Schools bear close scrutiny, chair says

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home School District 55 has finished a difficult year, but it will

need to keep an eye on how some

of its decisions play out, accord-

ing to Jason Redick, who was re-

appointed as board chairman in


After several years of budget

cuts, the district is hearing good

news about funding, he said.

“This last year was tough,” he

said. “The budget cuts, coming up

with them – going to the four-day


The benefit of the past year’s

cuts are that the budget is more

sustainable, Redick said. The

district isn’t using as much of its

reserve funds and maintenance

funds to keep the district going.

It’s still using its reserves but

not as much as it had been, he

said. “The state’s talking a better

picture financially, but this year’s

going to be a lean year.”

Down the road, the district

may have a possibility of bringing

some things back, Redick said.

The district took a step back-

ward in vocational training with

the reduction of auto shop, he

said, but it wasn’t well-attended.

That was why it was cut back.

The district has cut back on

athletics, and some of that could

be brought back if more funding

materializes, he said. “It’s extra-

curricular, but it’s those things

that keeps people in school.”

Staff members have all tak-

en hits on salaries, Redick said.

They’ve taken pay freezes, and

they’ve had steps frozen.

“Those are all things we have

to look at, making sure that’s

made right with them,” Redick

said. The district needs to get back

on track.

Among classified staff, some

are ahead, while others are be-

hind competing school districts,

he said. Teachers are generally

behind, and he thinks that’s why

the district has had relatively high

turnover with newer teachers.


need to

make sure

we are at

least com-

petitive in

that mar-

ket,” he



last year

was so

busy, I don’t know if any of us

have thought about a direction for

this year,” Redick said.

Last school year, the district

dealt with contracts with certi-

fied and classified staff members

and with the Charter School. It’s

also been working with the classi-

fied staff to adjust to the four-day


“The community stepped up

on (the pool),” he said. “I’m hap-

py that was funded.”

The district also completed

its first year without Crawfords-

ville School.

“It hasn’t been without

bumps, but I think the kids have

adjusted to it, and they’re doing

The board will set goals for

2012-13 in September, Redick


“My big thing is, we’ve asked

a lot of the community the last

couple of years,” he said. “We’ve

made cuts. All that stuff has had

an effect on the community.”

The district and board need

to reassure the community that

they’re doing all of this in the best

interest of the students, he said.

He wants to ensure that the com-

munity’s support for its schools


“We’re going to have to

watch the four-day school week

too, make sure it’s the right thing,”

Redick said. “It’s worked a lot of

places. It could work here, but

we’re going to have to make sure

it does.”

He anticipates the district will

receive a lot of input on it during

the next year, he said. He heard a

lot of input leading up to the deci-

sion last school year.

One couple he talked to didn’t

like it, Redick said, but once they

started hearing about all of the

budget cuts the district has already

made, they seemed to accept it.

In addition to saving money,

it comes with some benefits, he

said. Among them, the district

will have a more consistent week

instead of a schedule with contin-

ual three- and four-day weeks.

It should benefit the educa-

tion process, he said, but it will

have an impact on the community,

particularly parents whose sched-

ules don’t work with having their

children home on Fridays.

“One of the biggest focuses is

trying to get kids to look at going

to college,” he said. The district

has already set up several pro-

grams, including College Now

and GEAR-UP. It will add the

ACT program in 2012-13, with

retired High School Principal Pat

Stineff running the program.

“The direction the state is

taking is going push a lot more

of that,” Redick said. The state

is looking at a goal of 40 percent

of students earning a bachelor’s

degree, 40 percent earning an as-

sociates and 20 percent earning a

high school diploma.

“It’s an ambitious goal,” he

said. “And it really comes down

to the local school districts to

make that happen.”

The question is how to get


“It isn’t perfect,” he said.

“There’s limits to the ACT pro-

gram, but at the same time, a lot of

these kids, that’s more than they

would’ve received on their own.”

They can come out of school

with a profession or direction rath-

er than coming out of high school

and asking, “Now what?”

“It’s been difficult,” Redick

said. “But I really am happy with

how things are going.”

The new superintendent, Don

Schrader, is doing well after his

first year, he said. “It wasn’t an

easy position he stepped into.”

The community sees him and

all the changes that have been

made, he said. “He’s the figure-

head that gets blamed, but he’s

just the one that had to make it


It was the board that directed

him to get things started, he said.

Redick raises the point be-

cause he is aware of how people

react, he said. “I’ve been the guy

on the outside doing this.