When Dr. Dennis Thompson took over as Rockford superintendent this past May, he walked into a financial mess. The school board has worked to slice a $28 million deficit. Schools closed, more than 700 staff were dismissed, and certain programs won't be available.
But after working with his staff, the overall job cuts might not turn out as grim as originally feared. In April, the board decided to give Dr. Thompson a few months to look over the budget. While its likely this year's school budget will still be in the red, some board members tell 23 News that the new leadership is breathing new hope and resurrecting jobs that looked as good as gone.
In February and March, the Rockford School Board had a massive deficit, a debt in which a proposed $16 million plus in cuts came early, often and hard.
"We had to go very deep last march and it got down where we were affecting quality of education. Dr. Thompson has been able to recover us from that," says board member Jay Nellis.
Board members say Superintendent Thompson and his staff have dug deep to find money thought to not exist and plan to use it to revive the district.
Alice Saudargas tells 23 News, "He's found a lot of money that either wasn't spent in grant programs, or were just hanging around and this is what he's going to be using to implement programs and staff for next year."
The staff includes 31 library aides set to be brought back and special classes originally put on the budget chopping block.
"I know the library aides will be coming back," Nellis says. "There are some other positions and classes that will be restored that we'll find out on Tuesday night."
Though board members wouldn't say what other proposed job layoffs could return, they do agree the superintendent rejuvenated a district in disarray.
"Right now we're at a crossroads but I think at the end of another year I think things are going to be really fantastic. There's going to be a lot of reconstruction and I’m just thrilled with it," says Saudargas.
Though the board must still vote on Thompson’s proposed budget, some members are confident conflict will be minimal and compromise will be made.