Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 1, 2013

Consolidation options being explored with St. Elmo

Jackson Adams Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — As school districts look for answers to dwindling state aid, Altamont School District is exploring the possibility of consolidation.

Altamont Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch said he is hoping to explore the option for Altamont and St. Elmo.

”I, as a superintendent, and the board at Altamont, don’t believe in letting things happen to us,” he said. “We’re responsive. We talk a lot about the future. If the state continues to not fund education at the required level and schools with a higher poverty rate keep getting lower state funding, at some point, that’s going to have a very, very negative effect.”

Fritchtnitch recently discussed the subject of consolidation with St. Elmo Superintendent Deb Philpot and is planning to meet with members of both school boards after Altamont’s restructuring meeting Monday. Philpot said St. Elmo school board members were open to discussing the possibility of consolidation with Altamont.

”I think they’re just open for discussion,” she said. “Our board didn’t really have a lot of discussion about it. We have, of course, pursued consolidation with Brownstown and didn’t have a successful outcome. We’re not really ruling out any district at this point, and we’re not saying we’re going to consolidate.”

Fritchtnitch said talks with St. Elmo are just exploratory to look at options both districts would have in the case of consolidation.

”We want to have those conversations now, and we want to make sure we can have the same conversations before this could be forced on us,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s very thought out and strategically discussed. Nothing may come of it, and that’s fine too, but if the state wants to dictate what’s going to happen, we want to make sure we have a chance to talk about it first.”

Philpot said she wanted to explore the district’s options and emphasized that no decisions will be made immediately.

”No one is thinking they’d see this on the ballot in a year,” she said. “They have ideas they want to share, and we want to be open to our options. With what we have, we can survive for quite some time with what we’re doing right now but is that enough? In the big picture, that’s the thing. This is something to explore and keep it as an open option.”

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.