LF Schools Put Nearly 100 Teachers On Notice

By Adrienne Fawcett

Lake Forest School District 67 is not renewing the contracts of 61 teachers, aids and other certified positions for the 2010-11 school year, and District 115 is not renewing about 40 contracts.
Thirteen of the District 67 jobs are held by by part-time staff members and the remaining 48 are positions held by first through third year, full-time, non-tenured staff. District 115, meanwhile, is not renewing 27 full-time, non-tenured teachers and aids and about a dozen part-time teachers and aids.

The reasons are similar to the issues next door in Lake Bluff District 65: declining revenues and declining enrollment. At the same time, District 67 has 18 tenured teachers on leave who have not yet informed the District about their plans to return to work.

Class sizes at Lake Forest High School are expected to increase slightly from an average of 19.3 students to 20.1 students, and classes with fewer than 12 students will be canceled and/or offered every other year rather than yearly. Classes with 12 to 15 students also may get cut, depending on how things shake out. 

GazeboNews talked with District 67 and District 115 Superintendent Harry Griffith at length to get the story, and the back story. 

Dr. Griffith said the number of non-renewed contracts at District 67 is significantly higher than last year’s 10, but it doesn’t mean the positions are being eliminated or that the non-tenured professionals won’t have jobs in the District come fall. He also said this isn’t a new scenario for District 67.  

Up until about four years ago, District 67 usually did not renew contracts of probationary staff as a matter of course. “This was the normal process for many years,” he said. “We would select which teachers we wanted to invite back, or we would open up other positions for teachers to re-apply, and we would open to recruiting. That became less and less of an issue because we significantly improved the recruiting process over last several years.” 

He conceded that this year’s non-renewal process is different from that of previous years. It’s driven in part by enrollment, which in District 67 is expected to decline about 7.5% over the next five years. Enrollment at LFHS over the next five years is expected to decline 5.5%. 

To illustrate the enrollment issues, Dr. Griffith cited next year’s fifth grade class at Deerpath Middle School; based on current enrollment it’s expected to be 38 students less than this year’s fifth grade. “Now, we have 12 fifth grade teachers, and next year we will have 11. That’s a reduction of a position to fit the enrollment. There has to be a reshuffling of the staff,” he said.

Another factor behind the non-renewed contracts is that there are fewer vacancies. Whereas District 67 for many years had 25 to 30 new hires every year, last year it had only 17 vacancies and there likely will be even fewer this year. Factor in the 18 tenured teachers out on leave; if

they come back, the schools need to find an appropriate job for them. “Because tenured teachers have first rights, that’s the way it works. So we want to make sure tenured staff fits in properly, and we’ll back-fill with non-tenured people. That’s why all the districts throughout the state are making sure the non-renewing probationaries go first–to account for the tenured staff and manage reduction of services or enrollment.” 

Dr. Griffith said District 67 expects to re-hire the majority of the teachers and aids. “We hope to have this finished in April. We know that six weeks from now we are going to invite more than a majority of non-renewed staff to come back, and we hope they do come back.”

GazeboNews asked if administrative jobs would also be affected. He said District 67 reduced its total staff last year by eight positions, two of which were full-time administrative positions. The board also agreed to freeze administrative salaries with the exception of retiring administrators. And he said that in 2010-11, the administration will lose one full-time position.

He also pointed out that the administration’s shared services with District 115 have resulted in close to $2 million cost savings in the past five years. The two districts share several administrative personnel, including the superintendent as well as the payroll clerk, personnel director, communications manager, comptroller and other posts. The staff members who accepted duel responsibilities received wage increases of 8% to 12%, he said, to compensate for the extra work load.

“I know that in my case, I am paid above average for my peers, but each school board is paying far less in actual costs because my compensation is divided in half,” he said. “They are paying less today for one superintendent than they did 10 years ago for two.”

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