Aledo Chamber learns more about upcoming consolidation

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Aledo Area Chamber of Commerce President John Hoscheidt and JoDene Huntley, Perks Cafe employee, hold the $1 Chamber plaque, as Crystal Clark, Perks employee, gets ready to cut the ribbon that welcomes the business as a AACC member.

The Aledo Area Chamber of Commerce (AACC) met Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Oak View Country Club for its regular monthly meeting. Since it was a holiday there were fewer members present than most meetings.

Chamber President John Hoscheidt welcomed three new chamber members at the meeting - Mercer Market, Perks Café and Coffee Shop, and Perks Salon and Tanning.

After the meeting the group went held ribbon cuttings at the businesses.

The next chamber meeting will be a dinner meeting at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 9, at Scooter's, where all members are encouraged to come and celebrate the holidays and bring a friend.

Hoscheidt said that there are currently 20 trees purchased by area businesses or groups for decorating during Holly Days for Trees in the Park. Anyone else interested in sponsoring or decorating a tree should contact WRMJ.

Operation Nativity, the colorful name given for coming together to prepare for Holly Days, will take place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29. All chamber members are encouraged to show up at Aledo Central Park to help prepare the park for Holly Days at 1 p.m.

The Electric Parade, set to start off Holly Days at 5:30 p.m. down Main Street on Dec. 5, is still looking for more participants. Boney's has converters available to hook up for lighting.

It was also announced that the Hot Chocolate Hustle, sponsored by Perks, will be held Dec. 20, rather than during Holly Days, because there are some conflicts for the race with some of the area schools. Newton Running Shoes is again sponsoring prizes for the race winners and proceeds from the race will go to the AACC scholarship fund.

Consolidation update

The guest speaker at Tuesday's meeting was Superintendent of the Aledo School District Alan Boucher. He talked about what is next for the consolidation.

"I was pleasantly surprised at the more than 70 percent vote," Boucher said, about the Nov. 4 election. "The two districts have been pretty regularly and consistently working for this for the past two years."

His prediction was that although consolidations are historically part of running schools, this consolidation should last from 15-20 years before the residents of Aledo and Westmer communities will face any other mergers.

Jodi Scott, regional superintendent, has called the first meeting of the new school board for 7 p.m., Nov. 25, at the Westmer High School library. The meeting is open to the public. At that meeting the first order of business will be for the newly elected board members to draw lots for a four-year or two-year term. After the terms are drawn, Scott will leave the board to do its business, he said. Scott will also choose the CUSD number for the new district.

The seven board members have nine duties, to choose a superintendent, administration and staff, to negotiate with three unions -- the Aledo Teacher's union, the Westmer Teacher's union and the Aledo School Employees Association. They will also hire a new attorney, accountant and auditor and create a transition plan. "I think that our future is bright," said Boucher.

He said that one thing surprised him after the election. "I was surprised at having a sense of sadness," he said. Losing the Aledo name and Westmer name will be one outcome of the consolidation. He added that the entire community will be involved in choosing the new school name, mascot and colors. "We want the kids to be able to choose, as much as possible," he said.

Chamber members asked questions, especially about choosing the superintendent and staff. "I would like it if they cut it short and choose me (as superintendent)," he said. It is, however, up to the board to decide whether to open up the position for other candidates.

As for the staff, he said that state law says that with tenured teachers, it goes by seniority. With non-tenured teachers, it's up to the board. "The goal is to preserve as many jobs as possible. Obviously, most elementary teachers are safe."

Boucher also touched on transportation. Johannes will not be providing bus service, he said. "We're looking to buy 10 new buses." He said the state has a program where districts can lease buses for five years, giving the district new buses. He also said that the buses will have radios and cameras. "We'll have radios in every bus and every office," he said.

Boucher said that he would like to see regular activity bus routes put together with seven to 10 key bus stops that run every day, so students can have access to after school activities.

The incentives for the consolidation include a $1.4 to $1.7 million package, which the district will receive at the end of the first year. Costs the district will have to absorb include around $100,000 to replace all the athletic uniforms and from $60,000 to $100,000 for band uniforms. "We do have $20,000 set aside from a recent memorial," he said, which could go towards replacing uniforms.

Another question was asked about what will happen to all the plaques and trophies at each school.

"That's a big question," he said, "and an emotional one for both communities." He suggested to save the big ones, and perhaps put them all away in boxes and set them in the boiler room. "It takes the kids about 10 minutes to say hi and go on. It takes the parents a bit longer."

He said the buildings will be used as follows: New Boston Elementary will stay an elementary; Apollo Elementary will stay an elementary; The Joy facility will be a seventh and eighth grade building; Aledo Junior High will house fifth and sixth graders and the high school will house ninth graders through high schoolers.

About the Joy school Boucher said, "The Westmer people felt very strongly to keep that building open." The Committee of 10 came up with a compromise to that end. "We could have crammed them into the other buildings," he said, adding that down the road, if he number of students keep declining, that may have to be a decision made.

Chamber President John Hoscheidt and Perks Salon and Tanning manager JV McCreight hold the $1 chamber plaque, as Jeanne Bennett, Perks stylist gets ready to cut the ribbon.