Education Funding

Regaining Lost Ground

By Catherine Gewertz — August 08, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A small Illinois school district that struggled with financial woes for more than 15 years is back in the black under the direction of state-installed leaders.

After six years of state fiscal supervision, the Round Lake Area School District has a balanced budget, a good credit rating, revitalized facilities, and stronger community support.

Its leaders, hired by a state-appointed oversight panel, see the passage in March of a $17 million bond referendum as a sign that their work has restored faith in what had become a deeply dysfunctional district.

“We won it on respect and trust,” said Dennis Stonewall, who since 2003 has been the chief executive officer of the 6,500-student district northwest of Chicago.

When the state panel chose Walter Korpan as Round Lake’s chief financial officer in 2001, he came into a district with nearly $15 million in short-term debt and $96 million in long-term debt on an annual budget of $41 million.

Mr. Korpan and Mr. Stonewall saved $850,000 in a new contract for special education transportation. They retrained staff members in counting attendance, which boosted state aid by $2 million. They found out that 3,900 instead of 1,400 students were eligible for federally subsidized meals.

The State Finance Authority, the oversight body, let the district suspend its local tax cap for one year, delivering $2 million from a higher tax rate.

Help came from the community, too. A local office of the cable-television giant Comcast sent droves of employees into the district’s five schools to repaint all the classrooms. Volunteers from local churches spruced up fences.

District leaders restored high school electives that had been cut, and bolstered the sports program. They demanded cleaner schools. Attendance increased.

Student achievement is inching up, but still has a distance to go: Just four in 10 of the high school’s juniors met or exceeded state standards in reading last year.

Kim Kearby, the president of the 660-member Education Association of Round Lake, a National Education Association affiliate, said the local union made significant concessions, such as a cut in health insurance and a one-year pay freeze, to help the district regain its financial health. Now, he said, the state-local partnership has the district “on the right track.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the August 09, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Feds Pump $1.5 Billion Extra Toward Schools to Address Cafeteria Food Shortage
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced funds to help schools more easily purchase U.S.-grown foods amid widespread supply shortages.
1 min read
Empty school cafeteria
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding Letter to the Editor More Money for Schools Isn’t the Answer
The real problem is not funding but demands that teachers do more than just teach their subject, writes Walt Gardner.
1 min read
Education Funding Opinion Manchin Just Downsized the Dems’ Massive Education Spending Plans
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin may have blown a gaping hole in the education community’s hopes for supersized new federal outlays.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Education Funding Reported Essay Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?
Schools are increasingly being saddled with new responsibilities. At what point do we decide they are being overwhelmed?
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week