SD 51 says goodbye to teachers; union seeks raise for next fall

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

Dreams of summer fun usually take over for students and teachers right about now, with the last day of school next week. But for some, it could be a very long summer.

School District 51 is getting ready to present its proposed budget to the school board next week, and to make it, budget positions are being cut this week. The presentation is on Tuesday, and the budget won't be finalized until June. But due to budget cuts, teachers across the district are finding out this week and next whether or not their jobs will be around come the 2012-2013 school year.

School District 51 has done it before, but that doesn't mean budget cuts get any easier over time.

"Over the past three years, [budget cuts have] been $28 million," school district's Christy McGee said. "Making cuts is not an ideal place where we want to be."

This week eight middle school gym teachers across District 51 found out their jobs would not be renewed for next year.

"We elected to cut [physical education] because we could still save the program," executive director of middle schools Mary Jones said.

Currently each middle school has two P.E. teachers. Had the middle schools cut elective programs with only one teacher, they would've cut the entire program.

"Overall P.E. classes will be higher but we're hoping to absorb and divide that by six or seven electives across the board," Jones said.

These teachers won't be alone. Teachers at every level, along with classified positions and even administrative positions, are on the chopping block this week.

"We're in a place where cuts are not going to not impact the classroom," McGee said.

But for those teachers who will keep their jobs, there is something to look forward to in the fall.

"We did look as a board and as the administration here and what we could do to restore some of [the salary money that has been cut from teachers]," school board president Greg Mikolai said.

The teachers union hasn't been able to negotiate a pay raise in three years, but for the 2012-13 school year, the school board factored in a pay raise to the overall budget. This means the district will not have to cut any additional money from its dwindling budget.

"We did come to an agreement and we will ratify that agreement hopefully on Tuesday," Mikolai said.

Those tenured teachers whose positions were cut will be given the opportunity to take another job in the school district, and McGee says they will try to keep teachers in their current schools if possible. Non-tenured teachers will have opportunities to apply for other open positions.

The teachers union met with the district administration and the school board for three and a half days earlier this month to negotiate the terms of its pay raise.

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