 6, 2005. After analyzing progress in mathematics and reading from 8th to 12th grade for 10,000 students in a federal data base from almost 789 public and private schools of varying size, the two researchers concluded that "the ideal high school" enrolls between 600 and 900 students. Size matters, they believe, because it affects social relations within the school and the school's ability to provide a strong curriculum for all students. Very large schools lack a sense of community and cannot shape student behavior, while very small schools cannot offer a full academic curriculum. In the Lee and Smith study, low-income students made the greatest academic gains in schools of 600-900 students. Academic gains for both low-income and high-income students declined in schools enrolling fewer than 600 students, and declined even further in schools enrolling fewer than 300. An Illinois based study over a ten-year period concluded that the lowest high school achievement (on three standardized tests) came from schools with fewer than 495 students. Highest achievement was found in high schools with 495 to 1200 students. (Ornstein, Allan C. (April-May 1993). School District and School Size: Overview and Outlook, The High School Journal 76, 240-44.) A review article (http://www.usca.edu/essays/vol132005/slate.pdf) shows that maximum fiscal efficiency occurs in high schools between 500-1000 students. High schools with 500 students achieve maximum curriculum diversity. Another article (http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-2/size.htm) points to a joint policy statement issued by the Carnegie Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals that recommended that high schools break into units of no more than 600 students. None of the researchers recommend fewer than 300 or more than 900 students in a high school for maximal performance. Deborah Meier states 300 to 400 students work best in her research paper ["Small Schools, Big Results." The American School Board Journal 182, 7 (July 1995)]. I believe my motive for sharing this information is obvious given the current debate around consolidation between A-C Central and PORTA. For me it is all and only about education. I want to perform my duties to the best of my ability and I want my students and school to do the same. I do want the best possible education for the children. A consolidated district would be at the ideal size for financial efficiency and would be able to be the best steward of the tax-payers dollars. More importantly the consolidated district would be the ideal size for curriculum diversity and would be able to provide the varied and specific classes our students need without having to outsource their education to an unknown educator in Springfield or a virtual classroom from Peoria. Consolidation is the common sense answer if you want the best for the children.
W. Scott Boston email@example.com
To: Citizens and Taxpayers of Ashland-Chandlerville District #262. From: Harold D. Showalter, Superintendent (Retired) Re: The proposed consolidation of Ashland-Chandlerville schools and Porta schools. OVERVIEW In recent years, A-C Central District has had two different Committees of Ten recommend consolidation. I am not a great believer in the Committee of Ten process. Members are usually chosen because they are in favor of consolidation and I have never known a Committee of Ten that didn't recommend consolidation. They should gather information, present it to each Board of Education and then stand back. There should be no pressure on individual Boards for or against the consolidation movement. FINANCES In the Fall of 2013, the annual financial statement of Ashland-Chandlerville District #262 was published in the Cass County Star Gazette. The three major funds in school finances are Education, Building, and Transportation. From July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, the voters and taxpayers provided the A-C Central school district with $1,582,920 in the education fund alone. Because of our equalized assessed evaluation (EAV) and student population, the State aid formula and other sources provided another $1,463,736 totaling $3,046,736. In all funds, not including debt service (bond payments) and working cash, the local taxpayer is providing $3,163,313 in tax money from Cass, Morgan, and Sangamon counties. A very small amount of this comes from Menard County. The A-C District is in four counties, Cass, Morgan, Sangamon, and Menard. To summarize, $3,163,313 in tax monies comes from the Ashland-Chandlerville District #262 and $1,890,670 from state sources totaling $5,053,983 Rounding off, over $5,000,000 of Cass Morgan, and Sangamon County monies would be at the disposal of Menard County authorities every year from now on if this consolidation passes. BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS The buildings in Ashland and Chandlerville are solid old buildings and should continue to be utilized. Several improvements in recent years have occurred namely roofing, windows, and air conditioning. Nate Park in Chandlerville is an excellent area and should be utilized more for softball and baseball activities. FUTURE The financial report published in the Fall of 2013 in the Cass County Star Gazette indicated healthy balances in the A-C Central School District. This money should be used to improve course offerings in our local school district rather than subsidizing and bailing out a neighboring school district. CONSOLIDATION Consolidation is going to happen at some future time for the A-C Central School District. It should be carefully examined and not jump head