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home : news : news   May 3, 2016

1/11/2013 3:00:00 AM
Cherry school meeting rescheduled

Outdoor lights come on at dusk at the grade school in Cherry. NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett
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Outdoor lights come on at dusk at the grade school in Cherry.

 NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett

Jeff Dankert
NewsTribune Reporter

CHERRY — A likely merger between Cherry Grade School and Ladd or Dimmick school will be discussed in a town hall meeting that has been moved to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17 in the Cherry gymnasium. The change of day was so a state school funding expert could attend, according to superintendent James Boyle.

Unsustainable revenue has precipitated a need to consolidate, Superintendent James Boyle said.

The topic has been discussed in recent school board meetings but these are not well-attended by the public so the town hall seemed necessary to get the public involved, Boyle said.
“We have a serious decision to make,” Boyle said. “What we want to do is to keep the public abreast. We are trying to get the information out.”
The informal meeting will be open to questions from the public as Boyle presents financial and operations information, he said.
Later this month the board is scheduled to hear a presentation from Ladd Superintendent Michelle Zeko and in February from Dimmick superintendent Ryan Linnig, to give the board ideas of options, Boyle said.
Cherry School District 92 has six teachers and 65 students in grades K-8. If it consolidates, Cherry students would likely begin attending Ladd or Dimmick starting in the 2014-15 year, a school representative said. Students still would go on to attend Hall High School, Spring Valley.
A merger is all but unavoidable, Boyle said. The pinch became more apparent after Illinois State Board of Education regional financial consultant Brent Appell  inspected Cherry’s financial condition, Boyle said. Last year the school issued a bond to generate working cash — a sure sign of trouble, Boyle said.
“As soon as you have to do that, that’s your first indicator that you have a concern,” Boyle said. “Current amounts of money coming in no longer support the district. Major sources of revenue are still dropping and costs are still rising. It’s just a reality.”
The rural school district has lower property values (and lower tax revenue) and less state funding. Those sources generate about $557,200 a year, leaving little on the bone for utilities, insurance, books and the like after paying salaries of $421,784, Boyle said. Some teachers are covering two grades, Boyle said.
Despite this, performance has excelled, Boyle said. In 2011, Cherry students posted high scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, with 97.2 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards.
The red brick Cherry Grade School occupies a historically-important starting point in the community. The school opened in 1905, the same year the village and the Cherry Coal Mine were established.
“The school educated the miners’ children,” Boyle said.

Jeff Dankert can be reached at (815) 220-6977 or

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