by Susan O’Neill
KANELANDâ€”The feedback from School Board members on the administration’s proposed cost reduction plan was clear: They want to see other options that don’t have such a big impact on the students.
â€œI see students taking a big impact, and not the administration or the teachers,â€ board member Ken Carter said. â€œI don’t see any salary freezes. Some groups are under contracts, but others are not.â€
With direction from the board to eliminate a $2.6 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year, the administration has been working with the various cost centers since November to come up with ways to make up for the shortfall the district will have next year.
The cuts, mainly in the form of reducing staff and eliminating clubs and activities and cutting back on some sports programs, were proposed in a general format at the last board meeting. More specifics were provided on Monday. The plan includes a reduction of 23 positions, including teachers, other positions and administrative personnel. When retirements and attrition are factored in, this represents letting go of 12 employees.
While the size of some classes in the elementary schools will increase with the current proposed cuts, the overall average class size of 23 to 24 students would not go up significantly. However, according to Associate Superintendent Jeff Schuler, any additional cuts in the teaching staff would have a significant impact on class size, increasing class sizes up to 30 students in some classrooms.
But the part of the plan that received the most criticism from a couple of board members was the proposed elimination of 11 clubs and the cuts to some of the sports and music programs. These cuts would effectively eliminate, among other things, the elementary band program, competitive sports at the middle school level, and leave fewer opportunities for students at the high school level to participate in sports programs.
â€œAs a parent, I’m concerned with how (these cuts) are going to impact our culture â€¦ It won’t be the Kaneland I know,â€ board member Deborah Grant said.
A community forum is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, directly after the regular board meeting. This forum is an opportunity for members of the community to ask questions of the administrative panel regarding specific budget items targeted for reduction. Community members are also encouraged to provide ideas or feedback about the plan, both during the forum and during the following week, using a format available on the Kaneland School District’s website, www.kaneland.org.
With the direction to come back with several scenarios, school officials decided to add another opportunity for the board to discuss the options. The board will meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 16, to discuss their reactions to the alternative options presented by the administration, as well as the feedback provided by the community.
â€œWe fully anticipated this (the administration’s proposed cuts) would be the start of a community dialog,â€ Schuler said. â€œIt’s a starting point for the discussion. You have to start somewhere.â€
Several parents had suggestions for the administration regarding the cuts on Monday.
Parent Ryan Delahantey said that he would like to encourage the administration and the Kaneland Education Association to get together and agree to salary freezes for the coming school year. The salary increases negotiated by the teachers union for the 2010-11 school year adds up to $1.2 million of the budget.
â€œLet’s demonstrate to the children that we’re all in this together,â€ he said.
According to Schuler, the administration has yet to receive a response from the Kaneland Education Association to a request for members to renegotiate the contracted increases for next year. The contract included salary increases for Kaneland teachers over a period of three years: 4.86 percent for last year, 6.21 percent for this year, and 5.6 percent for fiscal year 2010-11.
The Elburn Heraldâ€™s calls to Kaneland Education Association President Linda Zulkowski were not returned by press time.
Another parent and former board member, George Silfugarian, proposed that rather than make some of the cuts to the sports programs, that the board consider allowing parents to pay higher fees.
â€œWe will have some hard choices to make,â€ School Board President Lisa Wiet said. â€œWe need to do everything we can do to reduce the impact on our students â€¦ We need to keep the kids number one.â€