CALUMET TOWNSHIP | There was hardly a dry eye in the building when the Lake Ridge School Board voted 4-1 on Monday to close Grissom Elementary School.
Lake Ridge School Board member Annette Wells, a resident of the Black Oak neighborhood where Grissom is the center of the community, was the lone vote against closing the school. Board members said it was a difficult decision to make but they had to do it for the good of the school corporation.
Wells began to cry when it was her turn to speak.
"I had a whole lot of things to say, but I can't," she said.
Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley and business manager James Huddleston announced more than a month ago the district was facing a $1.7 million deficit. Administrators said the district could save $267,000 in 2013 and $800,000 in 2014 by closing an elementary building.
Grissom fifth-grade teacher Meagan Bruni sat in the audience and cried as the decision was announced.
"I didn't expect it tonight," she said. "I attended all of the School Board meetings and public forums (to discuss the district's finances). I don't know what the future holds or how many teachers will be retained."
She was joined by about three dozen teachers and parents.
Bruni said she thought Grissom teachers and administrators would get a set of criteria the board would use to determine which elementary school would close.
"I'm sure there will be rumblings Tuesday," she said. "Some of the kids may hear about it and they'll ask questions. I'm not sure what we're supposed to tell them."
Despite the decision, Johnson-Shirley told the public there was a "glimmer" of hope.
"The Legislature meets until May. We could get the money we need," she said. "We've been fighting the good fight, and I believe we've been heard. People know about Lake Ridge Schools."
During the public portion of the meeting, Calumet New Tech High School teacher Dan Brugioni, who is also teacher's union president, suggested administrators participate in the same cost-cutting measures that teachers were required to do. He also said administrators pay a minimal amount for their insurance, and paying more could save the district some money.
Johnson-Shirley said she hadn't been given a raise for five years, and administrators have taken some cuts, though she wasn't specific. She offered to meet with Brugioni later to provide details.