EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KPLR)-- Parents in East St. Louis gathered Thursday night to get more information on the chaotic state of their school system, and what’s going to happen to thousands of grade school children who will be in new schools next year thanks to cuts. We’ve heard of staff cuts before. In East St. Louis they are now cutting entire schools.
Five elementary schools will be shuttered at the end of June. They are Alta-Sita, J.M.D. Brown, Miles Davis, A.M. Jackson, and Lilly-Freeman Elementary schools.
Elesia Brown was among three-hundred or so who attended the meeting. She says she’s lost both her job and her daughter’s grade school to the cuts.
“I’m very concerned for it because my child is affected by it. And I’m affected by it,” she said. “I was laid off. And you know, everybody says they’re for the children, but I don’t see it. If you’re for the children you’ll start at the top.”
The top is Superintendent Arthur Culver. He says he has no choice but to close the schools. The district is $12 million in the hole, and he told the crowd they won’t be able to make payroll by Fall if they don’t do something.
“We have to make some decisions that are tough and won’t be popular,” he said, “but at the same time we have to make sure the school district stays financially solvent.”
Despite promises that class sizes won’t increase beyond the current 25 per classroom ratio, many in the crowd did not like what they were hearing.
Former East St. Louis Superintendent William Macy Worked the crowd into a near frenzy as he chastised current administrators for making too much money.
“We can’t afford your salary!” he scolded. “We can’t afford your assistants salary. This district is too poor to pay a superintendent $220 thousand!”
All this comes just a day after FOX 2 reported that the state of Illinois is moving to fire the district’s entire school board. In the center of all the turmoil, the superintendent says he’s trying to stay focused on kids.
“I assure you at the forefront of our minds is education for our kids,” Culver said. “We’re gonna make sure that the changes that we make are not going to jeopardize the education of our students.”
School board members are expected to be notified very soon of their dismissal by the state. They will be out sixty days after being officially notified.