Controversy over transparency in Winchester school budget cuts

By Beth Anderson on March 11, 2015 at 7:08am

Over 20 teachers, school-bus drivers, and members of the staff of Winchester Community School District made a show of support for transparency at yesterday’s meeting of the Winchester District School Board. A representative from the Illinois Federation of Teachers was in attendance, as well as Candace Miller, the president of the South Scott Federation of Teachers Local 4140.

They showed up in support of Tara Moore, who addressed the board and presented them with her concerns over the Board’s funding policies for class field trips and travel expenses. Moore has been a teacher for over 35 years, and says the billing of school departments – sometimes up to $700 per trip – will stifle education. In her statement to the board, Moore asked the School Board President to be more transparent with the decision making process and policy changes before implementing the decision.

The School Board responded to Moore following the meeting.

“We are open for suggestions, anytime, anything you guys can come up with, we are more than welcome (sic) to hear them. As of right now the board feels like that there still will be a charge. Right now we don’t have any ideas to go anywhere, not that it can’t be tweaked or come up with better solutions,” the board member said.

“Or maybe somebody might sponsor for them. Moore Farms could write you a check for that, or somebody. We’ll work on that, but as of right now we don’t have any other solution”

The last item on the agenda of the Board meeting was an executive session in which personnel would be discussed, and the hiring, firing, tenure, and contract extensions of teachers and staff would be finalized for the coming year. Candace Miller, the President of the South Scott Federation of Teachers, summarized the end of the executive session.

“We were hoping for some information concerning cuts. And in the past the Board of Education has come out of an executive session and given a list of employees that would be riffed, re-hired, or not rehired. So at this time the Board Meeting has ended and the School Board did not gone through the list of employees. We are checking to see if this is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

The School Board unanimously approved all hirings, firings, and riffs, which are reductions in force, or moving full-time employees down to part time. However none of the actual information has yet been released. The School Board declined to comment at this time. For more information on the Open Meetings Act, visit this link to read the Illinois Act.