Consolidated board gets to work

Robert Blackford/Editor
More than 100 citizens from Aledo and Westmer School districts showed up for the first meeting of the new combined district, CUSD # 404.

Aledo attorney Dwight Shoemaker was elected president of the newly formed consolidated school board Nov. 24 at the organizational meeting for the consolidated Aledo-Westmer District Board.

The board also agreed to seek an interim superintendent of schools to assist them with the transition to a consolidated district.

It was the first meeting of the consolidated board and happened in front of an audience of 100 people in the Westmer High School gymnasium.

Regional Superintendent of Schools Jodi Scott presided over the opening portion of the meeting prior to Shoemaker being named president.

She told the board and the audience that this was an "exciting and stressful" time for everyone. She asked the board and the audience to look at the big picture. "Remember we are better together than we are apart."

Scott gave the new district a number. It will be known as Community Unit School District 404.

Each of the board members were sworn into office by Scott.

The board members drew lots to decide their terms. Don Yates, Shoemaker, Kay Forret and Doug Ball each drew four-year terms while Trisha Hank, Mike Retherford and Steve Willits drew lots for two-year terms.

Scott called for nominations for president of the new board.

Hank nominated Ball for president. Willits nominated Shoemaker.

Willits, Yates, Shoemaker and Forret voted for Shoemaker. Ball, Retherford and Hank voted for Ball. Shoemaker won on a 4-3 vote.

Shoemaker took over leadership of the board from Scott to run the next portion of the meeting.

Shoemaker called for nominations for vice-president of the board.

Willits nominated Ball, but Ball declined and nominated Retherford, who was elected. Trisha Hank was named secretary and Steve Willits treasurer.

The board set its next meeting for Wednesday, Dec. 3. This meeting will be in the Aledo Junior High School music room.

The board entertained comments from the public.

Aledo School Board member Doyle Speer encouraged the board to hire Aledo Superintendent Alan Boucher as its superintendent. Speer noted that Boucher was a strong supporter of the consolidation.

Corrina Ferguson said she was present representing a group of parents who are in support of the June 10, 2007 study to utilize four buildings in the new school district. Ferguson said, "We as concerned parents and tax payers, were assured by the Committee of Ten that the building utilization issue would be discussed and debated by the new school board and we are here now to support the utilization of only four buildings.

Ferguson added. "We ask that you make the right and necessary decision to close the Westmer Junior/Senior High to protect the education future of your children and the financial future of our new district."

The board will look at establishing a new tax levy at the next board meeting.

Scott told the board that it would need to establish the levy at next week's board meeting so it is on file for 20 days.

Shoemaker said, "I consider this one of the most important things we will do."

Under new business, Doug Ball motioned that Alan Boucher be named the new superintendent of the consolidated school district.

Shoemaker agreed that Boucher had done a good job but noted that Boucher already has a district to run. "This is premature."

Willits noted that "I'm not ready at this time to make a decision. I don't know Alan. We've got a lot of work to do."

Hank reminded the board, "We only have so much time. We can make an incredible school disrict here. He (Alan) knows both schools. I don't think we have the time to look for another superintendent."

Retherford said, "I can't offer any money. I'm not ready to make an offer. He doesn't have my total support."

Forret noted, "This relationship is tenuous at best." Forret felt hiring Boucher would blindside the people of Westmer.

Closed session

The board came out of closed session and agreed to allow Shoemaker to search for an interim superintendent of schools and look for money to hire one. Hank and Ball voted against authorizing the search.

Shoemaker said in closing the meeting, "This is obviously a difficult time. I've never said it would be easy. I'd like to explain the position. We still need faculty and support staff. I know it's tough to be patient."

Willits added, "We still need the support of the entire community. We all need to work together to raise these children."