A crowd gathered outside the Pine-Richland School Board's meeting Monday night in an effort to raise awareness about proposed cuts in the schools' budget.
"Are we dropping our elite status?" was printed at the top of six different fliers passed out by TACT—Pine-Richland Teachers and Community Together—to inform the public about cuts in various program areas.
"We're trying to save our top-of-the-line programs at Pine-Richland," said TACT co-founder Shawn Scott, a ninth grade earth science teacher. "We're making people aware our quality programs are at risk."
The Pine-Richland School Board was not scheduled to vote on the budget Monday night. The next step in the budget process is for the finance committee to discuss the budget at its 6 p.m. May 16 meeting.
The public is invited to speak to the board during its "Recognition of Visitors" time at the beginnning and end of every meeting.
When asked what TACT proposes, Scott said the group is not advancing a proposal. He said no TACT representatives would speak before the board Monday night.
Speakers would represent themselves, not the group, he said.
The fliers referred to proposed cuts in physical education, music, art and the child development program at Pine-Richland High School. They also referred to reductions in the world languages program and the business and technology program at Eden Hall Upper Elementary.
As the meeting started, school board President Stephen Hawbaker asked people standing in the hallway to come into the conference room where the board was meeting.
Director Peter Lyons stepped to the door and said, "There are a lot of empty seats. Please come in."
A number of people then filed into the room, filling chairs and circling the room with a standing-room-only crowd. Still, more people remained outside the building.
Hawbaker said he "was not made aware" that a large group would be attending the board's meeting.
"Had we known, we would have made accommodations" by meeting in a larger venue, said Hawbaker.
About 30 people spoke, encouraging the board not to cut programs, even if that means raising taxes.
Several students told the board that classes on the proposed cut list, such as those in the family and consumer sciences department, have helped make them well-rounded people.
They also talked about classes that helped prepare them for careers in education, music and other areas.
Wendy Compernolle, who has four children in the school district, pointed out how many hours will be cut in art, band, physical education, world languages and music at Eden Hall.
Other parents spoke about how vital the elective programs are to students.
"I never thought I'd say this," said parent Heather Kisow. "Raise my taxes. Raise them as much as you want. I came here and I want to stay here."
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