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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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AJ Chalom April 10, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Amy - I agree that the place for cuts is NOT the teaching assistants helping our IEP students in the STEP program, nor our teaching assistants in the DL program. I can not speak to experiences in the STEP program, but I have a close friend who has benefited greatly from this program and encouraged them to speak to the board. Just because people speak to support the DL program does not make them AGAINST another program. We are stronger if we join together in the best interest of ALL the students of the district, and address the core issues of the budget problem (facilities and low class size) and not squeeze and cut from our programs across the district. FURTHERMORE, while all of the students of the DL program do CHOOSE to be there, that doesn't make it a luxury. Academic studies have shown that it is the best way to teach english language leaners in this case with a native spanish background. and yes, MY CHILD, does gain a tremendous amount and I thank her native spanish speaking classmates who have taught her a tremendous amount.
AJ Chalom April 10, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Samantha, There was one year (the current 1st grade year) that had lower than average enrollment in the Dual Language Program, and that was ONLY for english speakers. There is a wait list for native spanish speakers who want into the Dual Language program but there was not enough native english speakers to balance them out, Otherwise Dual Language enrollment has been steady and maintained a healthy average over many years (about 80-85 students per grade). Next year, the dual language program Kindergarten has higher than average enrollment, in a Kindergarten class that is rumored to be smaller than average. The main reason the district tries to solicit enrollment is because many people don't know about our wonderful, top rate DL program and we try to educate them to this fact so they can choose to join us if they wish.
Marc April 10, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Oh Samantha. Language learning is done best at young ages... not waiting until Middle School. After school activities programs will NEVER take the place of the kind of immersion that DL students get in their room. It's ignorant to make a statement like that. The best education is what you're arguing against.
Marc April 10, 2012 at 01:45 AM
What the heck? This comment doesn't follow what's being said in any of this article's comments. Go write an article about Red Oak first, and then post this comment there.
Amy April 10, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Halelujah to you, A - someone who finally gets it! Want to run for school board? You've got my vote!
Samantha Stolberg April 10, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Oh dear, Marc. "Language learning is done best at young ages..."? Really? Didn't you just support my point that Native Spanish Speakers should be in immersion English and that Dual Language may be doing them a disservice?
Samantha Stolberg April 10, 2012 at 02:42 AM
AJ Please watch the Board meeting from February 15th, 2011, specifically agenda item 7.2. There you will find the presentation by Drs. Heidi Wennstrom and Diego Giraldo about DL that rebuts your last comment.
Samantha Stolberg April 10, 2012 at 02:45 AM
"Dr. Heidi Wennstrom and Dr. Diego Giraldo presented a review of enrollment figures in the [DL] program and an option to combine the kindergarten [DL] Program at Red Oak and Sherwood. Dr. Wennstrom commented that the review of the [DL] Program is in progress as directed by the Strategic Plan and that a recommendation regarding the program would not be complete until the 2011-2012 school year. The enrollment figures for kindergarten are down at Red Oak for the second year and a decision needs to be made as to whether it is sustainable to open a kindergarten class with 14 students knowing there will be attrition over time."
Samantha Stolberg April 10, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Furthermore: "The Board discussed or asked for clarification on the enrollment figures; consideration for families with siblings in the program; the use of a lottery system; survey of parents; personal phone calls to parents; the number of students registered at Red Oak; the effect of [DL] on mono-English classrooms; consolidation of the program; additional publicity of the program with pre-school parents; review of enrollment numbers after kindergarten registration on February 23; an uneven blend of students in grade five at Oak Terrace; and use of entrance criteria. Dr. David Behlow explained that most school districts have entrance criteria for [DL] Programs and that District 112 does not have such criteria. He suggested the Board provide direction after kindergarten registration on the minimum number of students required at a grade level to open a [DL] classroom. Sherwood Principal Shawn Walker commented that historically the District has told parents about their placement in Dual Language earlier than this point in time so they know where to register for kindergarten; the District instituted a new publicity campaign this year regarding the [DL] program; and the historic use of a lottery system to balance the classrooms."
