By TIMOTHY COX
BURKETTSVILLE — Some unnamed St. Henry Consolidated Local
Schools teachers came under fire during a Wednesday public forum
aimed at educating the public about a 9.52-mill property tax
levy that will appear on the March 2 ballot.
After listening to Superintendent Rod Moorman and other district
officials present an hour-long lecture on the state of the school’s
finances, Moorman opened the forum up to questions. But few
questions about the levy were asked.
Instead, a half dozen or so of the 60 people who attended the
forum at the former St. Henry school building in Burkettsville
asked questions and expressed concerns about the district’s
teachers. No specific allegations were made and no teachers
were named, but the criticism stirred a passionate response
Some parents claimed students are not being treated properly
by some teachers. Charges of humiliating and embarrassing young
students were lodged by parents who did not identify themselves
when they spoke.
Some parents also said they would not raise formal concerns
with the teacher or building principal because they fear retaliation
against their children.
One woman said even after she did get the courage to air a complaint,
she was never able to follow up on its resolution. The building
principal told her disciplinary matters are confidential and
would not tell the mother how a complaint against a teacher
Moorman told the woman Wednesday that it could be “HIPAA”
that prevented her from learning the teacher’s fate. HIPAA
stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act. The federal legislation prevents the disclosure of private
medical information, not school disciplinary records. In reality,
all teachers’ personnel files — and any reprimands
in them — are public record, except for the sensitive
Still other parents aired concerns that they cannot safely complain
about a teacher without risking retribution against the students.
Moorman attempted to allay such concerns, telling the parents
there would be “hell to pay,” if any teachers or
principals failed to properly respond to a complaint or retaliated
for a complaint against a child.
“If it does happen, there’s going to be repercussions
about it. We can’t operate under these type of scenarios,”
Twice during his energized defense of the district Moorman added
an emphatic “Jesus!” before his comments.
When it appeared the discussion was headed for a showdown over
the district’s teachers instead of the pending levy, Bill
Beyke, who coordinated Wednesday’s event, intervened.
As had been previously planned, the audience was split into
several groups and sent to different rooms to discuss specific
school funding issues.
Earlier in the evening, Moorman talked about how a number of
factors led to the district’s need for the levy, which
is a mix of renewal money and some new tax revenue.
Lower interest earnings, a change in the way student enrollment
is calculated, lower than anticipated revenue from the state,
declining enrollment and unfunded mandates from the state and
federal government all have factored into the district’s
current finances, Moorman said. He also showed that St. Henry
spends the second-lowest amount of money per student among Midwest
Athletic Conference schools.
About 70 percent of the district’s funding comes from
the state, which has been wrestling with budget problems the
past two years, leaving the future uncertain.
Board President Ralph Nietfeld told the crowd there are no guarantees
that passage of the levy will carry the district through the
next five years without any new funding.
“We haven’t asked for a dollar-for-dollar offset
in funding reductions so we can’t guarantee we won’t
be back,” Nietfeld said.
The local levy proposal is partly based on the belief that the
state Legislature will get its finances righted and restore
funding to prior levels. Without changes in state funding, the
district will be perilously low on funding, he said. Based on
current projections — with the proposed levy passing March
2 — the district would have less than enough money to
meet a single two-week payroll expenditure by June 2008.
St. Henry school officials plan to repeat Wednesday’s
forum two more times, including Saturday at 2 p.m. at the high
school and Tuesday at 7 p.m., also at the high school.