Community gets say on proposed budget cuts

By on February 12, 2010

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Teachers, parents and community members filled the Harter Middle School cafeteria on Monday night as the administration laid out alternatives to previously proposed budget cuts and the KEA announced it would not come back to the bargaining table.

Some parents, such as Molly Cohrs, a 1987 Kaneland graduate, complimented the quality of the Kaneland teachers and lamented the proposed elimination of sports, clubs and other activities.

“There’s more to education than sitting in a classroom,” she said. “There’s a boat-load to be learned by being a part of something; to learn to work as a team and to contribute to something larger than themselves,” she said.

Others, such as Teresa Witt, suggested that more parents could find opportunities to volunteer to mitigate some of the proposed cuts, such as during the after-school peer tutoring sessions or helping out with the Response to Intervention program by listening to students who need additional reading time.

Sixth-grade teacher Barb Landis said she hoped that the law had changed, to leave open the possibility of using the $1.1 million currently set aside for a storage facility at Harter Middle School for some of the programs on the proposed chopping block. Her hopes were dashed, however, as assistant superintendent for business Julie-Ann Fuchs told her that the law still required that capital funding be kept separate from operational monies.

The entire Chess Club attended the meeting, advocating for the activity they and sponsor Ken Dentino consider a team. According to Dentino, the Chess Club, active for the past 11 years, has provided a place for hundreds of students who have gone on to become PhDs, scientists, lawyers, musicians, teachers, actuaries, college administrators and information technology professionals.

“I would like to think that this team had much to do with that success and therefore helped in fulfilling our mission statement,” he said. “Chess has been proven to aid in problem-solving, critical thinking and forward planning.”

Witt said she was disappointed by what she perceived to be a defensive and combative tone of the Kaneland Education Association (KEA) announcement that it would not renegotiate its salary agreement. A veteran of a number of referendum drives, Witt said she worried about a backlash from the community when the time for another referendum came around again.

The cuts could get worse, if the state of Illinois does not pay the district all of the $2 million that it currently owes to Kaneland. His prediction was that nothing would happen until after November, because he did not believe there was a way for the state to pass its budget without a tax increase.

“If a politician tells you that, they’re blowing smoke,” said Superintendent Charlie McCormick.

Sheila Albano said she is angry with the State of Illinois, and she was more interested in determining how to fix the situation, rather than being upset with the administration or the teachers. She wanted to know how much was needed to save certain programs, and what she and other parents could do to fix it.

“I share your concern,” Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Jeff Schuler told the crowd. “We’re not talking about things we want, but we’ve got the reality of the budget.”

While some parents said they would willingly pay higher fees to prevent some of the sports and other activities from being eliminated, parent Leanndra Bowen gave a word of caution.

She said that although there were a number of families who could afford the additional fees, there were many families who could not. She said she wanted to make sure the board considers that there are plenty of families, especially those with multiple children, whose children would not be able to participate in some activities if the fees were significantly increased.

“For public schools, it’s unfair for families who can’t afford it,” she said.

Middle school principal Rick Burchell explained that with the switch from competitive to intramural sports at the middle school level, the district could offer more activities to more students for about 25 percent of the cost.

Using basketball as an example, he said the middle school currently has 42 basketball players. With an intramural program, he said that twice as many students could participate.

Other possibilities include instituting an intramural tennis team and a self-defense class taught by a volunteer community member, and utilizing the fitness room more fully.

“We’re trying to give the kids as many opportunities as we can, just to do it more effectively,” he said.

School officials said they want to obtain additional feedback from the community as the district attempts to make these hard decisions, and they encouraged residents to visit the kaneland.org website to provide their comments and questions.

The next School Board meetings will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Monday, Feb. 22, prior to the final decisions that will be made at the Monday, March 8, meeting.

Proposed cuts
According to the Kaneland School District administration, the elimination of each teaching position represents an average savings of $50,000

District
• Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources
• Two teachers for gifted program

Elementary schools
• Two core teaching positions
• Fifth grade band program (represents a savings of $90,000)
• Three part-time attendance secretaries
• Four full-time learning resource center secretaries

Middle school

• Two PE teachers
• One exploratory teacher (art, music, industrial technology)
• LRC secretary
• Competitive sports (replace with intramural sports;
represents a savings of $135,000)*
*According to administration, twice as many students would have the
opportunity to participate as currently do in competitive sports

High School
• One PE teacher
• One Family Consumer Science teacher
• 1.6 Full-time equivalents in driver’s education, PE, etc.
• One Health Assistant
• Two Response to Intervention Plan teachers

High School Clubs
represents $60,000 in savings
Name Participants
Color Guard (winter) 9
Book/Film 6
Global Cultures 16
Model UN 12
Speech 0
Writer’s Block 7
This is no act (theatre) 15
WYSE (science) 7
Chess 15
Kolla Voice (Boy’s Choir) 15
Intramural sports 30

High School Competitive sports
reduction of a coach or sponsor in the following programs;
represents $60,000 in savings*
• Frosh Girls Basketball
• Girls Soccer
• Frosh Baseball
• Frosh Boys Basketball
• Asst Boys Soccer
• Football
• Volleyball
• Boys Track
• Girls Track
• Two cheerleading coaches
• One Pom Pons sponsor
*According to administration, the impact of this reduction would
be the elimination of a B level team in certain sports,
giving 20-30 fewer students in total the opportunity to take part

Transportation

represents savings of $200,000
• Elimination of after-practice routes for grades 6-12

Alternate cost reduction possibilities
• Freeze wages for administrative staff: $48,000
• Eliminate teaching positions: $50,000 per position
• Eliminate administration staff: $75,000 per position
• Freeze wages for support staff: $127,000

One Comment

  1. RM

    February 12, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    I wonder how many teachers the KEA is willing to sacrifice for the majority to keep their jobs and raises. Clearly the kids don’t matter so let the slashing begin.

    S. Albano is right to be angry with the State of Illinois. Everyone in this district should be angry and writing to our worthless legislators (Lauzen & Hatcher), Madigan who seems to control everything and Quinn. We had the opportunity to vote out Hatcher and Lauzen since they have done nothing to see that the bills are paid. It will be business as usual if you keep sending the same people back to Springfield.