District 122 'Honorably Dismisses' 60 teachers
At their regular board meeting last night, D122 school board members faced with shrinking enrollment and uncertainty in state funding, let go 60 teachers.
In the weeks ahead, 60 part-time and non-tenured teachers from Ridgeland School Dist. 122 will begin reapplying for their jobs, after the board dismissed them 5-2 during its regular meeting Thursday night at Kolb Elementary School.
With district-wide enrollment decreasing, a mobility rate of 40 percent where students move out of the district every few months, and financial woes that concern both the state and federal governments, the district's choice was clear.
“On behalf of all you guys,” lamented school board member David Lis, “you do a wonderful job.”
It's a decision that the teacher's union president, Nancy Havlin, does not wholeheartedly agree with; nevertheless, she accepts it knowing the vote is in the district's best interest.
“I ask the board, work quickly to rehire these teachers,” Havlin said. “What a shame it would be to lose anyone of them to another district.”
The blanket layoffs are strictly routine, said D122 Superintendent Tom Smyth, and will take affect June 10, two days after the school calendar ends.
“We'll start hiring them back soon,” Smyth said, “but not all of them. We're going to have to take a look at that.”
To get the ball rolling D122 principals will meet today and discuss when, exactly, rehiring should begin.
“The teachers are worried about what they'll do now,” Havlin stressed. “They have to cover themselves; they have families as well.”
Many of the district's teachers will reapply for their positions in April or May. By August, the district will have a better look at enrollment figures, and then open the application process to remaining teachers.
“They're good people,” Havlin continued, “and they're going to find the best place to work. But it's unnerving, not knowing what they'll have until next year.”
Along with teachers kindergarten through eighth grade, eight district preschool teachers are included in the reductions.
D122 board member Christine Glader-Wendt voted against the motion for a blanket layoff, stating that layoffs have never before encompassed as large a population as one-third of the district's staff.
“We're going to have to call [teachers] to get them back,” Wendt said, “and they've become part of the faculty and community.”
It would have been smarter if the board took the time to individually let people go, “based on fair advice,” Wendt added.
The district also releasing its remedial reading teachers who receive Title 1 funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Federal unding is distributed to states, which are then allocated to school districts throughout each state based on 10-year census figures. Title 1 funding has not yet been approved by congress.
Across the district, enrollment has played a large factor in the layoffs.
Although district-wide enrollment has gone down, certain schools, like Lieb elementary and Simmons Middle School, have seen increased enrollment.
Another factor is changes in grant funding requirements from the state.
The district currently receives two grants, totaling $460,030, from the state for its pre-school program. As mandated by the Illinois State Board of Education, both early child grants will soon fall under one program. The state also plans on making the grant application process a competitive one, leaving the program's future in question.
“I think this is standard protocol for most boards,” Wendt said off the layoff process.
When asked by Patch if she felt the same way about administrators, Wendt said, “I believe it's standard protocol. It doesn't mean I agree with it.”
The laid-off teachers did not wish to comment after the school board meeting.