Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 5, 2013

Unit 50 outlines deep cuts

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

TEUTOPOLIS — There's a number of sports on the chopping block in Teutopolis Unit 50 schools. But if Cindy Hardiek and Rich Probst have anything to say about it, next year's Teutopolis athletic program will look similar to this year.

Sitting on opposite ends of the bleachers, Hardiek - mother of three present and future high school athletes - and Probst - president of the Teutopolis Sportsbackers booster club - outlined their respective visions for the district's athletic program at Monday's special Board of Education meeting at the Teutopolis Junior High gym. It's a vision that includes no program cuts.

The board held Monday's meeting to outline an array of proposed cuts in detail. Superintendent Bill Fritcher has said the school district needs to cut slightly less than $1 million from the 2013-14 district budget or risk a potentially disastrous decrease in reserve funds.

Hardiek told the board she would be glad to spearhead an effort to find volunteer coaches or find the needed funding.

"If a group of people chose a certain area, and we could find the funding, can the school board allow us to fund a group?" Hardiek asked.

Board President Marty Siemer said the board would entertain any ideas that would enable a program to be saved. Unit 50 Athletic Director Andy Johnson said the volunteer effort would have to bear fruit for fall sports by July 1, so that he could maintain the current schedule without causing problems for opposing ADs.

While the only sports program facing a complete cut is boys and girls golf, other sports affected by partial cuts include high school and junior high baseball, junior high softball and high school girls basketball. The reduction of coaching positions would force remaining baseball and softball coaches to have tryouts to set their rosters. Moreover, the girls freshman-sophomore basketball program would be cut, though the junior varsity and varsity programs would remain.

Probst said it's the Sportsbackers' goal to not have any cuts.

"Our goal is to save everything for next year, if we have the money," Probst said. Fritcher said earlier in the meeting that the Sportsbackers have already donated $5,000 toward the purchase of athletic equipment.

Girls basketball coach Laurie Thompson said disbanding her frosh-soph program would be "devastating" to her varsity program.

"There's so much to be learned from basketball that takes place off the court," Thompson said. "I want you all to think about this and help save the program."

Athletics wasn't the only thing on the agenda for Monday's meeting. Fritcher outlined the full scope of proposed cuts. The most significant single cut might be the decision to not replace seven teachers planning to retire after this school year at a savings of $385,983.

"We're losing a great deal of experience, but their departure will help our finances tremendously," Fritcher said. "Not replacing any of these positions will make things busy in some of our buildings."

The board also announced it was cutting the full-time teaching positions of high school family and consumer science teacher Amanda Hazlett and English teacher Annie McClellan, as well as the position of part-time agriculture teacher Dale Will. Fritcher said the district would save about $100,000 by not filling those positions.

The board also accepted the retirements of cook Lois Kreke, high school custodian Dale Worman and teacher Janice Ochs. Kreke and Worman will retire at the end of this school year, while Ochs will retire at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

Siemer said there are some cuts the board has already decided not to make. For one thing, he said, the number of sections in next year's second grade will be cut from five to four. The board had talked about dropping to three sections, but Siemer said Monday they have opted not to go that route.

Siemer added the board also planned to keep Teutopolis Junior High open as an attendance center for at least next year. Board members had considered closing the junior high because of declining district-wide enrollment that would have enabled the seventh- and eighth-graders to move back into the grade school.

Siemer told the crowd these weren't easy decisions to make.

"We have a number of moving parts here, and each must be taken into consideration," he said.

But the president added he was thrilled with the turnout.

"I am incredibly proud to be a part of this community," he said.

Siemer said the board would vote on the cuts at its regular meeting next Monday.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com