Unified board passes budget assumptions

The Kenosha Unified School Board Tuesday night passed a set of budget assumptions based on anticipated greatly reduced revenue due to potential changes in the state budget.

The budget passed unanimously. However, it could change. “We don’t have to make decisions until the levy is passed in September/October,” School Board President Mary Snyder said. At this point, the district is working with $557 less per student, and with 23,000+ students in the district, resulting in an unprecedented cut in funding. Snyder urged the public to do their research and come to meetings.

People certainly did come to Tuesday’s meeting.

The board room was full of parents, teachers, students, even little children. Signs that were displayed included: “Please don’t close Columbus,” “Save Our Honors Degree,” “Save Our Credits,” “KEA – A $10M Pay Increase – Really???” “Care About School Counselors,” “K-Tec – We Want Our Teachers Back,” “You’re Not Just Taking Away Our Teachers, You’re Taking Away Our Education,” and “Cut Costs – Fire Hancock.” Seventeen people spoke during the Public Comments portion of the meeting. Several of the speakers got emotional about the loss of teachers’ jobs. Several students spoke very eloquently about their feelings that their education was in jeopardy. Matt Mleczko, Bradford High School senior, said, “Your proposal to increase graduate rates pads your resumes. Kids will take fewer core classes. Your attempt to frame this as a help to students insults our intelligence.” His comments were greeted with raucous applause.

Several Harborside Academy students spoke about the non-transferability of their teachers into the expeditionary learning model being taught at that school. Teachers require additional training and motivation in order to be effective and successful at that school. Parents and teachers wanted to know, “How does this help our students?” Bill Leman stated that “he knows how to save $5.9M without making any changes. Some of you know what it is; for the rest of you, I’d be happy to share it with you.” Mary Modder stated that she was one of the more than 375 teachers laid off last week. “The timing was impeccable.” She received her letter the day before Easter. “Why is administration being cut 5 percent, and teachers 10 percent? It should be reversed.” She further stated, “We need to work cooperatively with the KEA to minimize the impact of the State’s budget. There are seven weeks left in the school year. We shouldn’t be full of stealth and strategic tactics. This is not a military operation. We are not the enemy.”

At the end of the 45 minutes alloted for public comments, Gilbert Ostman, former board member, came up to the podium again, and stated that “the City Council and the County Board allow people to speak. They don’t get cut off.” He was told to have a seat. Board member Rebecca Stevens told Ostman that he was not on the Board any longer. She started getting passionate about her comments as well. The audience started chanting, “Let him speak.” At that point, the School Board got up and left the room, taking a 10-minute recess. Board member David Gallo came out and was speaking to audience members. He said that he was feeling the effects of these budget cuts personally and financially. His wife is one of the teachers being laid off. Board member Robert Nuzo was out talking to audience members as well during the recess.

When the Board returned from recess, the issue of a $9.5 million refinancing loan was discussed and approved by a vote of 6 to 1. Board member Robert Nuzzo voted against the proposal. He stated that he didn’t believe that it was a proper thing for the board to be doing.

The budget assumptions vote was actually the last item of business.

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