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posted: 3/15/2012 10:40 PM

Dist. 54 quietly cuts 78 positions

Plan to save $2 million faces little resistance

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Relative calm greeted Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54's decision to eliminate 78 classroom positions Thursday, especially when compared to last year's controversial staff cuts.

The new staffing plan also met with much less resistance than one in Barrington Unit District 220 last week, which featured many of the same elements: reductions due to declining enrollment, the loss of a funding grant, and the continuation of a fledgling Chinese language immersion program.

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In District 220, some parents blamed the Chinese program, which recently lost its federal grant, for the cutting of staff from the general curriculum.

But District 54 officials tried to be clear from the start that declining enrollment -- not any expenses of the Chinese program -- was the reason for the staff cuts.

Nevertheless, the lost positions are expected to reduce costs by approximately $2.17 million in District 54 next year.

That's based simply on the average cost per teacher and instructional assistant. But as a new teacher's contract will be negotiated this summer, it's impossible to say what these positions would be paid next year, district spokeswoman Terri McHugh said.

Projected enrollment next year is 13,267, a drop of 1.1 percent from today's 13,409 students. Because of this, 10 elementary and three junior high teaching positions are being cut, leaving the average class size next year at 22.4 students.

As the number of special education students is also dropping, 10 special ed teachers and 10 instructional assistants are also being cut.

Because a slight increase to 25-to-1 in the student-teacher ratio in the district's Spanish-English bilingual program is being recommended, five bilingual resource positions are being eliminated.

Due to the potential nonrenewal of grants totaling $1.87 million, the district is also taking the precaution of giving notice to 16 teachers and 24 support staffers in its early childhood program.

State law requires school staff members to be notified by late March if there's any chance of their being laid off before the next school year.

But District 54 administrators remain hopeful the grant will be renewed, and possibly at a slightly higher level than before, McHugh said. The district has regularly received the grant in recent years, she said.

A year ago, more than 600 people attended discussion of the 2011-2012 staffing plan, which cut 100 positions and replaced 19 nontenured fine arts and physical education teachers with part-timers.

Despite the objection of the district's teachers union, the plan was approved by school board members who said it made sense educationally.

On Thursday, no one spoke on the new staffing plan except board member Charlotte Kegarise, who characterized it as an unfortunate necessity that had followed much thought.

"This is not an easy thing to do," she said.

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