U-46 teachers union president 'surprised' by high layoff numbers

  • The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board this week authorized the dismissal of 263 teachers at the end of this school year. Nearly 200 of those teachers are expected to be recalled, district officials said.

    The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board this week authorized the dismissal of 263 teachers at the end of this school year. Nearly 200 of those teachers are expected to be recalled, district officials said. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/17/2015 8:06 PM

The mood was somber Tuesday as hundreds of Elgin Area School District U-46 teachers and employees were notified of their impending dismissal at the end of the school year.

The school board Monday night authorized reductions-in-force of 263 mostly nontenured teachers; nonrenewal of contracts for 16 first-, second- and third-year probationary teachers; dismissal of three unionized and 229 nonunion support staff members; and the elimination of six grant-funded support positions and two administrative positions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was surprised and disappointed by the large number," said Kathy Castle, president of the Elgin Teachers Association comprising nearly 2,500 members.

District officials expect roughly 200 teachers will be recalled for next school year, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Melanie Meidel said.

Yet, exactly how many teachers will be saved from layoffs has not been confirmed, Castle said.

"I know that there is a variety of things that are driving this, some of them within the district's control and some not within the district's control," she said. "For the members, it's a very frustrating and difficult process to manage. My membership right now is exhausted between the attacks from the state level and political level, to PARCC (state standardized) testing, and now this. Teachers are doing their best to stay focused on the classroom instruction in this very difficult time."

By law, school districts must inform employees of reductions-in-force as early as 75 days and as late as 45 days before the end of the school year.

Castle said the last five years have been a challenge for U-46 teachers.

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In 2010, U-46 laid off more than 1,000 employees, including roughly 700 teachers, because of a mounting deficit and looming state budget cuts.

Officials said the latest reductions are necessary in part due to declining enrollments and expansion of the district's dual language program, but they stressed staffing standards are being maintained for the 2015-2016 school year. Teachers were targeted based on approval ratings and years of service.

Castle said in the past two years the district's human resources department has made a "tremendous effort" to be upfront about impending layoffs.

"Everybody is trying to work through it," Meidel said. "The teachers are very understanding. We are trying to do as much as we can in collaboration with the ETA."

Some support staff members facing dismissal also could be recalled, though how many will not be determined until after the classroom configuration is finalized for next school year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The two administrative coordinators whose positions were eliminated -- for instructional technology, and leadership development and professional growth -- likely will be reassigned, Meidel said.

The administration also plans to hire 27 additional bilingual teachers to meet the demands of the growing dual language and bilingual programs.

School principals have until Friday to finalize any staffing transfers within their buildings. Teachers not targeted for dismissal can apply for open positions starting next week and before recalls begin April 24.

"We'll try to focus on the good ... on the people that are able to come back," Castle said. "I don't think parents and the community should expect that there are any problems at the sites."

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