Valley View Board of Education members voted unanimously against laying off more than 500 teachers and paraprofessionals Monday night.
Sharon Hawks, executive director for human resources, said under the “severest projections,” all but 30 to 40 teachers and the same number of classified staff would have been called back for the 2012-13 school year.
Hawks said the job cuts were necessary due to a projected drop in enrollment next year, planned changes to district programs and an anticipated reduction in state funding.
With board vice president Rick Gougis absent, the board rejected a motion to postpone their vote on a recommendation to dismiss all first- through fifth-year teachers. Instead, all five members present voted against the proposal. The reduction in force (RIF) would have affected 401 teachers.
Likewise, a motion to dismiss 162 paraprofessionals failed.
The board’s actions drew cheers from the standing-room only crowd, which overflowed the board room at the district administration center.
“Thank you to the board members and community members,” Vickie Sutterlin, present of the Valley View Council, Local 604 of the American Federation of Teachers, said following the vote. Earlier, Sutterlin spoke out against the cuts during an hour-and-a-half long public hearing that drew hundreds of parents and teachers.
Sutterlin urged the board to explore other options that could maintain current staffing levels.
“Talk to [union] members and see what they think,” she said. “Our teachers and paraprofessionals are our children’s greatest asset. We really urge you to have some discussions with us before making a decision.”
Staff members urged the board to reject the layoffs, and some questioned a proposal to implement a middle school intervention program that would cut into instructional time in “careers” classes like art, music, family and consumer science and applied technology.
Katie Thomas, a second-grade teacher at , expressed concern with the number of staff members affected by the RIF.
“I worry that if the process drags on too long, we will lose qualified colleagues of mine,” she said during the hearing.
Proposals could mean changes to arts, driver’s ed
Rachel Kinder, assistant superintendent for curriculum for grades 6 to 12, said the Odyssey intervention program would help Valley View students hit new benchmarks that measure college and career readiness. According to results of MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessments and EXPLORE testing, Kinder said, 60 percent of Valley View middle schoolers fall short.
Kinder unveiled a proposal that would pull students out of careers classes in favor of enhancement, in the case of gifted students, or remediation, in the case of struggling students. How much time a student would spend focusing on math and literacy with the Odyssey program would depend on their level of need, according to Kinder, with some students taking careers classes three days per week and Odyssey twice per week, or vice versa. Students in need of more intensive interventions would attend Odyssey five days per week.
Under the proposal, resources — namely staff — would be shifted away from careers classes to support the Odyssey program.
“It’s clear there is a need for intervention,” Sutterlin said. “Are there other ways we can accomplish this without taking so much out of the programs we have?”
Some parents and staff suggested increasing the length of the instructional day to accommodate both programs— a move that could happen if union members were to agree to it in their upcoming contract negotiations, board president Steve Quigley said.
Kinder also shared a proposal to cut costs in the driver’s education program, which currently employees 19 full-time staffers — three at and 16 at .
Kinder outlined possibilities for paring down the $1.4 million annual cost of the program, including shortening it from 18 to 9 weeks, or even limiting the number of students who could take the class by using a lottery system or restricting the program to sophomores or upperclassmen only.
Kinder said the board has a “continuum of options” to choose from in terms of cutting driver’s ed costs. Under a “most severe” scenario, she estimated the district could reduce program costs by $1.1 million — but only through significant reductions in staff, shifting behind the wheel time to after school or summer, and reducing the number driver’s ed cars owned by the district.
Bolingbrook High School driver’s ed teacher Kyle Jakubek urged the board to make cuts cautiously, stressing the importance of the program in terms of creating safe drivers.
“It’s a lifelong skill,” he said.
What happens next?
With the projected decrease in enrollment, a drop in general state aid and possible shifts in district programs, some jobs could still be on the chopping block.
Quigley said the board will sit down with union representatives to discuss possible alternatives, and the district’s finance committee will continue to explore financial options.
“Laying people off is the last thing we want to do,” he said.
“I’m always open for talking about ways to save a nickel and dime,” Quigley added.
“We look forward to working with you to find other options to consider,” Sutterlin told the board.
According to Hawks, the board must notify union members of a layoff a minimum of 45 days before their last day of employment. With the last day of school on June 4, teachers’ union members would have to be notified by April 20. The next scheduled board meeting is slated for April 16 — which could be cutting it close to the deadline.
Quigley said the board could also call a special meeting before April 16 to address staffing issues, but it’s too early to say whether that will happen.
The board is scheduled to vote on whether to implement the Odyssey intervention program on April 16.