School District 54 presented its proposed staffing plan to the School Board during the March 3, 2011, board meeting. After the presentation, 15 individuals spoke up against the plan, the majority of who were concerned about changes to the art, music and PE program at the district’s 21 elementary schools.
Following the comments, Superintendent Ed Rafferty responded to their concerns stating first and foremost that District 54 and the District 54 School Board maintain a strong commitment to the fine arts and physical education instruction in our schools. We believe that instruction in the fine arts and PE is essential to providing our students with well-rounded learning experiences important to educating the whole child.
There are no plans to eliminate or reduce the amount of instructional time our students receive in art, music and PE. On the contrary, two years ago the amount of art instruction was increased from 40 to 60 minutes per week. Students will continue to receive 60 minutes of art, music and PE at the elementary schools each week. The fine arts and PE instructional program at the elementary schools, junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie will remain the same.
The proposed staffing plan calls for the reduction of the 19 non-tenured elementary and junior high fine arts and PE teachers. All tenured fine arts and PE teachers will be assigned full-time teaching positions in their respective areas. The remaining openings in the fine arts and PE would be filled with part-time teachers, with the total hours of work based on the student enrollment of individual schools. Currently our schools range in size from 12 classes to 24 classes. Released non-tenured teachers would be given priority in interviewing for these remaining part-time openings.
Under the new structure, each school will have one art teacher, one music teacher and one PE teacher dedicated to the students at that school, for a total of 21 art, 21 music and 21 PE teachers. Our schools currently have anywhere from three to nine specials teachers (art, music and PE) assigned to their building. For years, fine arts and PE teachers have traveled between schools because most of our elementary schools aren’t large enough to support a full-time art, music or PE teacher. Per contract, the district pays for 30 minutes of travel time when a teacher travels between buildings.
This proposed change was made to improve the educational opportunities for students.
First, it will allow principals to develop a building schedule, where classroom teachers have blocks of time to plan together. District 54 has embraced a Professional Learning Community (PLC) philosophy. Teachers work together to plan for instruction, determine how they are going to assess student learning and then evaluate the results of those assessments to determine whether students have learned the concepts being taught. When teachers work together as a team, all students are better served because teachers who are strong in one area of instruction support the other members of their team. Principals who shared their PE and fine arts teachers with other schools have had a difficult time scheduling planning periods for their teacher teams (PLCs). As a matter of fact, many of our schools have a difficult time even scheduling uninterrupted blocks of teaching time for literacy, math, science, social studies, interventions and enrichments.
Second, the change would have a direct impact on students. Currently, at the schools that have multiple fine arts and PE teachers, a student could have one PE teacher one day and another PE teacher the next day (for example).
Those speaking at the meeting expressed concerns that District 54 would not be able to attract quality part-time teachers who would have the desire to remain with the district or the time to commit to participating in extracurricular activities and establishing relationships with the students and families at the school. Superintendent Rafferty responded that District 54 currently employs 66 dedicated, high-quality, part-time employees.
The teachers union (SEA) has presented an alternative plan to the administration that called for having any position over four full days be full-time. Additional responsibilities would be found for the art, music and PE teacher who worked less than five full days, such as literacy support, math intervention, mentoring, etc.
Due to the fact that we are not letting any tenured teachers go, next year we will have 10 schools structured in the way that the SEA proposed. The plan is to work with each of the departments to create a list of special duties that can be provided so these tenured teachers would then have a full-time job. In the remaining 11 elementary schools, the proposal that the administration is recommending can be implemented. Over the next several years, we can monitor the impact of the two different proposals and make any changes/adjustments that are indicated. Superintendent Rafferty said there are music teachers certified to teach instrumental music and art teachers with ESL endorsements who could fulfill that need in a building.
We cannot recommend implementing this idea in all 21 of our elementary schools. We intentionally staff our schools with support personnel trained and certified to support students according to instructional needs. For example, if our schools have been in need of additional reading support we have hired reading specialists and literacy coaches to provide these services. Further, given the range of the sizes of our schools, this proposal would further contribute to inequities of “special duty” time available. Schools big enough to warrant a full-time specialist would not have any “special duty time” – nor would any schools with fewer that 18 sections. Additionally, paying employees a full-time salary to complete “special duties” assignments that may not align with our true instructional needs would be fiscally irresponsible.
Although most people spoke about the fine arts and PE portion of the staffing plan, the plan also had many other components. The first piece of the proposed staffing plan is projecting the number of District 54 students. The 2011-12 projected enrollment is 13,605 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, a drop from 13,680 this year. The administration believes it is financially prudent to recommend a staffing plan that calls for the elimination of 13 classroom positions (11 at the elementary level), three special education positions and four administrator positions. Average class size in the district would remain at 23 students. District 54 monitors enrollment during the summer and will add staff as necessary.
District 54 would also release 15 early childhood teachers, six child and family educator positions and 17 early childhood assistants due to the financial uncertainty of state funding in this area. District 54 is also recommending the reduction of 39 special education assistant positions, based in part on a decrease in the number of students requiring special education services.
District 54 is also recommending the addition of 8.5 bilingual resource teachers and a decrease of 9 bilingual assistant positions in line with the changes made this year to the bilingual program. All bilingual students now attend their neighborhood school and receive support through a resource model. District 54 strives to have an average ratio of 20 students assigned to every bilingual resource teacher.
Two individuals from other districts who spoke at the March 3 meeting mentioned the elimination of foreign language programs. There is no proposal to eliminate foreign language in District 54. The staffing plan calls for an increase in the number of dual language classes, as well as a new Chinese immersion program at Campanelli. There has been a decrease in the number of French classes offered at District 54 middle schools due to the decrease in the number of students choosing that elective class.
By clicking on the link below, you will be directed to another website with a list of questions that have been asked about the proposed staffing plan, as well as the answers. Anyone with additional questions should feel free to contact Superintendent Ed Rafferty or assistant superintendents Andy DuRoss (human resources) and Nick Myers (student learning). They can be reached at the main district number (847) 357-5000.
Fine Arts and PE Staffing Frequently Asked Questions