Tag Archives: George Silfugarian

Citizens voice concerns over cuts

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—There’s no question about it—Kaneland’s proposed cuts are not making anyone happy.

Kaneland’s Citizens Advisory Committee members, mostly parents, told the administration their concerns during a meeting held at the high school last Thursday. Some, like Mark Weintraub and Monica Kellen, voiced strong opposition to the idea of larger classroom sizes.

Kellen, whose child will soon start kindergarten, said she is opposed to classrooms with 30 students in them, which would be the result of cutting an additional one to two teachers at the elementary school level.

“I can’t imagine what kind of learning environment that would be,” she said.

Some members, such as Patrick Crimmins and Weintraub, said they were opposed to cutting gifted teachers and folding the gifted program into the response to intervention program.

Other members focused on the proposed cuts to the various activities and clubs. Some, such as George Silfugarian, suggested that, rather than cut some of the sports activities, parents be asked to pay higher fees.

He said that in looking at other options for his children in the community, he found fees in other leagues of about $350. With Kaneland’s fees currently at $100, his suggestion was to raise them to $300.

“I’d just as soon have them play at Kaneland,” he said.

Suzanne Fahnestock told the administrative panel that she gets upset when she looks at activities, such as band for the fifth graders or the outdoor education trips to Loredo Taft, being cut.

She said that before the children have to miss out on these and other valuable opportunities in the areas of fine arts, music and sports, she would like to see salary cuts and more position cuts looked at more seriously.

“At the last referendum, I encouraged others to vote yes,” she said. “My sons are not going to benefit from the referendum I voted for.”

Some individuals asked if more administrative positions could be cut instead. Several mentioned salary freezes as a way out. Although the teachers’ salaries are part of a negotiated contract, freezing the wages of non-union employees would realize a savings of $175,000.

Silfugarian said that wage freezes of the non-union employees could serve to put pressure on the teachers to offer to do the same.

“Many of our taxpayers are in that same position,” he said, referring to district residents who have either experienced pay cuts or who have lost their jobs altogether.

In the meantime, the Kaneland Educators Association has said that the membership will take a vote on Friday on whether or not to re-negotiate the salary increases for next year (see related story).

Silfugarian and others suggested that the schools could ask parents to help out with more activities, rather than to eliminate them.

“Perhaps more of the parents are willing to help out so some of these activities don’t get cut,” he said.

Bev Taylor, a committee member who is also a teacher in another district, said she appreciated everything that had been said and she knows how tough the situation is.

However, she said she would not want to do anything that would cause teachers to want to leave the district.

“One of our goals in our strategic plan is to attract and keep our quality teachers,” she said. “I want to be careful about that. I’ve been here when we got good teachers, and they left after a year. That hurt us. I don’t want to lose the best.”

Taylor said she would much rather see a salary freeze than cuts in positions.

“There’s people behind those positions,” she said. “There’s families behind those positions. It’s a balancing act—fifth grade band versus freezing or making cuts. We are going to make difficult decisions.”

Board wants alternatives to current cuts

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—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.

“I see students taking a big impact, and not the administration or the teachers,” board member Ken Carter said. “I don’t see any salary freezes. Some groups are under contracts, but others are not.”

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.

“As a parent, I’m concerned with how (these cuts) are going to impact our culture … It won’t be the Kaneland I know,” 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.

“We fully anticipated this (the administration’s proposed cuts) would be the start of a community dialog,” Schuler said. “It’s a starting point for the discussion. You have to start somewhere.”

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.

“Let’s demonstrate to the children that we’re all in this together,” 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 Herald’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.

“We will have some hard choices to make,” School Board President Lisa Wiet said. “We need to do everything we can do to reduce the impact on our students … We need to keep the kids number one.”

Chamber invites community to golf, dinner at Bliss Creek

2009 Sugar Grove
Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Annual Golf Outing
Friday, July 10
Bliss Creek Golf Course
For more information, call
Executive Director Shari Baum at
(630) 466-7895
or visit sugargrovechamber.org
by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—The Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry is opening up participation in its annual golf outing and dinner to members of the community this year. The Friday, July 10, event will feature a round of golf at Bliss Creek Golf Course and/or dinner and a door prize.

A portion of the proceeds goes to three scholarships to students in the community, two $1,000 college scholarships and one $500 continuing education scholarship.

According to Chamber President George Silfugarian, the chamber is looking for ways to promote communication and contact between the business community and the rest of the community. The open registration is one way the chamber hopes to accomplish this.

Chamber Director Shari Baum said the chamber will accept registrations for golf and/or dinner until Wednesday, July 8.

Chamber director loves community, job

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Director Shari Baum understands the role of independently owned businesses within a community and the importance of supporting them.

When she was first married, Baum managed the administration of her husband’s Aurora-based business, Baum Sign Co. More recently, she managed the office of the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation (EDC) while providing accounting and administrative support for the chamber.

When the EDC office closed in early 2009, Baum said she was approached by the Chamber Board of Directors to take on the chamber’s first full-time position.

“It was a natural fit,” Chamber President George Silfugarian said. “She hit the ground running.”

Baum said one of her goals in working for the chamber is to bring Sugar Grove businesses and its community closer together. She said she found there are people in the community who do not know the village has a chamber of commerce.

“I want to let people know about us and what we can do for them,” she said. “I firmly believe in promoting Chamber of Commerce members to the community and providing them with advertising opportunities,” she said.

She said the chamber recently worked with a Yorkville-based publishing company to create a brochure promoting the businesses and other organizations within the community. The chamber also works with the Home Pages to ensure chamber businesses are listed. A new Sugar Grove map will be available soon.

Baum said the most rewarding part of her job is to help obtain answers for people when they call with questions. If she doesn’t know the answer, she will find them someone who does.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than not getting answers,” she said.

Baum and her family have lived in Sugar Grove Township for more than 30 years. She is an unabashed cheerleader for Sugar Grove. She said it is a wonderful community that offers its residents many benefits. Good schools, a low crime rate, a great library and park district, beautiful open space, bike trails and easy access to surrounding communities are only part of the picture.

“Neighbors are friends and the community works together,” she said. “Sugar Grove is blessed to have many volunteers that work hard to improve and enhance the quality of life for the community. The residents support community business, programs and events.”

Shari Baum, Executive Director
Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce & Industry
(630) 466-7895