Consolidated district seeks name, mascot, colors

Staff reports

Elected school board members from the newly consolidated Aledo-Westmer school district voted on a new interim superintendent and decided to open up the naming of the district to the public at Wednesday night's (Dec. 10, 2008) meeting. The meeting was held at Aledo Junior High School, with a crowd of more than 85 in attendance.

Board president Dwight Shoemaker called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. and a list of 10 individuals spoke during the public comment.

Most spoke up in support of Aledo superintendent Alan Boucher, making a case for the board to hire Boucher as the new school district superintendent, rather than hire an interim superintendent. Speaking on behalf of Boucher were Annette Speer, Laurie Benson, Cheryl Brown, Dave Vander Heyden, Kristin Wurzburger and Chris Swanson (via a letter).

Wurzburger, a member of the committee of 10, pointed out that the enrollment numbers in both districts have declined again this year, by 34 students in Westmer and 20 in Aledo. She also clarified that the committee of 10 started its discussions with the assumption that "the decision about closing or not closing the Joy facility was a point of agreement as a starting place from both district boards."

Corina Ferguson and Jim Rillie, urged the board to utilize the feasibility study completed at the start of the consolidation, with an eye towards looking at the building use in Joy.

Rillie also talked about how the country is in a recession. "There are billions of dollars of unfunded mandates," he said. "Now we're going to have a district of three superintendents, instead of two. Shoemaker said at the last meeting the board needs to be autonomous and I agree."

He urged the board to consider the students first. "Kids come first. This junior high is the crown jewel of the district. Shouldn't we look at this issue."

Jason Snyder spoke saying, "I was at the last school board meeting. I have three children in the schools and I have to tell you I'm very scared." He said the board needs to leave the politics out of it. "It's about the kids... No matter what the district does, this is going to be a better school district."

Louise Johnson said she was concerned about technology. "There's a national educational technology goal," she said. She said that the board should be looking at bringing the technology to all students across the board, pre-kindergarten through high school.

Kelly Meece, art teacher in the Westmer district, urged the board to allow the students to create the mascot for the new school district.

After hearing nearly an hour of public comments Shoemaker prefaced going on with the agenda by saying he had conferred with Boucher about the tax levy rates in both CUSD #201 (Aledo) and #203 (Westmer). "The new board is to do the tax levy," said Shoemaker. "Alan came up with figures on that," he added.

He also talked about two reasons to select an interim superintendent. He said that an interim would be able to handle some of the tough questions that had to do with staffing in an unbiased fashion. "Alan assured me that he will apply for the superintendent position," Shoemaker added.

"District 404 needs to be an autonomous unit. We need somebody to field that concern," said Shoemaker.

He said there is a set of deadlines for the board to comply with in forming this new district. "He can field those problems."

He admitted that Boucher has been forthcoming with information. "Throughout the consolidation he has given us timely information."

He added that "the interim is not going to be going for this job."

Shoemaker introduced Ben McAdams, from Moline, a man with at least 30 years of superintendent experience. "He closed eight grade schools in Moline in one year," said Shoemaker.

The board president then decided to change the order in the agenda and jump to item 10 on the agenda, to go into a closed session to talk about personnel.

Annette Speer, asked from the audience, "Can you go out of order from the agenda?

Then she and Doyle walked out of the meeting.

Board member Kay Forret made a motion to go into executive session.

Board member Mike Retherford pointed out that there was a large audience that might be wanting the board to go on to the next item of the agenda, to discuss the district name, mascot and colors.

Shoemaker said he would like to get the personnel thing settled right away.

Forret withdrew the motion and the board went on with discussions on the new name.

Steve Willits made a motion to open up the naming of the new school district to the students and the public, with the names submitted to the board by the second day of classes in January. He then suggested that the board would select the appropriate names for the students to vote on. He also said that students and the public at large would be involved in coming up with a mascot and colors.

The motion was seconded by Don Yates.

During discussion, Trisha Hank suggested that a committee be involved, made up of athletic directors, board members, teachers, students and public to go through the suggestions.

Kay Forret nominated Hank to head up that committee.

Retherford made a motion to amend the original motion, putting the Jan. 10, 2009 date as the deadline for submissions to the board. "Then we will decide what to do with it then," he said.

Hank said she would like to work with Aledo's technology specialist Kim Sheese to put something on Aledo's and Westmer's web sites, so people can submit their proposals on line.

The board voted to approve the measure to allow students and the public the opportunity to name the new school district, pick colors and a mascot.

The board went into executive session for more than an hour, with Ben McAdam, joining the group.

Shoemaker responded to a question from the audience about how McAdam was chosen. "I did a search on my own and felt Mr. McAdams was a good candidate," he said.

After returning to the room at 9:13 p.m. Willits made a motion to hire Ben McAdams as the interim superintendent, which was seconded by Shoemaker.

During discussion, Retherford said, "I am philosophically opposed to hiring someone I just met."

Hank said that financially it would make sense to use someone already familiar with the two districts. "We already have three qualified individuals with knowledge of the district that could do the job."

In support of McAdam, Shoemaker pointed out McAdam's 30 years of experience. "We're going to start having weekly meetings," he added.

Voting in favor of hiring McAdam were Shoemaker, Willits, Yates and Forret.

Voting against his hiring were Retherford, Ball and Hank.

McAdams will be paid $319 per diem for his work for the new district.

In other business the board:

• Agreed to open a line of credit for $15,000 with THE National Bank, Aledo.

• Designated THE National Bank as the interim bank depositor.