Dist. 200 cuts irk parents, teachers

As Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 officials continue to develop a strategy to address a projected $8.6 million deficit in their 2010-2011 budget, a growing number of parents and teachers are voicing their opinions.

On Wednesday night, more than 130 people watched administrators publicly unveil a revised list of about $6.7 million in recommended cuts. Ultimately, it will be up to the school board members to decide how many of the reductions are needed to bring spending in line with revenue.

While a final decision won't happen until next month, Eric Trusty joined others Wednesday in expressing displeasure about the cost-reduction proposal.

"When you are talking about taking teachers away, that's pretty terrifying," Trusty said.

As part of the most recent version of the cost-reduction proposal, 20 full-time teaching positions would be eliminated at the elementary schools. That would save an estimated $1.2 million.

Another $1.5 million could be saved by eliminating 25 full-time teaching positions at the four middle schools. And $480,000 could be saved if eight full-time teaching positions are eliminated at the two high schools.

Officials acknowledge that cutting the teaching jobs would increase average class size at all grade levels and result in the elimination of kindergarten physical education and the PACE reading program in the elementary schools.

Other suggestions include reducing spending for high school athletics by $100,000 and eliminating activity bus routes to save $90,000.

Parent Keith Litavsky said he's concerned about a plan to eliminate several "B" sports teams at the middle schools to save $150,000. He said the change would negatively affect a large number of seventh- and eighth-grade girls who play on "B" teams for basketball and volleyball.

"I am not coming here asking for more programs," he said. "I am asking that you consider responsible spending."

Instead of cutting positions, parent Mary Ann Vitone said District 200 should freeze or lower the salaries of teachers and administrators to save money.

"This board has given out money we don't have year after year," the Wheaton resident said. "There is no more money to take. You have drained the well dry. What is the point of making cuts and then adding $1.5 million to $2 million back into deficit with salary increases?"

While the school board didn't address any comments directly on Wednesday, board member Rosemary Swanson said she appreciates all the feedback the district is getting.

"We need that kind of input to strengthen our thinking as we go down this process," Swanson said.

School board members are scheduled to vote on the final list of budget reductions during their March 24 meeting.