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District 300 lays off support staff
By Jameel Naqvi | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/4/2010 10:49 AM

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Community Unit District 300 has laid off 33 support staff members in a bid to balance the 2010-11 budget.

The layoffs stem from the District 300 school board's vote earlier this spring to cut $4.6 million from next year's budget. The board had to take another series of votes to lay off specific employees.

"The cuts have been identified earlier but not formally approved," board member Dave Alessio said before Thursday's meeting. "This is more like the final step."

Affected employees are members of the District 300 Education Support Association, which represents paraprofessionals (teacher aides), as well as the District 300 Education Services Personnel Association, which includes secretaries and custodians.

After the board's vote on Thursday, 21 paraeducators, eight custodians and four secretaries will lose their jobs. That's on top of more than 100 teachers who were laid off earlier this year.

The latest round of staff cuts was pushed to Thursday's special board meeting after the board originally planned to vote on the measure on May 24. Board members said the vote was moved because not all of the affected employees had been notified.

Still, the district's decision to wait almost until the end of the school year drew some criticism from Karen Plaza, a longtime parent volunteer who the board picked to fill John Ryan's vacant seat on Thursday.

"To be deciding in June which aides are going to have jobs next year ... is very late in the process," said Plaza, herself a former teacher aide in District 300. "The employees are in limbo for so long. The district can't plan for the future."

Board members noted before Thursday's meeting that unlike with teachers, the district does not have an early deadline to notify support staffers they will not be retained next year.

Although the new school year technically begins less than a month from now on July 1, staffing decisions still have not been finalized.

While two separate votes to lay off the support staff passed unanimously on Thursday (one for each union), a third measure to cut some nonunion support staff was pulled off the agenda because the administration needed to do more work on it, board President Joe Stevens said.

In all, the board was hoping to slash $15 million from next year's budget. Board members say they probably won't reach that goal, however, because the district was not able to achieve enough savings through recently concluded negotiations with the district's teachers union.