Former Principal Challenges Community To Extend Tomcat Pride Beyond Athletics

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At a packed school board meeting Tuesday night in the Trimble High School cafeteria, where community members gathered to recognize the student achievements from the past few months, Debbie Koons stepped to the podium to share her amazement at the amount of support for the school’s athletics, particularly the football team. She also issued a challenge.

“I’ve heard ‘Tomcat pride’ over and over again, and I’m here with a challenge,” she said to the crowd. “I would hope that some of you would jump up and say now let’s take care of our littlest Tomcats, the ones who are sitting under a roof that is failing at the Jacksonville building,” Koons said.

Koons, who previously served as principal for both the elementary and middle schools, was referring to the 5-mill permanent improvement levy the school district has tried and failed three times to pass.

“I know talking about adding taxes is a sore spot,” she continued. “But we are cut to the absolute bone. We can't cut another penny in this school district. I know it from being a teacher, and I know it from being an administrator.”

Koons worked for the district until January, when she went on personal leave.

The district tried twice to pass the levy as continuous, which meant it would have remained in effect until it was no longer needed. It would have generated about $190,000 per year.

As a permanent improvement levy, those funds would have been used to purchase, repair or construct items lasting five years or more, like buses, textbooks, upgrades to school security features and the district’s heating, ventilation and cooling systems.

The main concern to the school district has been the roof over the Jacksonville school building. The roofs are quickly deteriorating, school officials have said, and the roof over the cafeteria already leaks after heavy rains.

“People say you can patch it, but you know as well as I do, things fail,” Koons continued. “We have no dedicated stream of money to take care of those issues. It’s heartbreaking. We are not living in a time when the state is going to swoop in.”

After failing twice to pass the levy as continuous in the November 2012 General Election and the primary election in May, the board voted over the summer to make it a five-year levy. While it would have brought in much less, board members thought the community would support it, but it failed again.

“We cannot claim true and full Tomcat pride if we are not doing what it takes to take care of all our children,” Koons said. “I am here as a citizen, begging you to stand up and keep this Tomcat pride going.”