OPRF discipline audit shifts to case reviews

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Additional individual student discipline cases at Oak Park and River Forest High School will be reviewed by a state auditor after initial looks into how discipline is meted out at the school showed no evidence of unfairness.

The audit, begun in September, was first expected to take a broader, more statistics-based look at discipline. But Regional Office of Education Supt. Robert Ingraffia, who is conducting the audit, said last week that the annual statistical analysis of discipline at OPRF by Carl Spight obviated doing his own analysis.

"We didn't think there was any need to do that," Ingraffia said. "Dr. Spight's credentials are pretty good, to say the least. It seemed redundant to do that again."

Spight is a former head of APPLE, one of the two parent groups that called for the audit, and currently serves as OPRF's institutional researcher.

Satisfied with Spight's work, Ingraffia turned to looking at specific student discipline cases.

"If there's going to be a discrepancy, it's probably going to be in a case file where someone lodged a complaint," Ingraffia said.

His team reviewed approximately 35 specific case files last fall, and returned to the high school last week to access another 40 files and to develop a plan of which parents and teachers to ask to discuss certain student cases. The team is considering whether to review another 30 to 40 cases to bring the grand total reviewed to 100, Ingraffia said.

Ingraffia had planned to report on the audit in April. In February, Clifford Meacham of the Citizens Code of Conduct, the other parent group calling for the audit, wrote in a series of letters that an audit would be incomplete without looking at specific cases and interviewing specific parents and teachers.

Ingraffia said that was not what led him and his team to review more files, but that he takes direction from state Sen. Don Harmon and the other legislators who assigned the audit task to his office.

"Anyone can make suggestions," Ingraffia said.

Ingraffia plans to have a final report to the board before the end of the school year.

Amended budget up in May

District 200's 2004-05 budget will be amended officially in May to reflect actual costs of new contracts and other changes since the budget was approved last September.

Although most contracts gave raises higher than the 3.25 percent hike identified in the district's five-year projections, increased employee medical insurance payments and plan changes have offset the overall cost of salary packages, said Cheryl Witham, OPRF chief financial officer.

Changing plans decreased premiums approximately 7.75 percent, a savings shared by the district and employees.

Also upsetting the balance of the budget as originally adopted were special education costs in the areas of higher tuitions for special schools and hikes in contract services.

Special ed increases composed an estimated $262,000 of the $409,000 total increase in expenditures in the Education Fund over the original budget.

The district benefited from new revenue in the form of an $8,000 federal grant.

Board approves contracts

The board approved contracts with classified personnel (secretaries, teaching assistants, other assistants), division heads and administrators.

Classified personnel will receive 3 percent raises in each of the next five years of their contract. With step increases, that amounts to annual 5.5 percent raises.

The Building Administrative Team, which includes assistant superintendents and department directors, will receive 5.5 percent raises this year, and raises thereafter based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 2 percent, with maximum raises capped at 5 percent.

Division heads received raises on their stipends this year based on the 2003 CPI, or 1.9 percent, and will receive no other raises for the remainder of the three-year teachers' contract.

All bargaining units receive the same medical insurance package, paying 5 percent to 7 percent for single coverage, and 10 percent for family coverage.

Negotiations on the security personnel contract, which expires June 30, will begin soon, said Jason Edgecombe, assistant superintendent for human resources.

Board shocked by township budget

Board President Carlotta Lucchesi said she "just about had a stroke" when she read in the April 13 WEDNESDAY JOURNAL that the Cicero Township Trustees of Schools' preliminary budget sought an overall 19 percent hike.

"It's outrageous to the taxpayers of Oak Park," said Paul Wolfman, not only because the services the agency provides are duplicative, but because it will charge member districts like Dist. 200 for increased legal costs born by its efforts to stop OPRF from getting out of the arrangement.

"I think it's just absurd and ridiculous," Wolfman said.

Board member comments came at a finance committee meeting April 14.

The trustees of schools invests and distributes tax proceeds and holds title to school property for six districts in Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero.

Lucchesi said she would write a letter to the trustees of schools board and to state Sen. Don Harmon protesting the proposed increases.

Wolfman suggested asking District 97 to respond to the proposed increases, too.

?#34;Drew Carter

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