long into the first consolidation proposals available as the Committees of Ten have done in recent years. If consolidation were to occur, I would favor Pleasant Plains. The traffic patterns of A-C Central are not through Petersburg, but up and down Illinois Highway 125 and for Chandlerville, Illinois Highway 78. Finally we should look at Future Gen monies and possibly build a new education complex near Interstate 72 involving 4 to 6 small school districts. The Olympia School District, south west of Bloomington, several years ago solved consolidation problems for Minier, Hopedale, Armington, Stanford, McLean, Atlanta, and Danvers. If we are going to consolidate, let's do it right and big enough that we don't have to do it again in ten years. In conclusion it makes no sense to lower A-C Central tax rates by 25% when one considers that there is a massive Porta debt to be paid. How can you add course offerings to the curriculum and cut taxes by 25%? How can you cover additional transportation costs by lowering tax rates? How can higher staff costs be covered by lowering taxes? I believe teachers are underpaid, but throwing one school district under the bus to bail out another school district to achieve raises in local teachersâ€™ salaries is not the answer. Work in good faith with your local Board of Education. Respectfully submitted, Harold D. Showalter, Superintendent (Ret.) A-C Central School District #262
Contact Info: Harold Showalter 326 S. Church St. Ashland, IL 62612 217-476-3392
Dear Residents of the A-C Central School District On March 18th, you will have the opportunity to vote regarding the issue of consolidation of A-C Central and PORTA School Districts. Based on the sound financial condition and the growth of the student population, a consolidation of A-C Central is not required. If a reorganization becomes necessary in the future, please consider the following: The Illinois State Board of Education website (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/) has the following brochures addressing school reorganization: • • • • • • •
School District Conversion Consolidation Partial Elementary Unit (Hybrid) Dissolution Detachment Deactivation Cooperative High School
I wonder why the only option that has ever been discussed addressing the potential reorganization of the A-C Central School District has been consolidation. Here are a few different alternatives to consolidating with PORTA at this time: Create a K thru 8 district in the A-C Central District and consolidate the A-C High School with PORTA or another district. Create a K thru 8 district and divide A-C Central by the old school district lines allowing Chandlerville students go to PORTA and Ashland students go to Pleasant Plains. Keep the K thru 8, and make arrangements with the surrounding districts to let the student's families choose where they attend High School. Split the district along the old boundaries and consolidate the Chandlerville portion with PORTA and consolidate the Ashland portion with Pleasant Plains or New Berlin. I am sure there are other options to explore not addressed here. All options should be studied, discussed and given consideration in an open forum so that the very best can be provided to our future generations. The option of a PORTA consolidation doesn't disappear if not passed at this time; however, the option of doing anything else will never be available again. We owe it to our children and their children to consider all options available and not jump at the first option suggested. Sincerely,
Ronald C. Aggertt Contact Info: Ron Aggertt 5 Horseshoe Drive Ashland, IL 62612 (217) 652-9159
Please consider the following when going to the polls on March 18th: The financial outlook for a new consolidated district being painted by the supporters includes incentives offered by the State to consolidating districts. Those incentives only last 2-4 years at the most, and that is IF the state can still afford to give them. Who will foot the bill when the incentives expire? You, the taxpayer. Under consolidation, A-C Central teacher’s salaries will increase to match what is currently paid by PORTA. That increase will also be covered by State incentives, but only for a short time. When the incentives expire, who will foot the bill? You, the taxpayer. Currently our bonds are being paid by county sales tax dollars that follow the student. If those tax dollars will now be going to a new consolidated district, how will we pay those bonds? Supporters of consolidation argue that the new board will make sure that money is returned to pay our bonds, but can they really guarantee that? That decision will have to be made by a new school board with members made up by a majority from the PORTA district. If financial conditions exist where they need those dollars for the new district, would they really return them to us to pay our bonds? Those bonds have to be paid, how will we pay them? With a higher tax bill. With the last three points in mind, any property tax reductions you may initially receive would be short term, and would not be 25% like the supporters of consolidation are stating. It is a 25% reduction in the education rate only. Is that really worth the risk of consolidating with a district that is as financially unstable as PORTA? Consolidation supporters say our kids will be offered an expanded curriculum with more offerings. While that is always true in a bigger school district, bigger is not always better. Currently A-C Central student’s test scores are better than PORTA’s according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Consolidation supporters are correct