From WILL - News Local/State -

Sullivan Group Raises Funds to Save School’s Mechanic Program

A group of kids and parents in Sullivan are trying to save the high school’s auto mechanics program through private donations.

Committee member Pat Cooper said despite a petition of 700 signatures and about $23,000 collected thus far, they are getting ‘stonewalled’ by school administrators. 

More than 20 students in the Moultrie County community typically enroll in the off-campus class, taught at a local repair shop.

It was among the $600,000 in cuts made by the school board for the 2013-2014 school year.  Cooper said he understands cuts have to made, but he cannot understand why the district leaders are not willing to listen.

"It’s a no-brainer to me," he said. "If I can keep a program that 22 of our kids benefit from, and I don’t have to pay for it, that’s a win-win.  But you still have board members, once they made the cut, it's like, 'once I say we cut the program, I’m not going to go back and look at it.'  And that’s what we’re fighting to a certain extent.”

Cooper’s group is trying to raise roughly $200,000 to keep the program going for four more years. He said auto repair is rare, offered in just a handful of Illinois high schools. It has been in place at the Sullivan School District for about 15 years.

"Everybody's going with high technology and computers," he said. "We get that there's a market for that. You can have all the technology wizards you can have out there, but somebody's still got to fix your car and roof your house."

Cooper said some of them take jobs out of high school based on their experience in the class, get a scholarship to go onto the next level. He is the parent of an 8th grader and potential student in the mechanics class, which is offered to juniors and seniors.

Sullivan School District #300 Superintendent Terry Pearcy declined to comment on tape, but responded to questions regarding the mechanics program via e-mail.

"To my knowlegdge, there are no plans for the Board of Education to meet with a committee seeking to raise funds to try and bring back the Auto Mechanics program." he said.  "I plan to met with the teacher (Joe Scribner) again within the next 7-10 days if he is willing."

Pearcy said 52 staff (43 of them are part-timers, including Scribner) were among those affected by district cuts. He said holding a class off campus (that students typically drove to) is a concern, "but it hasn't prevented off-campus offerings within the guidelines established."

When asked about Cooper's view the committee is being 'stonewalled', he said:  "Mr. Cooper is entitled to his opinion. Our Board of Education must look out for all the educational programming in the District, not just one progam."

Cooper said his efforts will continue, and he is looking into corporate sponsors to keep the class going.