Calling it the “biggest drop in attendance in six years,” Forest Park District 91 Supt. Lou Cavallo told the school board that the district lost roughly 50 students between 2011 and 2012.

The district enrollment fell to 814 students at the beginning of the school year from 863 this time last year. The district lost 26 K-2 students. Grades 3-5 lost six students. The Forest Park Middle School lost 16 students. Pre-kindergarten student enrollment remained stable this year.

According to district documents, since 2004, the entire system enrollment, K-8, has fallen 20 percent from a high of 1,014. Between 2005 and 2006, enrollment in the elementary grades (K-5) fell by 78 students. After grades were consolidated at schools in 2009-2010, enrollment rose to more than 890 students, then dropped off again in the past two years.

Cavallo told the board he would ask for transfer data from individual schools to try to find out which districts students were transferring into. The district will pay for another demographic study to try to predict future enrollment trends.

Transportation/Betsy Ross addition

Cavallo said the drop in enrollment called into question the necessity of five school buses and drivers for a school district so small. The district is ineligible for state transportation funding because of its size. He said the district will do a bus-rider head count and determine whether busing will be cut or eliminated.

Cavallo said because all five buses are in use and the district is down one bus driver, D91 must pay $332 per day to pay a private driver to take one special-needs child to district-paid therapy out of town. “Those children get services under the law,” he said.

Cavallo also said the enrollment trends might affect the feasibility of an addition on Betsy Ross school. “It’s a hard sell to a community to do an addition on a building with declining enrollment,” he said.

Administrative salaries

Supt. Cavallo will earn a base salary of $188,349 this year. In addition, the district will pay $19,542 in pension contributions for the superintendent, along with an annuity of $4,800.

Asst. Supt. Ed Brophy will earn a base salary of $122,815 and Rose Gronko, director of Student Services, will get a base salary of $107,461. The district will also pay their pension contributions, amounting to $12,742 and $11,149, respectively.

Grant-White School Principal Wendy Trotter earns $121,400 this year. Because she is retiring in 2014 and gave two years’ notice, Trotter will receive a 6-percent base salary increase during her final two years in the district.

Garfield School Principal Jamie Stauder will receive $109,288; new Field-Stevenson School Principal Tiffany Brunson will earn $115,000.

William Milnamow, Betsy Ross School principal, will get $112,000. At Forest Park Middle School, Principal Karen Bukowski will receive $116,708, and Assistant Principal Michelle Gossett will be paid $69,861.

Administrators are re-hired annually and are not union members. D91 and the teachers union signed a three-year contract in February.

Special ed cooperative may dissolve

A cooperative of local school districts – including Forest Park District 91 and River Forest District 90 – which share special education resources and assist with federal grants may vote to dissolve next month.

The Federation of Districts for Special Education (FDSE) has existed since 1983, housed in the North Berwyn School District 98 administrative offices at 16th and Wesley.

Supt. Cavallo told the D91 school board a dispute over a pension for a retiring secretary caused the participating superintendents to balk and question whether the organization has outlived its usefulness.

“She was recommended for retirement benefits that were quite a bit more than most member districts provide for similar employees. [Superintendents] objected to that,” Cavallo said Thursday.

But FDSE Acting Director Robert Giles disputed that account. He said he asked the district administrators whether the FDSE had outlived its usefulness.

“I’m retiring, she’s retiring and we’re losing our lease at the North Berwyn School District,” he said, adding that best practices for special education are now the norm in local school districts. These include the “response to intervention” student data model, classroom inclusion for special education students, the “least restrictive environment” guidelines and an increase in co-teaching.

“I told [the superintendents] we way not need to be part of a cooperative. That’s their decision to make.”

FDSE is a “flow through” agency that assists with grants for federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) dollars. They also provide teacher trainings.

“We do not expect a direct impact on children if FDSE were to disband,” said D90 Supt. Ed Condon, noting that River Forest participated in every training offered by FDSE and that the cooperative was useful for technical assistance in writing IDEA grants. Other school districts in the co-op are North Berwyn D98, District 99 in Cicero, District 100 in South Berwyn and Morton High School District 201. Each of six member districts pays $21,000 to FDSE.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...