Keep consolidation an option, Deets urges

Lisa Hammer

The Orion community needs to remain open to the concept of consolidation, Superintendent David Deets told the school board on Wednesday, July 15.

He said Illinois’ hundreds of school districts are just too many to manage.

“Consolidation, I believe, has to stay on the radar,” Deets said. “It becomes an appropriate thing to consider. I encourage us to be open-minded.”

He noted Orion has started building partnerships with surrounding school districts and also taken concrete action towards partnerships. Orion has a soccer co-op with Sherrard and academic undertakings with Cambridge and AlWood.

Some of the neighboring students with whom Orion might cooperate are on a modified year-round school calendar, Deets noted.

To make adoption of such a calendar possible, it may be desirable to add air-conditioning to C.R. Hanna Elementary School and Orion High School, Deets said. Orion Middle School already has air-conditioning.

He noted there is no hurry to renovate the buildings.

“I don’t think in the next couple years it makes sense, due to financial challenges,” 

the superintendent said.

State politics will provide a push towards consolidation, Deets said.

“A lot of people believe any financial overhaul will also advocate any district that should or could consolidate, do so,” he said.

Deets gave his comments on consolidation during a review of a “state of the district” report he is preparing. He invited board members to communicate their thoughts to him before he prepares the final draft.

He also touched on the readiness and eagerness of Orion students to learn, the great pride of the staff and the quality of the building leadership.

Deets noted federal stimulus dollars helped Orion cut its deficit this year from $120,000 to $60,000.

A handout showed last year’s juniors did significantly better on the Prairie State Achievement Exam than the previous year’s juniors.

Reading scores were up up 15 percent, science and writing scores up 8 percent and math scores up 7 percent.

The board also:

• renewed the soccer cooperative with Sherrard for another two years

• learned the company that serviced one or more of the district’s scoreboards can no longer do so. If a scoreboard breaks during a season, any delays in replacing it could cause a tough situation

• approved a year’s leave of absence for C.R. Hanna secretary Paula Mathena, if a replacement is found for the 2009-2010 school year

• accepted Sara Kershaw’s resignation as Knightbeat newspaper sponsor, and reinstated Andrew Lister as the advisor

• hired Jay Solomonson as senior class sponsor, Cindy Willard as freshman class sponsor and Kala Koehler as junior class sponsor at OHS

• hired Todd Rittenhouse as assistant football coach at OMS