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 email@example.com, or to attend the meeting Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the .
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.