I have agonized over writing this letter regarding the proposed consolidation with PORTA. First, let me state that I am not against consolidation when it becomes absolutely necessary and it is to the advantage of our children. Having made that statement, let me tell you now that it is not absolutely necessary at this time and I see no advantage to the A-C students in this proposed consolidation.
My wife and I moved to this community 55+ years ago because Kaye was to teach here and I began my teaching career in Petersburg so I am somewhat familiar with the PORTA school system. We quickly saw the advantages of a small school. We had come from a larger school and saw that students here in Ashland could participate in everything and still have an adequate to excellent education. We stayed to raise our family because of the advantages that we saw. When we started our family I moved my teaching from Peters burg to Ashland and Pleasant Plains.
I watched Petersburg close the Rock Creek school followed by the Oakford school. At that time I felt Rock Creek and Oakford had the best education for the PORTA students, but they are now history. In succession, I watched the closure of the Tallula school, a great loss to that community.
Moving closer to the present time, when we moved here it was easy to become an Ashland Panther because we had both graduated from Eastern Illinois University which are also called the Panthers, but in 1989 the Panthers were easy to give up with the consolidation of Ashland and Chandlerville because I saw the advantage to the students of both communities. These schools have produced professionals - doctors lawyers, teachers, policemen, firemen, workers in all levels of our society.
Can there be improvements in our curriculum? Absolutely, but we do not need consolidation to do that and the previous Board of Education was focused on consolidation instead of improvement.
I read with great interest some of the statements printed by the Committee of Ten. A lower tax rate? To my knowledge that is set by the new Board of Education that would be elected to operate the new combined school systems. They can set that rate at the highest of the two districts. In the election of members to the Board of Education where do you think the majority of the board will come from? PORTA of course! Since PORTA is millions in debt, do you think that lower tax rate, if true, will last very long? The answer to that is a resounding NO. One other item in their printed statements was so blatantly false. The statement was made that we are paying over $3,000 a student at the CACC and if the districts were consolidated that money could be saved since a beginning teacher’s salary was only $27,000. It is my understanding that we are paying for eight students, all taking four different courses. No vocational teacher that I know of can teach four different areas meaning that instead of spending $24,000 for the courses we would hire four teachers at a cost of $108,000. Please, before you swallow all the printed material presented by the Committee of Ten, do some checking.
If you have read any article in the papers it is widely known and published that PORTA is losing their student population. This year Ashland-Chandlerville gained students. Now the only way to save money in a consolidation is to close buildings. It has already been stated that the Chandlerville shool building will be closed. How long do you think it will be before the Ashland school building will be closed? My educated guess is approximately two years. Remember, Tallula, Rock Creek and Oakford. Visit Tallula and see the future of Ashland.
If and when consolidation becomes absolutely necessary, I would urge the Board of Education and the communities of Ashland and Cha Chandlerville to look to the east and to the south. With the creation of Future Gen, the a-C- District has an opportunity to increase their financial outlook. This will not take place if the consolidation passes. I urge to vote NO on the consolidation issue which will be on the ballot in the next election.
Donald A. Parsons
A-C Central High School