D65 approves reductions in arts and physical education

Manuel Rapada

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board approved “reductions in force” affecting 11 staff members in a vote March 26.

Six of the 11 cuts were made in the fine arts and physical education departments, said Jean Luft, president of teachers union District 65 Educators’ Council. She added that the other five employees were already aware they would leave D65 at the end of their one-year programs.

“These were positions that people came into it knowing that it was a one-year program,” Luft said. “It’s a little different than being laid off.”

The cuts passed as part of a consent agenda, a procedure in which school board members vote on proposals as a package rather than individually.

D65 communications director Pat Markham said the number of retirements D65 experienced this school year gave the district an opportunity to make “programmatic changes” without impacting a great number of staff. Before deciding on any changes, however, the district first needed to issue “reduction in force” notices to teachers, giving staff the proper notice required by the state school code, she added.

One change the district is considering involves increasing the amount of instructional time for fine arts teachers, Markham said, adding that fine arts teachers currently work fewer instructional hours than other teachers.

To protect employee privacy, personnel papers are usually not accessible to the public, Markham said. Luft declined to reveal the number of reductions in each department, saying it could reveal the identities of those cut.

Markham said the district can rehire the teachers as long as they have the necessary certification for an open position.

“If we have a retirement that we hadn’t anticipated, if we have a teacher move, those are all things that not only can happen but often do happen,” Markham said.

Luft said she is hopeful teachers will be asked to return in the fall. For now, she said the teachers’ union is monitoring staff schedules for the upcoming school year, which the district will finalize by July or August.

The arts program will not be affected by these staff reductions, Markham emphasized.

“They will have the same amount of art instruction as they had this year,” she said.

As the teachers union awaits the finalization of staff schedules, Luft said she also hopes fine arts will not be affected.

“We know the deep commitment in the community to the fine arts,” she said. “These teachers really believe in the fine arts and how important they are for children.”

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