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Article updated: 4/30/2013 11:24 PM

Itasca District 10 repeals some cuts

School board reinstates five teachers, preserves art and music

By Robert Sanchez

Itasca Elementary District 10 officials have scaled back plans to lay off teachers and eliminate programs to address next year's projected $375,000 budget shortfall.

Still, parents say any cuts at the district's three schools would be unacceptable.

"This is about our kids," parent Michael Wolfe said on Tuesday. "Every program and every teacher should be immediately reinstated."

At one point, District 10 was planning to release 18 teachers at the end of the school year and cut a list of nonmandated programs. That decision by the school board was made last month after voters rejected a tax increase to help cover the district's operating costs.

But on Tuesday, the board voted to reinstate five of the teachers and several programs, including art, music and middle school band. Officials also announced the board is planning to reinstate eight more teachers and continue funding the media center directors at Raymond Benson Primary School and Elmer H. Franzen Intermediate School.

"The goal is to have a balanced budget and provide our students with an outstanding education with our existing staff and programs," Superintendent Marcia Tornatore said. "But now we have to work our way through that process, analyzing our budget and what we can do to afford the programs."

To help the district, a group of parents has been collecting donations throughout the community. On Tuesday, the parents gave the district about $57,000. The Itasca Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization also has pledged an additional $11,000.

"It's amazing," Tornatore said. "I've never seen such an outpour of commitment toward the school district."

Wolfe, however, said the parents who donated money want all of the programs to be saved.

District officials still plan to eliminate fifth-grade band and three middle school programs -- foreign language, industrial technology, and family and consumer science. In addition, funding would be eliminated for the media center director at F.E. Peacock Middle School.

"We understand that the administration ultimately has authority to spend the (donated) money the way that they want," Wolfe said. "In good faith, we provided this money to work with the administration to reinstate all of our programs and reinstate all of our teachers -- not to cherry-pick."

District officials say the budget crisis was caused in part by decreased state and federal funding. The situation forced them to dip into the district's reserve cash this year to deal with a significant shortfall.

Some parents are suggesting that the district spend more reserve cash next year. They also want officials to consider increasing registration and busing fees to generate additional revenue.

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