By June Conner
For the Star-Gazette
Regional Superintendent of Schools Jean Anderson, has fourteen days from Wednesday, October 23, to make a recommendation to the Illinois State Board of Education with the question of consolidation before the voters in the A-C Central and PORTA School districts. Anderson, who serves Logan, Mason and Menard counties, held a public hearing in the A-C Central cafeteria in Ashland to gather information on which to base her decision.
The “Committee of Ten,” made up of five members from the A-C district and five members of the PORTA district, filed its petition on September 16 to bring the question to the ballot. That election would take place on March 18, 2014. A new consolidated school board could be elected that day as well from the combined district from seven subdistricts. The new district would begin on July 1, 2015.
The 10 representatives reported on in-depth studies in the area of academic courses, extracurricular activities, administration, bus routes and finance. A report was also given by Consultant Robert Rogers, a retired superintendent in the Bluffs area. His proposed five-year study revealed increasing revenue and decreasing cost with a strong Equalized Assessed Value and a healthy surplus of funds.
Scott Atwood, President of the A-C Central School Board, stated that the consolidation was not in the best interest of A-C Central. Todd Jockish, of the A-C board, said he stood behind Atwood and that the feasibility study was full of inaccuracies. Board Member Gary Savage of Ashland said that Petersburg had everything to gain. He said, “We have alot of risk.”
An A-C Central teacher who resides in Chandlerville, said that the combined curriculum would benefit all of the students and would give them a well-rounded education. She said, "It's just a win-win situation. Twenty-four years ago at consolidation talks, Ashland had nothing to lose, Chandlerville did." Another resident said that there should be no fear. "Don't be afraid to go out on the limb. That's where the fruit is. Don't be afraid to give up good for great."
There were students testifying from both the A-C Central and Porta schools about the existing arrangement for sports and it's success. The students also brought out that the present curriculum makes it difficult to meet college requirements and that the consolidation would increase offerings. Nearly all of the teachers, parents, and students representing both districts spoke in favor of consolidation.
Porta has 350 students while A-C Central has 150.