The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 15, 2013

Catlin school board cuts principal’s position


CATLIN — A lack of state funding dealt a critical blow Thursday to the Catlin School District as board members eliminated the position of high school principal.

Those duties will be absorbed within the superintendent’s role.

Superintendent Gary Lewis said he presented the idea to board members as the financial manager of the district. His contract was extended Thursday through the 2015-2016 school year, but no changes to his salary were made.

Lewis said he was a principal before he became a superintendent, but it will be a balancing act to do them simultaneously.

Current Catlin High School Principal Kevin Thomas will fulfill his contract through the end of this school year. He has been principal since 2005 and is tenured. He will have the option to teach in a district classroom next year.

Lewis said the reclassification of the position means a potential savings of $70,000 to $80,000 for the district.

“We’re trying to cut between $300,000 and $350,000 total,” Lewis said, but noted even with measures that drastic, it will only buy the district time. Ultimately, he said something will have to change at the state level if districts are going to survive.

Each of the past three years the state has given Catlin less money than it promised; $600,000 less, altogether.

Lewis said the district has spent less compared to last year at this time, but also has received less in income.

“You can only cut so much,” Lewis said. “We’re not going to be able to cut our way out of this.”

Possible cuts to come in addition to the high school principal position include: four to five certified positions, though they are trying to make these cuts through attrition; four to five non-certified positions; supply cuts; limiting travel to sporting events and combining trips when possible; and eliminating the fifth- and sixth-grade basketball teams.

They also are looking at increasing the $15 per sport athletic fee. Lewis said an average fee for schools in the area is around $55 to $65 per sport with a family cap.

The board likely will vote on cuts and fee increases in March.

In other business, board members:

Heard that wireless Internet has already been installed at Catlin Grade School and will finish being installed at Catlin High School next week. Entrée Computing of Bloomington is doing the work for about $7,000 at each school.

It is the first of two technological upgrades for the district. Officials also are looking into increasing the schools’ bandwidth, which will greatly enhance the ability to use the wireless Internet. There is a meeting soon with other area schools that also might be interested in cooperating on harnessing bandwidth from nearby towers, which will lower the cost.

Changed the high school’s world history class from a required freshman class to an elective course. The requirement prevented or made it harder for many freshmen who wanted to take electives such as band or Spanish from doing so.

Approved the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 common calendar. Next year, school will begin on Aug. 20 and end on May 27, if no snow days are used. The calendar aligns with Danville Area Community College and nearly all Vermilion County schools.

What’s Next

Catlin School Board members meet at 7 p.m. March 14 at the unit office.