Originally Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2012, 10:44 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 11, 2012, 7:36 am

Moline school board approves sweeping changes, cuts

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By Nicole Lauer, nicolellauer@gmail.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Marian Erickson, a Moline school district teacher at Black Hawk Area Special Education District, asks the board to investigate all their options before opting out of the BHASED at a board meeting at Wilson Middle School, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. About 70 teachers and parents were in attendance. The board later voted to opt out of the program.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Moline School superintendent David Moyer explains how the district needs to cut 12 high school teachers and five junior high teachers and lower graduation credit requirements and opt out of the Black Hawk Area Special Education Center will help balance the district budget during a board meeting Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

Moline School Board members on Monday moved forward with sweeping changes expected to save the district more than $1.5 million by eliminating 17 staff members.

Despite pleas that the decisions were coming too fast with too little input, school board membersapproved a modified high school calendar that administrators said will allow for the reduction of 12 full-time staff members and an estimated savings of at least $600,000.

They also approved middle school changes that will allow for the reduction of five full-time staff members between the two buildings and an expected savings of at least $250,000.

The changes will take effect next school year.

Also starting next school year, high school students will move toward fewer credits to graduate -- 21.5 compared to the current 23. The change will allow changes to the high school schedule.

All of the changes were approved unanimously.

The district also is withdrawing from the Black Hawk Area Special Education District in 2014, a change that is expected to save the district close to $1 million per year, said superintendent David Moyer. Bob Vogelbaugh cast the lone vote against leaving the special education district.

Some of the 70-plus people at Monday's meeting told board members they felt blindsided by the agenda items. Some said they only learned about the items just before the meeting.

"Obviously, there is a budget problem, but has there been stakeholder input?" askedTrent Lamphier, a Moline High School teacher with four children attending district schools. "I don't know what our options are, and I don't know if members of the community know."

Moline Education Association president Shelly Rumler also appealed to board members, saying there was not adequate time for input. She asked the board to do a study to ensure all stakeholders were involved.

Board members said the issues all had been studied at length in prior years and the time to take action was now.Board member Bob Tallitsch said he didn't see how tabling the issues for a few weeks would lead to the needed money materializing. He said emails and phone calls he had received prior to the meeting were "all over the map.

"Everyone of us sitting here has been consulted on this," Mr. Tallitsch said. "We have not been blindsided on any of this. We tried to let everybody know as soon as we could that these are tough decisions.

Dr. Moyer and other administrators stressed the decisions were needed to provide adequate time to notify affected staff members and to create course schedules so high school students can begin building schedules for next year.

The high school changes involve moving to a schedule where all students take six courses; students in band, choir, engineering or world languages could take a seventh course. Students who do not take a seventh course can use the first period for intervention and enrichment.

Early bird courses also would be reduced to only students needing credit recovery work. Administrators said the change will reduce the number of electives offered and, therefore, staff needed.

The middle school changes are designed to implement best "middle level practices" and serve an increasing number of English Language Learners.

The decision to leave the special education district drew tears from some center staff members at the meeting. But Mr. Moyer and assistant superintendent Christina Denman said they are confident the district can provide high quality programming and services to special education students needing it without the additional costs that come with the current center.

They said they will ensure students' needs are met as a first priority, with some students possibly sent outside the school district for services.

"I believe we can deliver better services to our kids," Ms. Denman said.

Mr. Tallitsch said the board received a report from an outside consultant during the last academic year that suggested taking the actions approved Monday night to better serve students. Mr. Moyer said board members had to decide now call to withdraw from the center to provide adequate notice to the 13 other districts who participate in the education co-op.

In other business, board members adopted a tax rate of 5.05 percent which they expect to generate $41.8 million. This means the owner of a $100,000 house could expect to pay $1,684.74 in taxes, or $1.93 less than the prior year.