.

District 202 School Board Backs Off Deficit Plan to Cut More Than 85 Jobs

Instead, board members -- in a split vote -- opted to use $5.7 million in federal funding to avoid the staff cuts proposed by the superintendent.

The board eliminated 12 Reading Recovery specialists and 15 differentiation specialists Monday night, but voted to use the federal jobs stimulus money to save nearly all other jobs that were proposed to be cut.

In a 4-3 decision, the board voted to reinstate the jobs that Supt. John Harper had as a way to erase the district’s $6.7 million budget deficit.

According to Harper’s original proposal, 112 jobs would be eliminated, including instructional technology specialists, deans, secretaries and nurses.

Harper and the district administration also recommended using a $5.7 million grant from the federal education jobs bill for salaries and the resulting unbudgeted and local funds generated from the grant to pay down a land debt, which would save the district money in the future.

The district’s financial advisers are predicting budget deficits through at least 2016, and using federal money to save jobs now could mean a larger future deficit.

Jobs cut Monday include 12 Reading Recovery specialists, who assist elementary students with one-on-one intense reading help. The district has been in the process of transitioning to a new program called Guided Reading Plus, in which reading specialists work with small groups of students. The cuts saved about $805,000.

Also eliminated were 15 differentiation specialists who help gifted students. Like Reading Recovery, the district is transitioning to a new model of providing accelerated curriculum at the elementary school level. The cuts saved about $1 million.

The board also approved a triple-tier busing system that, in turn, changes schools hours at a savings of about $600,000; approved 5 percent budget cuts to departmental and schools’ budgets at a savings of $356,000, and said that any vacancies that arise will become part of the reduction process.

Board members Stuart Bledsoe, Michelle Smith, Rod Westfall and Roger Bonuchi voted yes for the changes; board members Eric Gallt, Michael Kelly and Dave Obrzut voted no.

Gallt said this is the second year the board has failed to act on the administration’s budget cut recommendations and the deficit is continuing to grow. He said the $5.7 million in stimulus funds could have helped put the district on better financial footing, which would have saved more jobs in the long run.

The taxpayers will be asked to fund the decisions the board could not make, he said.

“I believe this is going to be a sad day for the district,” Gallt said.

Obrzut said that based on the state’s poor record of providing effective funding for school districts, he does not believe the district will see any new money anytime soon.

“I’m in favor of the long-term stability of the district,” he said. “I do not want to see anyone lose a job but the financial hardship we are in now calls for drastic measures.”

Even though many jobs were saved Monday, it may be only for one year as the federal grant money is a one-time non-renewable revenue source.

Board members cautioned that the future still looks bleak.

“There was no victory here tonight,” Bledsoe said.

