2017 - 2018
Meridian On The News 7/17/17
School Wait for State Funding WPSD-TV
MOUNDS, IL -
Despite the recent passage of a budget, in a sense, the impasse isn't quite over in Illinois. Funding for K-12 education was left out because there's a renewed push to change the school funding formula. Some schools may not stay open for long without the passage of the bill to change that formula.
"Don't threaten to hold up schools opening. Don't threaten our teachers. Don't threaten our students,” said Gov. Bruce Rauner during a speech in Mt. Zion, Illinois on Monday.
Rauner is urging the state Senate to send him the bill for the evidence-based funding formula model, Senate Bill 1. But after Rauner’s promised Monday to make an amendatory veto that would remove millions in funding to Chicago teacher pensions, some lawmakers are urging Rauner to stop playing politics and work with them to fund public schools.
Senate Bill 1 would channel more money into low income districts while leaving current state funding amounts in place for higher income districts.
But, one month before the school year begins, many school leaders still worry about getting any state funding this year. While schools in Illinois were in a similar spot last year, many school leaders say they’re in a far worse spot financially this year to wait out the politics in Springfield. Lawmakers ended the years-long process of prorating general state aid for schools, but with no state budget in place, the state comptroller was unable to send schools three out of the four categorical payments they’re owed. The categorical payments fund transportation and special education, among other programs.
School administrators at Meridian schools in Mounds say they need that state funding to keep programs going for kids in the long run.
In just a few weeks, students and teachers will head back to class at Meridian schools. Third grade teacher Sharon Craig and her students will enter a long-awaited new building.
"I was actually in two mobile classrooms over the past two years, so it's going to be a big change. But I think it'll be great for the kids," Craig said. But, unless lawmakers approve education funding soon, they won’t be able to keep kids inside those new classrooms very long.
"We really are dependent upon grants and general state aid. Without those and the categoricals, we can't function. That's our revenue," said Meridian CUSD 101 Superintendent Spencer Byrd. Byrd said without that funding, the school district can stay in session for 40 business days at most.
Meridian is a 100 percent poverty district, Byrd said, and would likely be one of the first in the state to close. But — with kids relying on their school for meals as well as an education — he said his students, more than most, don’t need a forced break from school.
"That's always a thought in the back of my head," Craig said. It’s not her job, but the kids she worries about most.
"All of these kids have come to be like family to me. So for them to not possibly have a school to come to or to have to go even farther, it's worrisome for me and for the families," she said.
"We've really got to just progress forward as if everything's going to be fine, because hopefully it will," Byrd said. Lawmakers need to pass something soon, Byrd said, or kids in Mounds and other communities like it will suffer the consequences.
Meridian In The News 7/19/17
Teachers needed in southern Illinois - WSIL-TV
PULASKI CO. -- Illinois schools are less than a month away from opening and are still without state funding.
That's not the only problem schools are facing. Schools in the Meridian School District have had a tough time finding teachers, posing a serious problem.
"Our children's opportunity to go to school are going to be put in jeopardy," said superintendent Spencer Byrd from the Meridian School District. "This teacher shortage is obvious and apparent."
He's had a tough time finding teachers for certain subjects, especially math and science. Meridian High School currently has one opening in science and one in math, and zero applicants.
It's even begun to get students concerned.
"Somebody better start applying because we definitely need a couple math teachers," said Darnell Lowe, a rising senior at the high school.
The superintendent said he recently lost a teacher to Kentucky, and a bigger paycheck. Other educators called the school's location a big factor.
"We don't have what other big cities and places have," said Orlando Matthews, who helps with after school programs.
"We're going through some tough times right now in the state and stuff like that but I'm not ready to give up, I'm not," said Matthews. "I'm not ready to give up on this school, I'm not ready to give up on my children and I'm not ready to give up on this community."
And superintendent Byrd hopes to find people who share a similar, optimistic view.
"We want to have qualified educators to put in front of our children," said superintendent Byrd.
Schools in the Meridian district will start August 14.
Meridian Made The News 7/19/17
PULASKI CO. -- Educators and students in Mounds are counting down the days until a new elementary school comes to life.
The building is designed for 300 students, from Pre-K to the fifth grade.
Meridian Superintendent Spencer Byrd said it took about five years and nearly $8 million to build the school.
Most of that cost was paid for by a grant from the state, which Byrd said subsidized 80 percent of the costs.
"It's very exciting," said Superintendent Byrd. "I get a little choked about it, actually. It's been a long time coming."
The former school shut down because of mold. Now students and staff are looking forward to a fresh start and a new school year.
"Not only is it done, but the impact that it's going to have in the classroom," said Superintendent Byrd. "To have a state of the art building in southern Illinois, what will that mean to our students."
The public will get its first look at the new building at a grand opening ceremony on August 10th, just a few days before school starts on August 14th.
Black History Program
Black History Program
Hidden Figures Skit - Directed by Sarita Sawyer
Followed by: Guest Speaker Mr. Jeff McGoy
February 28, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.
Meridian High School Cafeteria
Light refreshments will be served
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School Presentation - Restorative Justice: A Student-Centered Approach
Presenters: Scott Bunting, Spencer Byrd, and Tony Rinella, Meridian Community School District #101, and Joy Battagliotti, Illinois Center for School Improvement