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District U-46 board approves layoffs for 1,037 employees
732 full-time teaching positions in the mix
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff

School District U46 board members listen as Board President Ken Kaczynski, center, addresses a crowd on Monday night in the auditorium at Elgin High School as part of a meeting where over 1,000 layoffs were approved.

 

Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

The crowd listens in the auditorium at Elgin High School on Monday night.

 

John Starks | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/15/2010 7:05 PM | Updated: 3/16/2010 2:13 PM

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    Ed. note: We chose to run the list of all 732 teachers laid off this week by Elgin Area School District U-46, not to embarrass anyone but to let parents and students know which of their favorite teachers may not be back next year. Here are the names of the those affected:

Roughly 25 percent of staff in the state's second largest school district are out of a job at the end of the school year.

With a mounting deficit and anticipated cuts to state funding, the Elgin Area School District U-46 board approved layoffs for 1,037 employees Monday night - the most in decades.

That include all first-, second- and third-year teachers, as well as tenured teachers across various departments.

Along with employees, the cuts will hit students in the 41,000-student district hard next year. With fewer teachers, nurses and librarians, class sizes will shoot up, and opportunities for sports and the arts will be significantly reduced. Woodland Heights Early Childhood Center in Streamwood will close its doors.

"As I've sat on this board, we've often described the evolution of public education," board President Ken Kaczynski said, his voice breaking. "School districts across this state are now taking a step back. Next year, our district won't look like it did today."

The 7 p.m. meeting, moved to the Elgin High School auditorium for space, had a standing-room-only crowd.

Public comments about the cuts lasted past 9 p.m.

If state funding is reduced, U-46 expects next year's deficit to be $44 million.

Just shy of $29 million in cuts, including layoffs, can be made without renegotiating union contracts. District officials hope to negotiate another $10.5 million, Chief Financial Officer Ron Ally has said. Negotiations

The layoffs break down into 732 full-time teaching positions; 106 secretarial positions, 121 educational assistants; 54 transportation workers; and 24 administrators and nonunion employees. The board will vote on 21 custodial layoffs and 21 food service layoffs at a later meeting, bringing the total number to 1,079.

The education world's term for these layoffs, a reduction in force (RIF), means the district will operate with significantly fewer employees next year. Positions will be restored only if additional money flows in. These cuts come just a year after U-46 eliminated 348 full-time positions.

The district is laying off more people than necessary to pad itself against state cuts, and plans to bring some staff back if funding improves. If state funding were to remain level, officials said, only 407 positions - 314 of them teachers - would have to be eliminated.

With teacher layoffs, the district has done what it calls a "targeted RIF" - determining how many positions it will need in certain departments, and then cutting in those departments by seniority. Senior teachers with multiple teaching certificates can get slotted into new departments, bumping newer, less experienced teachers.

That procedure didn't sit well with many parents and students who spoke out at Monday's meeting.

"It's a disturbing time in U-46," said Joe McCain, the parent of an Elgin and South Elgin High School student.

"At the end of it all, it's the fault of us all. Many of the employees laid off today are the ones working the hardest. ... I ask everyone is this how we want to decide who leads our children? By how long we've been here? How about we find the way to keep the right people in the right jobs," he said, receiving thunderous applause from the audience.

More than a dozen Elgin High School band and orchestra students turned out in support of Director Jonathan Bogue, cut after his third year at the school. Others spoke for Streamwood High School choral Director David Hain, and Bartlett High School speech coach Anthony Zoubek.

Hain, who is tenured, yet cut all the same, said Streamwood's blossoming music program will be decimated by layoffs, with all of its teachers pink slipped.

"Our (union) contract is more restrictive than anything else at this point," he said. "And you understand that. But it's still likely that someone less skilled than me is probably going to get my job next year."

Other individuals implored the board - and each other - to rally for a funding fix in Springfield.

"It is clear that the ... funding mechanism is irreparably broken," Elgin Teachers' Association Tim Davis said. "We must continually press our legislators to help solve the crisis in funding."

Next year, art, music and gym will be limited to 30-minute classes for elementary school students, and eliminated entirely for half-day kindergartners. Classes are currently being staffed at 28:1 for kindergarten through third grades, and 33:1 for fourth through sixth grades. Newcomer classrooms for students who have recently immigrated will be eliminated.

At the eight middle schools, guidance counselors will be eliminated, and the number of library hours will be cut, along with the football program.

U-46's five high schools will keep swimming pools open for just one semester next year. Assistant athletic directors will have to take on a teaching load.

The Teachers Association has encouraged teachers to wear pink today as a symbol of solidarity with those who are getting pink slipped.

Davis declined to comment on whether the 2,500-member union would take a pay cut in order to save jobs. "We'll be talking about salary at the bargaining table," he said.

Layoffs: Group asking teachers to wear pink as symbol of solidarity