AJ Chalom April 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Samantha - I don't want to argue with you but I don't want misinformation out there also. Thank you for your well researched comments and pointing out specific meetings and discussions, since the discussion you mention below on Feb13, 2011, there has been better promotion of the Dual Language program, and I totally agree that a misstep was taken with the anomoly year that put 14 students at RO in Dual Language. Since that meeting, many different efforts were made to increase information regarding the DL program for prospective parents: The information meeting was moved from January to November, an additional meeting was created to give information about the program separately to Native English Speakers and Native Spanish Speakers so that the information is clearer, teachers in the program present to the parents, a video about the Dual Language program was filmed by a parent and added to the presentation and the district website, an outreach to area preschools was conducted for two years, current parents were encouraged to talk to their friends about their family's experience in Dual Language DL enrollment numbers in K-5 Incoming K - 84 K - 83 1 - 67 (the poor recruitment year) 2 - 82 3 - 75 4 - 99 5 - 85 Average - 82 Red Oak DL enrollment: Incoming K - approximately 19-21 K - 17 1 - 14 (the poor recruitment year) 2 - 21 3 - 17 4 - 20 5 - 18 Average - 18
Cory Ungaretti April 10, 2012 at 09:01 PM
This is not about English/Spanish. This is about education.
Cory Ungaretti April 10, 2012 at 09:04 PM
All but the Native Americans in this country emigrated here. 100 years ago and even 50 years ago, the doors were open. Immigrants may have been marginalized in many ways but they weren't labeled "illegal" as many of the parents of the children in our district our now. I'm the lawyer, my brother is the doctor and my grandparents were the Yiddish immigrant Jews. But I respectfully disagree with your views.
Cory Ungaretti April 10, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Dual language satisfies the bilingual education for Hispanic kids. My dual language daughter takes up district resources with the GTE classes she has been asked to participate in. I'm not sure how her participation in dual language eats up additional resources, however, unless you are referring to Diego.
Amy April 10, 2012 at 09:21 PM
But AJ, here's the problem still...where should the cuts come from, if not from a program of choice? Should they come from the gifted program? You and I both know that will never happen. Can you imagine the uproar in HP if it was even suggested? Should we eliminate music or art or other arts programs? Of course not! The only program in the schools currently that isn't a "must have" is the Dual Language program. And, I'm not suggesting that we eliminate it entirely, but rather redesign it so that it is the most financially responsible that it can be. Does it need to run in 3 elementary buildings and in 2 middle schools? NO! If the program is that important to the families in it, they should be willing to be a part of it in whichever building it runs. No more demands to add classes to Edgewood so their kids won't have to go to Northwood. No more parents from Braeside driving their children to Oak Terrace to be in that DL class rather than the one at Red Oak. Kids in our district with special needs go to the schools that have the correct programs, whether it be STEP at Indian Trail, or SAIL at Lincoln, or ERP at Red Oak, etc. Is it their home schools? NO. Is it always the most convenient for the parents? NO. Why should DL be any different? You want the program? Great! Consolidate it into one elementary building and one middle school, and I'll jump on the bandwagon with you.
Cory Ungaretti April 10, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Samantha- you need to recognize that putting a Spanish speaking child in a class with 10 "native" English speakers does provide English immersion.
Amy April 11, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Actually Cory, that's exactly what it does. And it would be no different if you put a French speaking student in that class, or Chinese, or Korean, or any other language.
forest barbieri April 11, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Seems we have played DL out with interesting and concerned views from several sources. While it helped educate me on the subject it would seem obvious that we can consolidate at the least to save money going forward. The Elephant in the room is: "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." And yet we make nonsensical partisan decisions like: One option for saving funds the district considered was consolidating its three fourth grade sections at Braeside School 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. So I guess our children at Indian Trail and Ravinia will just "not learn as much" and we just hope Braeside students (which conversly the board decided should learn more), will hire ours when they reach the job seeking age:)
AJ Chalom April 11, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Dear Amy, I am not sure what the answer is. I have been waiting for two years for recommendations to come out of the Strategic Plan. Until I see budgetary numbers and alternative plans that show the cost of different programs and the cost benefit analysis of alternative plans I can't give you an answer as to what to do. Since those numbers haven't been publicized, I wonder how you can be so confident that cutting or consolidating Dual Language will save so much money. I thing a District wide solution is needed, instead of picking on certain programs or schools to solve the budget problem. Our K-5 English classroom population that are not including Contained special education classrooms across the district includes 1800 students in 97 classrooms at 8 elementary schools. If the schools were assigning students to classrooms based on their current classroom recommendations 23 for K-3 and 25 for 4-5 I believe but I might be wrong, We only need 79 classrooms. I think tackling the big issues first - instead of attacking Special Ed, or English Language Learners or Dual Language programs where the cost savings would seemingly be less should be the priority.
