D. 65 Teachers Are Running On Empty

School district considers increasing workloads and more. Funny, but did I just imagine recent comments that we had a balanced school budget?

Across the U.S. at this time of year, school districts make tough choices about next year’s staffing. My town is no different, as demonstrated in the following email message from the PTA co-presidents of my neighborhood elementary school:

As you may know, District 65 is contemplating changes to the way the fine arts and PE classes are structured throughout the district.  Very simply, if these proposed changes are implemented, fine arts (art, music, perhaps library) and PE teachers are going to be required to increase the number of class periods they teach each school day, and most…are going to have to travel to other schools to fulfill their required number of classes, and therefore won't be at their "home school" full time.  Many parents and teachers are very concerned about the potentially detrimental effect that these proposed changes might have on the quality of their students' fine arts and PE education in the District 65 schools.

The presidents encouraged parents who were concerned to send an e-mail to school board members at schoolboard@district65.net, or to attend the meeting Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the . 


And then…

Just a quick follow-up to the e-mail we sent last night regarding the proposed changes to the fine arts and PE scheduling across the district.  We learned at this morning's PTA meeting of some other potential changes relating to Special Education staffing and TWI [Two Way Language Immersion] aides that are also being considered at the School Board meeting this upcoming Monday night.

What we know at this point is that school special education professionals (including school psychologists and speech/language pathologists), who already travel to more than one school, would be asked to be responsible for a larger number of students with special needs, as open or vacated positions may not be filled.  These professionals, in many cases, are already responsible for a huge number of students, and additional students under their care will affect the quality of their service to all their students.  In addition, the TWI classes that currently have aides in the classrooms will be asked to share those aides, and some of those positions will be eliminated.  

One of the first responses was from parent Ryan Garton: “It certainly does not appear that the ‘budget is balanced’,” he wrote in an email, “in light of all of these ‘efficiency moves’”.

Knowing how parents felt, I went to teachers to see how the cuts would affect them. They said it would reduce their planning time, decrease their ability to help out with extracurriculars and other out-of-the classroom activities, and most importantly, impact their students. ()

After reading these teachers' statements imploring parents and community members to speak up at tonight's school board meeting, I visited the board's website for more information. I was particularly struck by these statements in a memo Dr. Beth Flores, District 65 Human Resources Director, wrote to Superintendent Hardy Murphy on May 14:

In an effort to reduce operational costs, staffing efficiencies through attrition are being implemented. This spring, retirement incentives were offered to certified (non-ERO) and non-certified employees who are eligible to retire. As of today, thirty-six certified employees and 10 non-certified employees will retire at the end of this school year.

Vacant certified positions created by retirements will be filled by teachers hired at a lower salary. Currently, applicants are being screened by the Human Resources Director and appropriate Central Office administrators. Selected candidates will then be interviewed by local school committees.

As a result of non-certified retirements, some positions are being eliminated and/or responsibilities are being re-distributed.

In my opinion, the most important line in the same memo was this:

“Studies have indicated that the teacher is the most critical component of a child’s instructional program.”

While I think our nation's educational leaders should always eliminate the tired, unenthusiastic, and ineffective teachers, I'm equally certain that stretching good teachers beyond their capacity will prevent the future leaders from reaching their fullest potential.

If you have something to say at tonight’s meeting, here's what you need to know (courtesy of the co-presidents of my school's PTA):

If these proposed changes concern you, please consider sending an e-mail to the School Board members before the meeting, so they can go into this discussion with a sense of how D65 parents feel about this issue.  The e-mail addresses of all of the School Board members are in the front of Washington's printed calendar, or you can e-mail the entire School Board directly at schoolboard@district65.net.  You are also welcome to attend Monday's School Board meeting to hear what the teachers and others have to say.  If you would like to address the Board directly at the meeting, call the Board Secretary at 847-859-8067 before noon on Monday to be put on the list of speakers for the Board Meeting.

Richard Schulte May 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM
"Knowing how parents felt, I went to teachers to see how the cuts would affect them. They said it would reduce their planning time, decrease their ability to help out with extracurriculars and other out-of-the classroom activities, and most importantly, impact their students." Teachers do more planning than any other profession that I know of. What other profession gets 2-1/2 months off (plus every holiday known to man and Institute Days) just to plan to do the same things that are done every year exactly the same way over and over again. Are teachers professionals or simply just racketeers? The public school system in the United States is corrupt and needs to be abolished. The first thing that needs to go is the Department of Education.
Cari Levin May 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I am the director of Evanston Citizens for Appropriate Special Education (CASE). Our organization works to educate the school board and community about the needs of children with disabilities in our schools and to advocate for programs and services necessary to their success. The inclusion plan that was implemented in 2009 has been gradually diluted through spreading staff across more classrooms and serving more children with fewer resources. This is going to continue in the fall with a change in service implimentation to an "integrated model" according to Joyce Bartz. While CASE applauds Ms. Bartz' efforts to improve inclusion in D65, CASE is concerned that the School Board does not understand the implications of this shift. The Board must maintain their committment to impliment inclusion in a way that serves the whole classroom. If there are not enough resources in terms of special education teacher time, that has an impact on general education students as well as special education students. Eliminating a speech pathologist and psychologist position will create futher pressure on the rest of the staff to serve students with IEP's. I also am concerned about the elimination of teaching assistants "through attrition". Will these aides be needed for the incoming kindergarten class? They most certainly will be. Do these cuts have a substantial impact on balancing the budget? No. The cost to students will be more severe than any savings.
Jim May 21, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Does the district have a balanced budget or doesn't it? If cuts are necessary, it is fair to assume that the district is running a deficit despite the spin before the referendum. I guess the lesson for today is "don't trust anything they say".
lucas May 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Seems that the Board Announced it had a 4 + million deficit late last year. Then prior to the election on referendum (that failed) to build a new school and repair others they decided they had a 1+ million surplus.


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