Greencastle-Antrim citizens urge school board to not make cuts

Seventh-grade student Sydney Shepherd was one of several people who addressed the board.

Several concerned citizens spoke to the Greencastle-Antrim school board May 19, concerned about possible budget cuts as it trimmed the deficit. The biggest round of applause went to seventh-grade student Sydney Shepherd. As president of the middle school student council, she shared the opinion of 488 students who signed a petition at lunch, 'Don't cut middle school activities.'

With elimination of extracurricular activities such as sports and band on a list of potential cuts, Sydney said, "That's the worst idea we've ever had." She said the activities kept kids busy, made them push themselves and allowed them to make new friends. The middle school experience was necessary if the high school hoped to have quality teams.

Parent Kevin Jackson said his son's great tenure at the school was due in part to teachers encouraging him to try something new. As a result he took up track and joined the band.

"In middle school kids are trying to figure out who they are," said Jackson. "The activities are such a positive thing. To lose them would be detrimental."

Wrestling coach Chris Runshaw asked that win/loss records or the number of participants in a sport not be used to judge value. The increase to $100 for an activity fee meant the school was already heading in the wrong direction, he said, but opportunities should not be limited for the young people.

Molli Wright, parent of a kindergartner and a preschooler, decried the likelihood of eliminating many support staff at the primary school. She submitted a petition signed by 140 people desiring that kindergarten and lunch aides be kept on staff. They were needed to help the kids feel safe, protected and cared for.

Kindergarten teacher Margaret Stouffer spoke for the other teachers in the audience. She said the past two years of all-day kindergarten were manageable because of the aides who knew each child and their needs.

After the cordial speeches, the crowd of 75 sat through the rest of the meeting. Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover thanked them for that.

"The neat thing about you, you stayed. Often people come and speak, and then leave, so they don't know what's going on."

He said later that he didn't want to make any cuts, but the $2.5 million deficit meant some were necessary, and the board could only do what was legal. The primary school had the most aides, whereas the other schools used more personal aides, and their positions could not be eliminated.

The board did not discuss the budget, but a committee was to meet with members of the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association May 23 to consider its offer concerning salary concessions.

In other business, Director of Education Bob Crider said solicitors on both sides had been reviewing a contract with School Sports Media. The firm was focusing on east coast schools to display national ads. It predicted G-ASD could reap $100-300,000 annually for a three-year contract. The school would have the ability to refuse any ads it didn't like.

Savannah Fritz, a sophomore, was introduced as the newest student representative on the school board.