AJ Chalom April 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Dear Amy, I am not sure what the answer is. I have been waiting for two years for recommendations to come out of the Strategic Plan. Until I see budgetary numbers and alternative plans that show the cost of different programs and the cost benefit analysis of alternative plans I can't give you an answer as to what to do. Since those numbers haven't been publicized, I wonder how you can be so confident that cutting or consolidating Dual Language will save so much money. I thing a District wide solution is needed, instead of picking on certain programs or schools to solve the budget problem. Our K-5 English classroom population that are not including Contained special education classrooms across the district includes approximately 1800 students in 97 classrooms at 8 elementary schools. If the schools were assigning students to classrooms based on their current classroom recommendations 23 for K-3 and 25 for 4-5 I believe but I might be wrong, We only need 79 classrooms. CORRECTION from my prior post. This data stated above does not include INDIAN TRAIL classroom numbers because I don't have that data. My apologies I made a mistake in the prior post I just noticed, I think tackling the big issues first - instead of attacking Special Ed, or English Language Learners or Dual Language programs where the cost savings would seemingly be less should be the priority.
A April 13, 2012 at 01:26 PM
To quote Albert Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different results." This district has routinely lacked the balls to cut the cord on several things. From consolidating DL into a World Language stand-alone school, redrawing boundaries to rebalance neighborhood populations to closing schools if needed in order to do so. I have watched school board after school board blow hot air around, set up committees, create division between school parents and the bottom line stands: This district has been fiscally irresponsible for years. By allowing the DL program to exist in 3 buildings, by purchasing $2 mil worth of smart boards (for example), by constantly shifting Special Ed programs, by buckling on class size issues, by busing students across town instead of doing what has always been necessary, but divisive: close schools, shift boundaries, end of story. We are bleeding out money and education is unequal in buildings as well as socialization opportunities for lasting relationships. Low income, special ed #'s are increasing and we subsidize low income students and children from Fort Sheridan. Anyone at this point suggesting these facts have anything to do with race, ethnicity or military students themselves have no place at the table. It is these people who have continuously shifted necessary conversations away from reality and created in-fighting between community members so that nothing ever gets done here. Stop.
a April 15, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Why are they moving away from Red Oak? We bought a home here and hope that the DL will still be around by the time my child goes to school. I don't get it what's "wrong" with Red Oak. I thought HP was much more open-minded, liberal and educated than what I am reading on this chatboard. That's why we chose this North Shore suburb over the others. It's rather disappointing. I see a lot of hearsay and stories vs. hardcore research on the matter of DL and what sounds a bit like discrimination against the Latino families in this community. I'm curious now as to the interaction between the Latino population and non-Latinos in HP in this town. It seems pretty segregated with the exception of these "unnecessary" DL programs. -A., Hispanic parent and ESL and Spanish teacher
forest barbieri April 15, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Among the attributes of Highland Park is the diversity of our community. Just look at our average home price versa our N Shore neighbors. There is no plot against Red Oak, DL or Latino or non Latino. The questions posed are relative to declining funding and how to balance that with the education our children need and deserve. That will require tough decisions and yes, ultimately should result in some redistricting and the potential closure of a building to maximize and concentrate our financial and teaching resources. There are some great suggestions here as well as some state requirements that need to be looked at relative to DL. Again, the consolidation of this program should at the least be cost effective and experience would show that parents will indeed travel to a program that brings benefit to their child. Perhaps for the English speakers partaking in this program we should make it an elective that parents can choose to subsidize like some other after school programs.
Amy April 16, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Oh Forest, you know that would NEVER happen! The parents who so staunchly believe in this program would never allow their children to be bussed elsewhere; they'd rather their kids not be in the program at all. I've heard this directly out of the mouths of DL parents from both Red Oak and Sherwood. And they'd never ever pay for it - they'd rather all of the rest of us subsidize their children's education. Are you all also aware of the Facebook page for DL, which actively encouraged parents to vote over and over again (early and often!) on the poll so that it would appear that Dual Language had much more support than it does? Look at that - we get called discriminatory and racist, but at least we're honest.
teacher June 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I am a teacher, a mom, a student and one time I was a student that came here without knowing English. I am so glad for all the research that has gone on for the last two decades to tell us on how to better instruct the new generations coming into this wonderful and welcoming country. I am so sorry that you're district is facing such challenging financial times, but please remember that education has evolved and that things cannot be the same as when you or your grandmother or uncle came her and were inmmersed to learn a whole new language. I would not look at any program and try to see which one is worth more or less. I am a bilingual and special education teacher and my most challenging task yet was to teach an autistic child learn Spanish to be able to communicate with her mother who spoke only Spanish, and learn English to be able to communicate here in this country. I wish the best for your district
llwvrt September 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
You are all aware that there are bilingual classes for Spanish speaking ELL children to move from Spanish to English? It isn't just a Dual Language program. The district does have ESL teachers who work with students whose first language isn't English or Spanish.
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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