Rantoul board OKs new plan for schools

By: Jason Carson Wilson

By: Jason Carson Wilson

By: Jason Carson Wilson

By: Jason Carson Wilson

RANTOUL – Rantoul City Schools will be transformed. School board members voted Thursday to approve Superintendent William Trankina's proposal to reorganize the district by creating four grade-level learning centers.

Some of more than 60 people crowded into the district's board room to remind the board they still didn't like the idea.

Sandy Reagan, a parent and one of the more vocal opponents, demanded to be heard just as the board prepared to vote.

"There should be no vote unless we get a chance to speak," Reagan said.

The board still voted before the public comment session during the meeting. Every board member but Saundra Uhlott voted for the reorganization. Her "no" vote drew some applause from the crowd. Uhlott said, before voting, that a couple of reservations kept her from supporting the proposal.

"I had to follow my heart," she said, after the meeting.

Parent Kim Greenlee said she didn't think the reorganization plan would address the educational needs of the district's students. Greenlee said it was more about propping up the district's image.

"They're just moving kids around to make the numbers look good," Greenlee said.

She said it was a way for the district to get more funding. Greenlee, a mother of a current Rantoul City Schools student and an 8-month-old, said she's curious about how the district is spending that money.

William Sweat Sr., father of Rantoul City Schools board member William Sweat Jr., defended the board's move.

"I rise in support of the learning centers," Sweat said.

He said Rantoul schools attracted his family to the village more than 30 years ago. Sweat said four family members had gone through those schools. He tried to stress trying something new isn't always bad.

"Changes can sometimes be made for the better. (But) I know it's hard," Sweat said.

He implored the community to unite behind the board.

"Help them enhance the city," Sweat said.

Opponents still wouldn't give an inch. Some, including Lori Shields, said they were still looking for tangible evidence that the plan would help students. Shields asked Trankina whether he could produce any.

"The research I have is that what we have isn't working," he said.

Shields asked why implementing the plan was better than hiring more teachers and aides.

"I am not one that wants to throw money at the problem," Trankina said.

Board President Kevin Modglin jumped to the defense of Trankina and his plan.

"This was not something that was dreamed up three months ago," Modglin said.

Shields said the board's decision and approach to the public could come back to haunt them.

"You guys are cutting your nose in spite of your face," she said.

Board member William Sweat Jr. said the public shouldn't be all that startled by the move toward learning centers.

"You knew how we were going to vote," Sweat Jr. said.

He said he's shied away from supporting the concept of learning centers before. But Sweat Jr. said learning centers aren't the real problem.

"You've got to get rid of your own stereotypes and idiosyncrasies," he said.

The 20-page plan has many facets, but the most controversial is the reassignment of students to schools. The plan will send students currently at Broadmeadow and Pleasant Acres schools to Pleasant Acres for kindergarten through second grand and to Broadmeadow for third through fifth grade.

The plan sends students currently attending Northview and Eastlawn schools to Eastlawn for kindergarten through second grade and Northview for third through fifth grade.

The plan calls for redrawing boundaries to balance class size; implementation of the plan is expected to cost $237,000.

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