Fourteen teachers at the Proviso Math and Science Academy will be losing their jobs when the school year ends in June as the Proviso Township High School District 209 voted 5-1 last week to lay off 58 teachers, or nearly 18 percent of its total teaching force. However some of the teachers being let go could be hired back over the summer if state aid to the district is not as severely reduced as anticipated.
All the teachers being released at the end of the school year are non-tenured teachers. By state law school districts must give teachers at least 45 days notice of an impending layoff.
Twenty of the teachers being let go are being released because of poor performance while the other 38 teachers are being released as a cost cutting move given the uncertainty about the level of state aid next year said Chris Welch, president of the District 209 school board.
“The first criteria was performance,” Welch said. “There were some non-tenured teachers, we believe the number was 20 non-tenured teachers, who were released for performance based reasons. Those are the types of people we would let go this time of year anyway.”
Superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart released a press release explaining the decision to release so many teachers.
“Based upon the current state of the economy, the uncertainty of school funding and the need to maximize our limited resources to target student needs, we are forced to make these cuts as a fiscally responsible measure,” Collins-Hart said in the press release. “These dismissals will allow resources to be used in areas where the monies will realize the greatest impact while trimming the overall district budget. If the district determines there is a need for more teachers, and funding is available, some individuals who are being honorably dismissed may be called back to service.”
The teachers who are being released all have less than five years experience working in District 209.
Board member Theresa Kelly cast the only vote opposing the motion to release the teachers. She said that she worries about the impact on learning from cutting so many teachers.
“We’re already at the bottom of the totem pole as far as academics,” Kelly said. “I think if anything we should be looking at smaller class sizes and trying to utilize some of these teachers to help us bring up our scores.”
Proviso Teachers Union president Mona Johnson said she was surprised and disappointed by the school board’s decision to release so many teachers.
“We were under the impression all along that it was going to be 20 teachers, clearly not 58,” Johnson said. “That’s devastating. They didn’t consult with the union. We knew nothing about this.”
According to Johnson 14 of the released teachers work at Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park, 23 work at Proviso West, and 21 at Proviso East.
Some of the teachers let go could be rehired if state funding cuts are not as severe as anticipated said Jim Popernik, the chairman of Financial Oversight Panel appointed by the state government to monitor District 209’s finances.
“It could very well be that half, or more than half, of those people could be recalled depending on what happens with the state,” Popernik said. “The next five or six months will be very telling. We’ll have answers before the school year starts so some of this is a preemptive kind of thing. We’ve got to do it to protect ourselves.”