in saying we do not currently offer Advanced Placement classes. Pleasant Plains, a school district only five miles down the road, has agreed to A-C students taking AP classes there. We retain our district and our students that want to take AP classes can do so. That is a win-win. A-C Central currently has 7 seniors who applied and have been accepted to the University of Illinois. That is impressive results for such a small school district don’t you think? Year after year A-C Central turns out students that are exceptional academically. Supporters say transportation costs will go down. How can that be true when we will have become one the largest school districts in the state? Transportation payments from the State have already been reduced, and are predicted to be reduced further in the future. Supporters say the Ashland building would remain open for A-C Central K-8 students. They have already recommended closing the Chandlerville facility. Again, this would be decided by a school board with a majority of its members elected from the PORTA district. Ask yourself, how did that work out for Oakford or Tallula? PORTA board members have said they “didn’t want to close Tallula, there were no weaknesses in the school, the financial burdens were outweighing the academics”. They also said “When it’s time, it’s time.” (February 2012 combined board meeting minutes) PORTA Superintendent Matt Brue said – regarding the closing of the Ashland building – that “he couldn’t conceivably see the Ashland community losing their school building anytime in the near future. He felt that if that were to happen it would be well beyond any of the current Board members terms as well as most of the current Administration.” (July 2012 combined board meeting minutes) PORTA’s enrollment has been spiraling downward for years, how long will it be before “it’s time” for the Ashland building to close too? Supporters of consolidation say that, if we do not consolidate, we will not have school sports at A-C. However, in the past year, we have reclaimed Junior High School sports to excellent results: more students are participating, the school is being used for sports activities again, the community has been out in full support, and A-C student groups are once again earning money from concessions & dinners.
Currently we have a great school district, in two great communities, and a school board fully committed to making the improvements necessary to produce students who are successful whether heading to college or career bound, who above all are good citizens. Why would we want to give that up? We encourage you to VOTE NO on March 18th!
For more information: www.acfirstinfo.wordpress.com
To the Ashland Community, As we consider the proposed school consolidation, it may be fruitful to consider some historical context. In the 1940’s an area consolidation took place to bring together dozens of one-room schools into a single district. This enabled three things: a more economical way to provide education, a larger curriculum, and an opportunity for children to receive a better education. Consolidation succeeded in providing all three benefits for voters and students. In the mid-1950’s, another consolidation was considered between Ashland, Pleasant Plains and Tallula. It was proposed to accomplish the same goals as earlier consolidation efforts. However, a few people in Plains and Tallula convinced the voters that all Ashland wanted was for someone else to build them a new school. Through the years, other such votes have taken place. One passed, but everyone knew it was just a Band-Aid and we were just buying time. Another vote on consolidation failed and it wasn’t even a good Band-Aid, let alone something that would help improve education for the community’s youth. Now, after 75 years since the first consolidation of one-room country schools, we have a chance to combine two school systems. Interestingly, this consolidation is focused on the same three reasons. It would provide a more economical way of educating, produce a larger curriculum and give every student an opportunity to receive a better education. Let’s take a look around Ashland: Back when the one room schools came to Ashland, we had three or four grocery stores, a drug store, clothing store, lumber yard, bank, several gas stations, and many other small businesses. Many things have changed in the past seventy years. Ashland is no longer a small farming village; rather it has changed into a very mobile, bedroom community feeding the workforce of Springfield and Jacksonville. Large chain stores, with more efficiency and lower prices, have driven most of the small business out or the owners have retired and their businesses have closed. The only thriving businesses have done the same thing that should be done with our school. They consolidated to be more efficient, provide a more economical way of serving their customers and expand the quality of products offered. The same principles apply to schools and we must all work to be more efficient and provide our students with a broader, better education. Let’s vote YES for consolidation and give the youth of our community an expanded curriculum, an opportunity for a better education and do this more economically. Marty Lathom, Lifelong Ashland community resident and Past Ashland School Board member
