Community members are organizing a rally slated for Sunday to save Eastside School before the final board vote Monday. Some citizens are attempting to recall three board members for their involvement in the school's closing. (File photo)
Community members are organizing a rally slated for Sunday to save Eastside School before the final board vote Monday. Some citizens are attempting to recall three board members for their involvement in the school's closing. (File photo)

Archived Story

One last fight for Eastside School

Published 10:42pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Though the farewell speeches have been given and some pieces of history turned over to the Fort St. Joseph Museum, the fight to see students in the halls at Eastside Elementary School continues.

Supporters of the school started knocking on doors this week with recall petitions in hand, hoping to see three members of the Niles Community Schools Board of Education pulled from their seats.

“The support has been more overwhelming now,” said Jeff Harrell, owner of Pine Lake PIzza, who opposes the closure.

When news broke, the school was on the list of cuts the district would make in the wake of a reduction in state funding. Harrell passed out fliers encouraging parents and residents to fight to keep the school open and helped organize protests held outside the school.

Now, Harrell will be looking for support from area parents and residents once again.

Verbiage has been approved through the county paving the way for recall petitions now circulating throughout Niles.

Harrell and his fellow supporters saw the wording approved June 11 and have 90 days from that date to get the signatures needed in order to move forward with the recall of three board members: board president Dana Daniels, vice president Michael Dreher and treasurer Michael Waldron.

“Of course I’m concerned,” Waldron said in response to the recall petitions. “I’m here to represent the people of Niles and the whole Niles Community Schools … so yes, it concerns me that some people want me to leave the job.”

Harrell said frustrations among Eastside parents are still alive and well, fueled by the apparent finality of the decision, not actually final until the board votes on the proposed budget – which includes the Eastside closure – on Monday.

Still, Harrell said, “everything is boxed up and being thrown away” without a final vote.
People are “extremely” upset, he said.

“They see things are happening and it’s not even been approved yet,” Harrell said.
“If you make the decision afte rthe school is already out it’s hard,” Waldron said. “We basically told the superintendent to go ahead with his planning.

“In the interim,” he continued, “I haven’t seen any information to change my mind.”

Waldron said he had been against the closing of the school when the option was visited in previous board meetings, but the financial crisis and a lack of stronger options turned his opinion.

“My basic thought was, I didn’t find any other place to cut the budget that would hurt less than closing Eastside,” he said. “You either had to take more money away from curriculum or lay off more teachers… I’d love to have more neighborhood schools, but we can’t afford them.”

Harrell needs 1,777 valid signatures to move forward with the recall and said he’s aiming for 2,300 to 2,400.

Farewells have already been made to Eastside, which begs the question of whether a continued fight is damaging, especially to those students and parents who may get their hopes up that things could change when in fact, the likelihood is slim.

But Harrell seems to feel all is not lost.

“We’ve got until Sept. 7 before that school bell rings,” he said.

He believes there are other options including looking at the amount of money put into athletic coaching salaries.

“The amount of money that goes into the athletic fund from the general fund is approximately $600,000 a year,” Waldron said. “And I was actually in favor of looking at that a little harder than we did.”

Still, Waldron said no other option has competed with the money saved from closing the school.

“I was against closing Eastside until earlier this year and I changed my mind because there wasn’t really any good argument to cut something else over closing Eastside,” he said. “This year it’s almost a crisis we’ve got to save money or we’re going into defecit spending in the next few years and we can’t do that, that’s illegal. Or we have to lay off a bunch more teachers.”

Harrell hopes to see a strong turnout at the board meeting on Monday night.

“I’d ask them to put themselves in my shoes,” he said of critics, adding that if the situation were different and another neighborhood school were being closed he’d “fight for their kids.”

He also said he believes Eastside students are being “segregated” as “kids with money are going to Ballard” and “kids at the north side of the tracks” are to be sent to Howard Elementary School.

Daniels said he’s sorry to see so many dissatisfied with the decision to move ahead with the Eastside closure and a lack of alternatives.

“I guess the reaction I have is some dissapointment to the fact that I haven’t seen any solutions presented by any of the people involved,” Daniels said. “I know that (Harrell) met with (former superintendent Doug Law) a few times, I think the whole group did and I’ve seen nothing from them that gives me an idea of what they’d like to see. They don’t like what we did but don’t have an alternative.

“The people involved should have listened to us about four years ago when we said if we don’t pass the bond issue, one of the problems we said (was) Eastside only has about five more years and it’s five more years,” he said. “I guess I would ask those who are doing the recall petitions if they voted for that bond, and if they voted no, they made their own decision. If they voted at all.”

  • nilesres

    My children have been active in Niles Community Schools High School Athletics for the last 8 years. All we have heard from the coaches, the athletic director, the high school principal, the Niles High School Athletic BoostersClub & etc is we need you to sell coupon books, we need you to work concession stands, we need you to work this, we need you to buy this and we need your Money. Why?? Because All of them have claimed the Niles High Schools Alethics program get little or no money from the Niles Community School Budget. Now in Today’s Star we’re told that sports gets $600,000.00 a year for sports. THIS IS ALOT OF MONEY!!!

