Dr Patrick Twomey feels he was well prepared when he took over as the head of Macomb School District 185 on July 1.
That’s because he spent the previous two months training with his predecessor, Dr Alene Reuschel.
“The transition with Dr Reuschel was phenomenal,” Twomey said.
“She made sure to take the time and extra effort to help me see the big picture as it currently stands in the Macomb School District.”
He said part of the big picture is implementation of the the new Common Core state standards. He said 45 states have agreed to the new set of standards.
Twomey said a test on any one given day does not necessarily provide an accurate measure of a student’s knowledge, which is why he considers it important to conduct many local assessments
“We believe that when you use local assessments, and they’re given across the grade level – which will make them valid and reliable – and you can give them multiple times throughout the year, you will have a better snapshot as you move through a year of where students are in terms of what they know and what they can do,” Twomey said.
He said the local testing will be important as the district implements Common Core and Illinois’ new Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA).
Another challenge for Twomey will be finances. He said the district’s General State Aid (GSA) is 89% of what it was two years ago, plus the state has cut its transportation funding for the district by 40% over the past few years.
Twomey said the district’s deficit spending will exceed $2 million for the just concluded school year and the current year combined.
“We must address that shortfall and I think we have to address it this year,” Twomey said.
He said difficult decisions will have to be made. He said multiple groups are being invited to offer input on where cuts might be made or revenues might be raised, and he said community forums could be held.
When asked if the district might consider the idea of asking for a tax rate hike via referendum, Twomey said nothing is being ruled out.
He also said the district’s financial situation can be seen as an opportunity for the district to take a close look at itself and uncover changes that make sense.
“When we come out the other side and have regained financial stability, I know we will still have a very good school district that the community can be very proud of,” Twomey said.
He praised the work of the Macomb Educational Foundation, which does some fundraising for the district, and said he hopes to communicate more often with the public by using Twitter: @twomeymcusd185