PEORIA, IL -- After a lengthy agenda of awards and presentations, the public comments before the Peoria School District 150 Board of Education got underway at 7:46 pm. By then, only one person commented, veteran activist Terry Knapp. But his remarks were worth hearing.
The board has been debating how to save more than $1 million by cutting bus schedules, a plan that would have young children riding to school in the dark during the winter. Parents have been opposed, and the board so far has not done the cuts.
Knapp rose to the bait. He congratulated the board for listening to the public, and surveying the public on the proposed cuts. That didn't happen when a previous board and administration voted 4 to 3 to close Woodruff HIgh School, a move that led to the current deficit, Knapp said. Public money was "misspent," he said, because the high school closing meant more busing.
That board was warned but didn't listen, he said. There were no surveys, not even a public hearing. And a new board member who promised not to vote to close Woodruff instead cast the deciding vote to close it, he said.
The district should survey the students and neighborhoods impacted by the closing of the high school and another school, he said. They were "disenfranchised," he said.
The fights and other problems that continue in the high schools may stem from busing kids out of their neighborhoods into other neighborhoods, he said.
And now the charter school, with its graduating class of around 40 students, is too small to offer a comprehensive curriculum, he said. "People have been hoodwinked."
He urged the board to visit the new Louisville Slugger complex, and seek to replicate it with the Peoria Stadium property.
He also praised the superintendent for trying to bring back the district's fine arts programs, which had been allowed to decline under the previous superintendent. Fine arts programs lead to test score improvements, he said.
Here is a recording of Knapp's comments.
-- Elaine Hopkins