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District 112 Will Cut Teachers to Trim Budget

School board will cut over 60 staff positions.

The District 112 Board of Education voted Tuesday night to cut 69 staff members, including teachers and teacher's assistants, in order to trim $2.65 million from its 2013 budget.

The budget, which passed unanimously with six votes (board member Howard Metz was absent), recommends reducing 26.5 certified staff members and 41.5 classified staff members. The cuts to certified staff (teachers, librarians and behavior specialists) will save the district $1.3 million while the cuts to classified staff (paraprofessionals, teacher's assistants) will save the district $915,000. 

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"The choices are difficult, the decisions are hard," District 112 Superintendent David Behlow said shortly before the vote. "We look at every child as a child, not as a number."

District 112 faced a $3 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. This is the district's third consecutive deficit year, and the first where the district decided against using reserves.

According to board members and district staff, if action is not taken now to combat that deficit, the consequences will be more severe later on.

"If we stay and do the same thing for the next three to four years, by 2017 we will run out of money," said Mohsin Dada, the district’s chief financial officer. "Totally out of money."

'Shared sacrifice'

The board also voted to cut an additional student services coordinator, bringing the total amount saved from administrative cuts to $445,000. Board member Marcia Bogolub suggested the cut "in the spirit of shared sacrifice."

"This will clearly present additional challenges," Bogolub said. "I have every confidence not just in our teachers but in our administrators that this can be accomplished not at the expense of any of the children."

The cut adds $60,000 to $210,000 set aside to fill the gap left by the removal of 16 of the dual-language and bilingual program’s teaching-assistant positions. School principals have the ability to use these funds to offset the impact of losing the teacher's aids. They can choose to use that money to reinstate some of the aids or to hire reading specialists. Of the over 20 Highland Park residents that spoke during Tuesday's meeting, many pleaded with the board to maintain its teacher's assistants in these programs.

"Our neediest children will lose their safety net," said Mary Jo Block, a teacher's assistant at Oak Terrace about the proposed teacher's assistant cuts. "The teaching assistants assure that students are put on proper buses, take care of bus and playground supervision. … Will the district really save money when they will have to pay teachers to do these extra jobs?"

Class sizes will remain the same

One option for saving funds the district considered was consolidating its three fourth grade sections at into two. There are currently 50 students in third grade, which means the two sections would have included 25 students. Though this would still fall within the district's class size guidelines, many parents of children with health and behavioral issues complained the decision would adversely affect their children.

"They're not going to learn as much," Highland Park resident James Rosen said. He has two sons in elementary school, one of which has problems focusing. "This is the last place I would cut."

The board decided to leave the sections unchanged.

'Budget reductions break our hearts'

Board members made it a point to explain to residents that these decisions did not come easily.

"Budget reductions breaks our hearts," board president Bruce Hyman said.

Board member Cynthia Plouche agreed, pointing out that cutting staff was especially painful.

"I don't want to make it seem that my heart doesn't ache for the people who have to lose their jobs," Plouche said. "I wish there was an easier way."

According to the recommended budget adjustments, the district will cut 15 full-time teachers from schools including , , and . will lose four full-time teachers, the most of any school in the district. Most of the cuts, however, affect paraprofessional and teaching assistant positions throughout the district's 12 schools.

"I wish we could avoid eliminations, but that is not an economic possibility," said board member Michael Cohn. "The reduction in staff is the only current way to reduce expenses incurred this year… If we don't act now the future of the district will be in jeopardy."

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Alexa Martinez October 03, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Yes we are aware of the failing Bilingual program, the reason why Oak Terrace is failing and has a bad report card. The students do not go there by choice but are placed in the program if they are Hispanic. The Dual Language is a luxury program, not a necessity. What we need it to get ride of the Bilingual program and put non English speaking children in the fully English immerse program. And it is not illegal to do that, it is the real trend to educate these children. Starting at Kinder.
Samantha Stolberg October 03, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Alexa Martinez- I am a Highland Park resident and a "retired" Chicago Public Schools teacher whose student body was 56% Hispanic. I would love to hear more about your views on educating Hispanic and other non-Native English speaking students. Would you like to go have coffee with me sometime in the next few days? Samantha Stolberg samanthastolberg@hotmail.com
Ernest October 03, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Which is great. Those children should get the help they need to become part of this english speaking country. As Alexa has stated, the dual language program is a luxury that this district should not pay for and cannot afford. Perhaps those who find this program so wonderful should have to pay into the system for it with extra fees for the books and teachers. The resources (and energy) that it sucks away from the rest of the students in ridiculous. I've yet to see where this program has done much to benefit. Support those who need to learn ESL...send everyone else to Language Stars where they can pay for it themselves.
forest barbieri October 03, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Relative to ESL we need to have a program and resources to meet the needs of these students as we have a social obligation and it is mandated by both State and Federal requirements. One also has to look at an immersion program which seemed to be popular in the 90's but I am not up on the processes, so perhaps there were some issues. Unfortunately, education is a revolving door with Whole Language popular for a few years and then another program comes into vogue for a few years which gets thrown out to reinstate whole language. As to those students that take part in dual language, that indeed is a luxury item which also skews the entire HP distribution of students as they come out of their natural school to attend Red Oak or Norwood. If there are financial constraints, let's consider this program as a candidate for elimination. I agree that elementary level parents should pay for this as extra above and beyond our curricular program which also skews student distribution. The other side of this is, if we already bus and redistrict to students within this subset, then why not just go to grade level schools as a cost effective and reasonable student distribution system.
Samantha Stolberg October 03, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Forest- The Dual Language Program is at Sherwood, Oak Terrace, Red Oak and Northwood. During D112-sponsored focus groups consisting of Dual Language stakeholders last spring, the "general" consensus was that to ensure the programs survival, the primary grades should be consolidated to one location. The Board chose to table any formal decisions.

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