Decatur School Board bids farewell to Annie Caiola, appoints Marc Wisniewski to her spot
By Sara Amis, contributor
City Schools of Decatur at-large board member Annie Caiola will be stepping down at the end of July. At her last regular meeting on July 16, Superintendent Dude and the other board members took the opportunity to praise her work.
“Thank you to Annie Caiola for her six years of really inspired service,” said Board Chair Lewis Jones. “You’re given so much to this group. Whenever something was needed, Annie’s there stepping in to provide it with good solid judgment and dedication to making sure that things are going right. We’re going to miss you.”
The board appointed former Board of Education member Marc Wisniewski to fill the vacancy in the board until a new at-large member can be elected in November. Two other seats will be on the ballot as well, the one held by Tasha White who is running for re-election, and the one held by Garrett Goebel who is not.
“You will be missed but you have been so appreciated,” board member Heather Tell told Caiola. Tell praised Caiola’s ability to communicate, saying, “You have been a great link between the board and the rest of the community.”
Board member Garrett Goebel also praised Caiola’s communication skills, saying, “Annie, your leadership, your voice, your perspective, your eloquence and charisma are going to be missed.”
Caiola, who stated previously that she was leaving in order to fulfill obligations to her expanding business and growing children, said “I was very nervous about resigning before the end of my term and was bracing myself, but the community has been so supportive. I’m grateful to see we have people stepping up who are interested in running for the open position.”
In other business:
A previously discussed raise in the millage rate from 18.660 to 20.250 was passed with no fanfare.
Public comment instead focused on hopes that portable classrooms at Oakhurst Elementary, Winnona Park Elementary, Fifth Avenue Elementary – formerly known as the 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue – and elsewhere would be removed.
“It was my understanding that CSD had committed to removing those modulars upon completing the new elementary school, and since that has happened, I am here to request that the modulars are removed as planned,” said Avery Straw, a resident who lives across the street from Oakhurst Elementary.
“I appreciate that the teachers would like the modulars to stay,” said Brad Patterson, who lives on 5th Avenue. “I support the teachers, I’m married to one, but I would very much like the modulars to go, and if they don’t go I would like there to be some sort of indication of what the long term plan is.”
Superintendent Dude stated that caution in planning meant that some of the modulars were still needed.
“We planned to build for 95 percent of capacity, and we got what we were aiming for. What that means is that we don’t have enough space,” Dude said.
The plan Dude presented will eliminate some but not all the modulars at Winonna Park and Fifth Ave and leave the ones at Oakhurst and Glenwood in place.
The goal is to get the system through the upcoming school year without forcing specialist teachers to migrate from classroom to classroom, while anticipating future growth in enrollment before the next phase of planning can take effect.
Dude stated that removing and adding modulars is expensive and sees keeping some but not all of the modulars as a better alternative to other possible solutions.
“We could raise class size and free up classrooms but we don’t think that’s a good idea,” Dude said.
The neighborhood concerns about noise from the modulars have proven difficult to resolve.
“We’ve tried turning off the air conditioning but it makes the modular units prone to mold,” Dude said. A plan to build a baffle to redirect sound upward is currently under consideration.
Executive Director of Operations Noel Maloof said that Talley Street Elementary is on track to open on time.
Describing the flurry of last-minute activity, Maloof said, “It’s looking really good. We will be open for business on August 1.”