Bob Stone March 01, 2011 at 02:25 PM
It isn't so much a matter if I agree with the School Board decision or not. What we do not need is a Community Relations Director interjecting his opinion into an email sent to all PSD202 families decrying the bad decision made by the School Board. This was very unethical given the upcoming School Board elections. Trying to sway votes, is he? Is this his role? Maybe we should eliminate that waste of salary!!
Antionette Taylor-Thomas March 01, 2011 at 03:00 PM
It doesn't sound like using the federal funds will help that much according to this: The district’s financial advisers are predicting budget deficits through at least 2016, and using federal money to save jobs now could mean a larger future deficit.
HMDWS March 01, 2011 at 03:15 PM
I concur! This is not the first time he has embarrassed the district. A second email was also sent out to the entire district containing the personal information of a district parent. Within this email he proved himself to be John Harper's personal cheerleader. He should resign today!
Bob Stone March 01, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Antionette, I agree that this could cause an increased deficiet in future years, however: a) The budget deficiet is going to be there no matter what the board does this year, the administration is using "doom and gloom" economics in projecting out 5-10 years, a lot can happen between now and then (good or bad). b) it buys us some time and keeps needed jobs in place today! In today's economic conditions, the more jobs we can save can only help the local economy. Even still we're losing educators that our children need in Reading Recovery and Differentiation Specialists. c) and finally, if the State would pay its bills and fund the ridiculous mandates it imposes, we would have none of the problems we're experiencing today. We need board members that look at the big picture and aren't afraid to make the right decisions! Members that take into account the realization educators are moms and dads trying to raise a family too. We're all experiencing hard economic times, the last thing we need to do is make cuts that not only impact these quality educators, but more importantly, directly impact the education our children receive. My believe is that deep cuts need to be made in the administrative organizational chart. This District too top heavy - unlike most districts in the area. There is so much waste and unnecessary administrators that we could probably cut the entire deficiet with the lopping off of just a few overpaid administrators!
Mike dombrowski March 01, 2011 at 08:02 PM
I know the union people are not going to like this but use the money to pay down the building debt. The property owners are dry after all the years of paying for public pensions and healthcare. Property taxes have driven people into forclosure along with bad morgages. The constant increases in public pensions and healthcare have done us in. The well is dry and our pockets are empty.
Cathy March 01, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Thank god my child is no longer in this school district! Although I still pay taxes (which I am a die hard voter) my child doesn't have to pay the price for incompetant people. How about cutting administrators salaries or how about cutting bilingual programs? Gee when I was in school you were held back a year til you learned the language not given your textbooks in that language. Lets quit being so "politically correct" and do whats right even if it steps on a few toes! Enough is enough already!
no it all March 02, 2011 at 04:09 AM
Tom Hernandez needs to go. not only is he a Harper KISS A@# he is out of controll. He needs to be fired. His job is to report the facts not to put his spin on things.
Suzanne March 02, 2011 at 04:13 AM
I so agree with you Cathy. It burns me that my tax dollars go to teach English to immigrants (likely illegal) in the district. Learn English by immersion in an English speaking classroom, not by coddling them in their own language. I think most people agree with this point of view, but we are afraid to voice it because the left wing liberals will attack it as being "intolerant". Bull***t, it's my tax money, don't waste it on people who can't bother to learn English.
JUDI CONDON March 02, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I was appauled by the email that Hernandez sent out yesterday morning.. hitting reply to all rather than to the one person he claimed to have been replying to. I have had and still have a student in this district and must say my last child is not happy he will have to start his senior year at 7 a.m. everyday! I certainly hope that by the time my grandchildren start elementry school we have new district administrators!
Jay March 02, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Exactly - pay down the debt. Public Schools are not a 'jobs program' no matter how much the Democratic Party would like them to be. This is just spending millions of dollars to kick the can to next year, when there won't be any more federal funds to help bridge the gap. We're not building schools and the community is no longer growning - there won't be any referendums getting passed any time soon. Pay down the debt now, make some teachers take early retirement, if others lose there jobs.......so be it.
Michael Ciric March 02, 2011 at 10:03 PM
I have had many a conversation regarding the top-heavy administration, the justifying of Dr. Harper's salary and benefits as well as the smoke and mirrors nature of describing school funding. I have also disagreed with Mr. Hernandez on many occasions . But, I must also say this. Mr. Hernandez is a parent just like us and has always treated me with respect. If there was an occasion to man up and apologize - he did. I would think we could all collectively understand that there are no easy answers to what is going on. Most of the problem is our DEADBEAT STATE and I suggest that given the voter turnout numbers in Plainfield Township and beyond that people get off their backsides and vote. Apathy isn't a solution and neither was letting Quinn into office very smart. I say lets keep it in perspective.
Concerned Taxpayer March 03, 2011 at 06:18 PM
I thinked Mr. Hernandez missed the point of the email. The person suggested that the Superintendent lower his pay in order to save jobs. She didn't say he wasn't worth the money. This points to the option of reducing everyone's pay and benefits rather than massive layoffs. I wonder if the District has pursued negotiating with the collective bargaining units to lower pay and benefits in order to save jobs. I know other school districts have received concessions from the unions in order to save a peoples livelihood. It certainly is the democratice think to do. I think the Superintendent would show great leadership by reducing his pay and benefits. Concerned citizen

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something