    What other false information have we been given over the years about the Niles Community Schools budget?? Wake up Niles Voters, we need School Board members that know where the money is going? These member we now have don’t!!!

  • Anthony

    I’m not sure where I stand on the “stop-the-closing” movement…that seems like a done deal.

    However, I think the recall is a WONDERFUL idea.
    The public AND the school administration needs to be reminded: The board is, actually, the superintendent’s BOSS.

    When we (taxpayers) have a school board that is merely a rubber stamp for administration, the public really DOESN’T have a say in how their schools are run.

    One of the PRIME examples is when Mr. Curry ran for the board, and was DEFEATED by public vote. Before the month was out, school administration made sure he was “appointed.”

    Recall the school board, and replace them with people who represent the community….NOT the superintendent’s best(worst?)interests.

  • datguy

    I know a thing or two about high school athletic budgets. $600,000 for a school the size of Niles really isn’t all that much. With that money you have to pay officials, coaches salaries, the salaries of your athletics director, your gate workers if they don’t volunteer, your public address announcer, maintenance crews for set up and tear down of events, updated equipment, uniforms, transportation, and hotel stays for your athletes and coaches in case they go beyond regionals. Keep in mind that Niles offers 14 high school sports that many range from freshman to varsity competition not including junior high sports and part of the recommendation when cuts were coming was to rid junior high sports to save some money I believe that figure was $56,000. With the way the state is if budget cuts continue going at the rate they are there will come a time maybe 10 years down the line the school will no longer fund athletics and if Niles hasn’t done so yet implement a “Pay to Participate” fee to offset some expenses.

  • brewersfan

    Well, I don’t have children that attend Eastside, so I’m not able to offer an opinion on that. But, I would like to say that even though $600,000 seems like a lot of money for a school district’s athletic budget, there’s a lot more that comes out of that budget than just coaches salaries.

    Bus transportation to and from away games, officials for home games, annual fees to the athletic conference that a district belongs to, equipment and supplies. Assuming that the budget covers both Middle School and High School, that’s a lot of sporting events.

  • M

    I have no children. However, it seems to me that a lot of wasteful spending has occurred – obviously I’m on the outside looking in. What I don’t understand is why Oak Manor has to be a 6th grade school concentrating on computer usage. I have heard that of the children whom attended a class within the Niles Community School System is at and/or below poverty level. I remember the last time a few of the board members were voted, a member had told me at that time that he guessed that people just didn’t want to pay the increased property tax. That we need to better our schools to bring more businesses in here to bring more children here. Sounds like a selfish ambition to me. How about for once, just once, concentrating on what we have here and not what others have. We can do well on what we need and not on what we want. What we want can come later, as something earned. People seem to confuse their own selfish wants as needs, sad isn’t it? The kids need to start with a basic education that they can build on as the years go forward, not just as adolescents, but continueing to build as young adults and adults. Many of the kids in todays’ society are not raised have a work ethic, respect others or to work for what they get. I’ve been hearing much about being entitled. Many adults seem to be the same way. Go ahead and challenge, I have seen many of the aforementioned and then there are those whom are very good models for others. A lot of things depend on their environment. It seems to me, from what I’ve heard that the children are not getting the basic stuff from some teachers and some of the parents. There are parents and teachers who DO put in the time and effort, others may some or not at all. I’m not trying to dis anyone, we just need to look at the issue from all sides. And be very transparent so that a good practical solution/resolution can occur – not everyone will agree, obviously. But something must occur for the good of the children. They are not our future, but their own future as well as the future generations. Sweat equity by the community to help with repairs would help defray costs, isn’t that what our country was built on? That and a lot of prayer?

  • Juice75

    I’m tired of the board throwing the defeated bond issue in the public’s face. This community can’t afford a millage of that magnitude. Dana Daniels, do you read in the Daily Star every day all the people that are losing their homes?? There are very few jobs here to support this community, but you want to keep pouring on the taxes. I can say I’m neither for or against the closure of Eastside School, but this community needs to rid itself of the politics that surround this town.

  • eastsidedad

    As a parent of a middle school child who plays sports I dont have a problem with the pay to play policy. I ask you what happens to the $6.00 per person thats collected at the football games? Is that not enough to pay officials? I myself am a very good Baseball coach and would coach those kids because I love the game of Baseball if the coach’s would do it for the love of the kid’s and the game we would save $383,000.00 ya thats right $383,000.00 in coach’s pay were closeing a neighborhood school to save $480,000.00 whats wrong with this picture? I was taught academics before athletics but apparently that’s not Doug’s “LAW” Oh and Doug nice job not commenting since your leaving July 1st Just had to put 1 more school closure on your resume before taking yor bag of gold throwing it over your shoulder and riding off into the sunset.Well good job Doug Law don let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya cause im not gonna miss ya! And for the 3 board members being recalled same goe’s for you! You 3 rubber stamp everything that Doug’s “LAW” has told you to do we will take back our school board because YOU CANT HIDE THAT EASTSIDE PRIDE “GO EAGLES”

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