By Terry Dean
More than 50 certified staff, including classroom teachers, in Oak Park Elementary School District 97 will lose their jobs come June if the tax rate hike referendum the district plans to run on April 5 fails.
The $48 million referendum was approved last month, along with the proposed cuts to staff and programs. Those will take effect in the 2011-2012 school year if the April ballot question is rejected by Oak Park voters.
As a legal requirement, the board of education has to take a separate vote concerning specific personnel reductions. That will take place at two regular meetings next month, March 8 and 22. Written notices will then begin going out to a total of 56 staff members, including tenured and non-tenured classroom teachers, school building secretaries, and administrative support staff.
District administrative leaders, however, will be meeting with those individuals in the next couple of weeks concerning what's to come, and prior to notices going out.
All nine foreign language teachers would be let go. The staffing reductions also include cutting the media specialists (or librarians) staff in half, from 10 to five individuals. Gifted and Talented instructors would also see their ranks cut in half, from 9.6 to 4.8. One secretarial position from each of the 10 schools would be eliminated. At the district's central office, one of its two clerical support positions in the superintendent's office would be eliminated, along with a handful of other central office positions.
The three-person staff at the Multicultural Department would also be let go, or possibly outsourced. In all, the total reductions, which include programs such as BRAVO and CAST, is nearly $6 million.
The Dist. 97 board will vote on certified teachers and administrators March 8 and support staff, including school secretaries, on March 22.
June 7 is the last day of school and would be the final day of work for those staff members. June 3 was originally the last day of school but was moved to the 7th in order to pick up the two lost snow days from the blizzard that closed schools earlier this month. Written notices for tenured teachers — who, per the Illinois School Code, reach that mark after working four full years in a school district — will receive a 60-day notice; for non-tenured teachers, it's a 45-day notice. Four tenured teachers will be receiving notices.
On Jan. 25, the Oak Park Teacher's Association agreed to a one-year salary freeze totaling $1 million. The request was put forth by Supt. Albert Roberts. With respect to the referendum's impact on property owners if approved, that will come to about $38 for every $1000 paid in property taxes.
Roberts has said the district will use the money from the referendum to improve classroom education. He's proposed spending millions to improve technology, and allocating money for some capital projects, including upgrades to school grounds. About a million dollars of cuts is expected to take place even if the referendum is approved, according to the superintendent.