With a handful of faculty and staff members imploring the school board to reconsider a wave of holiday layoffs, District 209 board members voted Monday to reinstate 22 employees who received notice last week that they would be fired.
“The whole school depends on them,” Linda Daiberl, a guidance counselor at Proviso West, said. “The guidance department really depends on them.”
Daiberl addressed the issue in a letter she handed to board members as they retired into executive session. Her statement was not read aloud, but Daiberl said she was lobbying on behalf of one woman who had been at Proviso West for 20 years. Those 22 employees who received their termination notice earlier this month were to work their last day on Jan. 9, according to Superintendent Robert Libka.
As far as Daiberl knew, no reason was given for the termination.
At the start of the school year, Proviso Township high schools anticipated a $14 million deficit, forcing administrators and school board members to scramble for ways to cut spending. Those measures may have saved the district some $4 million, according to the latest financial report from the business office. But an unpopular buffet of unpaid furlough and staff reductions has drawn fire from the district’s unions, and was targeted by employees at the Dec. 17 board meeting.
“They need to know these things are affecting morale,” said Mona Johnson, president of the teachers’ union. “Every week it’s something else.”
As employees stood to state their grievances to the board, President Chris Welch alluded that the 22 secretaries and support staff employees would be reinstated. However, he publicly chided Johnson for her 11th hour appeal.
“Thank you Ms. Johnson. It’s nice to see you at a board meeting for the first time in months,” Welch said.
A bizarre vote to approve the school board’s agenda in its entirety saw no discussion on any matters, leaving it unclear exactly what had been done to assuage employees’ concerns. According to Libka new letters reinstating those employees will be issued immediately. Those positions will be funded by “major financial concessions” made by the support staff union, said Libka. The details of that agreement were not immediately available.
“It doesn’t solve our dilemma, but it moves us forward in the right direction,” Libka said.
The employee for whom Daiberl appealed to the board is among those who will be reinstated, according to the superintendent. Though she was pleased to see her co-workers returned to the schools, Daiberl questioned whether the terminations were simply a bargaining ploy.
“I wonder then, why the dismissal letters were sent out in the first place,” Daiberl said.