The public wanted answers at last night's Clay Community School Board of Trustees meeting.
Deanna Sheese, who has worked with special education students at East Side Elementary for 14 years, took the podium to raise questions about the impact and cost of moving 300 students out of their community. She wanted to know if Title 1 opportunities would still be available for these students.
"You people were voted in to make tough decisions, not destroy our community schools," she said in closing.
Brian Atkinson, whose children attend Meridian Elementary, wanted an-swers to "rumors circulating about closing East Side in the fall and the bus routes already in place to bus the students to other schools."
Shelia Pennington, who spoke at the Feb. 3 special session, returned with questions about redistricting and class sizes. She questioned the board about listening to ideas from the public: "How can you make an informed decision without public opinion?"
The school board members addressed the rumors quickly.
"Rumors are just hurtful and do not help the situation," said school board member Len Fischer. "Rumors just make things worse."
"I suggest we discuss all issues in the public realm," said Jasen Gibbens. The comment was met with applause from the crowd and the board alike.
Some parents at the meeting were just learning about the issues for the first time.
"I was unaware of what was happening until last night," said Ann Tillman, a parent whose children attend Meridian Elementary. "Maybe parents would be willing to pay more taxes to support education. The board has to look for other alternatives than closing a school."
Challenging the school board and Superintendent William Schad to sit in on an elementary class to understand what children need in education, Charity Houston wanted to know where the money would go from the sale of a school building.
School Board Secretary Terry Barr pointed out where the problems with the budget were.
"If a building was sold the money would go into the Capital Projects Fund and not help the situation. The General Fund is in trouble," she said. "We have to find $1 million in budget cuts this year. We have to make cuts in a fund that is 90 percent salaries and benefits for employees. Most of which are negotiable only under contract. These items are not in our control."
Board member Jim Guy also wanted the public to understand that the discussion, and the budget cuts themselves, were nothing personal to any one individual.
East Side Elementary PTO Board Member Shannon Sampson got right to the point.
"Its an injustice to the children at any school to even consider closure of an elementary school. There are still possibilities and no decisions have been made," she said, saying that everyone had heard the rumors. "We've got to have the truth out there so people can see the big picture. Let's take the option of closing a school off the list."
Joe Thomas commended the audience for their attendance then complimented the public speakers' courage of conviction.
"We have a plan in the works," he said. "I think we've had some very productive meetings about the budget cuts. That plan will be announced in the future real soon by Superintendent Schad."
As the meeting drew to a close President Ted Jackson requested ideas about how to make information more easily accessible to the public. Upgrading the school web pages quicker, creating a new school board e-mail address and an announcement by Superintendent Schad about making the administration available for informational group meetings was discussed.
Jackson then requested a Financial Plan for 2005-'06 with budget cuts equaling the desired $1 million excluding the option of closing an elementary school be presented at the next board meeting.
"We want another plan of options made available for discussion," said Jackson when asked to explain the request. "Cuts are possible without a school closure. This is just a way to look at those options. No decisions have been made by anyone at this time, and no decision will be made without the public knowing about it."