Please Consider the Following When Voting on March 18! We fundamentally disagree with consolidation supporters (CSs) about how the quality of education should be measured. They measure education with curriculum choices; we measure it with results. We freely acknowledge that, at least in the short term, increased course offerings are one of the gains of any consolidation, including one with PORTA. However, if education was equivalent to course offerings, all our children and grandchildren would be best served by large schools like those in Springfield and Chicago. We believe that A-C voters chose to raise their children in our communities for a reason. They cannot legitimately have expected Chicago-like course offerings, but we believe that they did expect our educational results and environment. CSs spend significant time disparaging the quality of A-C education, but our results speak for themselves. For example, A-C test scores are above Illinois averages. CSs spend significant time bemoaning the plight of our students when applying to universities. However, seven seniors have been admitted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. CSs have verbally dismissed these students’ accomplishments as those of an exceptional class; but a couple years ago, our high school students’ accomplishments earned our school national recognition from US News & World Report. Was that just another fluke? We think not. We also fundamentally disagree with CSs that the quality of education can be measured in a vacuum free of other considerations. For example, in his recent letter in the Cass County Star-Gazette, CS Dan Williams states, “I have yet to hear an EDUCATIONAL reason not to consolidate.” If you have seen previous A-C First literature, you know that we are concerned about the impact of PORTA’s financial condition (and future leadership) on the quality of our children’s education. Apparently, Dan Williams does not believe that financial condition impacts the quality of education, but doesn’t your family’s financial condition impact your quality of life? Why should it be any different for your school district? Other environmental issues matter as well, and it is the totality of these issues that make us leery of consolidation with PORTA. PORTA reported operating deficits in each of its last six annual financial statements. Those deficits totaled well over $3 m illion. Moreover, in June 2013, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded PORTA’s credit rating, stating that it expects PORTA’s position to “deteriorate further.” CSs claim that “Moody’s is wrong,” but it is the world’s premiere credit analyst and one of a very few truly independent parties in this consolidation. Who will you believe? A-C voters, this is where you enter the picture. By consolidating with A-C, PORTA gains a much-needed infusion of Illinois funds (assuming Illinois delivers) without losing control of its Board of Education. In 2010, Greenview and Athens considered and rejected a similar consolidation with PORTA. In the four years since (2010-2013), Greenview, a district much smaller than our own, continued to make its own choices and generated a total operating surplus of nearly $350,000. In the same period, PORTA’s choices generated a total operating deficit of more than $2 million. CSs claim that consolidation efficiencies will resolve any financial issues for the new district while allowing for increased curriculum offerings and a property tax cut for A-C. Since when can you have your cake and eat it too? First, the Illinois cash infusion is temporary while some increased costs, e.g., more than $250,000 in annual pay increases for A-C teachers, are permanent. Second, many consolidation efficiencies, like cutting teachers and staff, will have obvious negative consequences, like increased class sizes. PORTA has yet to demonstrate the will to make many of those tough decisions. Why should we believe that it will start in 2014? As for the tax cut, that is a complex topic for another day. Suffice it to say for now that (a) the trumpeted 25 percent tax cut is on education-related taxes only, i.e., your total tax cut will be considerably less, and (b) the Committee of Ten’s (COT) tax cut calculation includes guesses about tax rates over which it has no control, i.e., these rates will actually be set by any newly consolidated Board of Education without a voter referendum. That said, we will gladly admit that there will almost certainly be some level of A-C property tax reduction. (We recommend that you look at PORTA’s financial condition if you are wondering how long that will last.) We will also gladly admit that consolidation can generate efficiencies and certain gains; but it will also create losses, something CSs seem allergic to addressing. For example, the COT has proposed that the consolidated Board of Education close the Chandlerville building; and no matter how you sell it, that is not a positive development for Chandlerville residents. How far behind is the Ashland building if PORTA’s enrollment continues its downward spiral (another topic for another day)? Despite becoming one of the largest school districts in Illinois (in terms of area), the COT promises transportation savings. We are not exactly sure how that computes, especially when in testimony before the Classrooms First Commission, PORTA’s superintendent, Matt Brue, indicated that “[t]he district size would effectively double, increasing transportation costs.” There are reasons why you joined (or remained in) the A-C community and reasons why you voted to increase A-C’s education tax rate in 2000. We know that you care about the future of the kids of this community. Please don’t let CS advertising and Facebook crucifixions convince you to do what is clearly in PORTA’s best interests … unless you also believe it is what’s best for you and your kids.
Please Do What’s Best for You and Your Kids on March 18!