High schoolers give school tours in effort to sway taxpayers

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DECATUR TOWNSHIP — Would you pay more money for local schools? That’s the question facing taxpayers in Decatur Township next month.

So, in a break from normal classwork on Monday, high school students hit the hallways to give tours of their school to taxpayers.

“We’re just trying to educate the community a little bit about our model,” Principal Joe Preda said.

Decatur Central High School uses a small communities model, putting students in specialized courses that fall into different interest areas. If the referendum fails, the district said that model is likely to go away since it could save an extra $650,000 by eliminating some staff and creating larger class sizes.

Under the model, though, school leaders said they have seen graduation rates and college acceptances go up.

“We would hate to go back to a regular comprehensive high school,” Preda said.

Property tax caps and the economy have hit school districts hard, prompting this same pattern in districts across the state.

In February, Decatur Township’s school board voted on a resolution that gives the district an option to eliminate bus service in three years to save money.

“This is becoming an increasingly larger issue for school districts throughout the state. I know that we are one of seven school districts on a ballot for referendum this May,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Prusiecki said.

Susan Phillips, who took one of those tours, has a son starting at the high school next year. She said that she is on board to say “yes” to the referendum.

“I will vote yes even when I do not have children in school, because our children are our future,” Phillips said.

Still, what will matter is the many voters who did not show up for a tour Monday. The district hopes community forums and information it plans to give out over the next few weeks will show taxpayers that it needs the help.

For more information and an FAQ on the referendum, visit the district’s website here.

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