Some members of the Lemont-Bromberek School District 113A Board of Education would like to revisit the issue of reducing class sizes in district schools by hiring five to 10 additional teachers at the start of the next school year.
Following a financial plan update by Superintendent Susan Birkenmaier Tuesday night, board members entered into a spirited discussion of how the district could accomplish the goal of reducing class sizes while remaining true to its financial plan.
In April, the school board voted unanimously to approve a certified staffing plan that would include no additional hires for the 2012-13 school year. An option considered at the time – to use a portion of the savings from the salaries of retirees to hire five additional teachers – was tabled by the board.
But while the district remains under financial oversight by the Illinois State Board of Education, it’s not clear when – or if – the state board will allow District 113A to add to its teaching staff. Any changes to the district’s staffing plan would require an update to the district’s financial plan, which must also be approved by the ISBE.
The board of education recently approved a tentative budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that projects an estimated surplus of $2.4 million. But with the budget currently on display and set to be approved by the board following a public hearing Sept. 18, the clock is ticking.
“No matter how we look at it, unless we want to keep the class sizes the way they are, we need to amend the plan,” said board member Al Malley.
Board member Mike Aurelio urged fellow board members to begin planning for the addition of new teachers – with input from district administrators and scrutiny by the board’s financial committee.
“It just gives you the freedom,” Aurelio said. “We will have the latitude to make a decision later. If they (the ISBE) thinks it’s reckless, they would just tell you no.”
“I just want to make sure we are covered for next year,” said board member Cindy Kelly. “We need to make sure we get these OKs (to hire new teachers) in before the start of the next school year.”
But board member Kevin Doherty expressed concern about planning to spend any additional money, even for hiring new teachers.
“For the record, if you want to cut it close, that’s fine,” Doherty said. “But I want it on the record that I object to that.”
Birkenmaier told board members that in recent discussions with ISBE representatives, the state board had not really given “any clear indication” whether the district would be approved to hire additional teachers. The superintendent said the board may have options to submit a new financial plan that includes five additional teachers – and amend its budget, as long as the changes remain under 10 percent of the total budget amount.
In an interview with Patch on Wednesday, Birkenmaier explained that Illinois school code requires school districts to adopt their final budgets by the last day of September.
“We are currently under financial oversight by the ISBE,” Birkenmaier said. “We had to create a financial plan that indicated how we were going to restore our financial stability. We said to the state, ‘Here’s our plan; here’s how we plan to recover.’ ”
"We had some retiring teachers (at the end of the last school year), so the question by the board was, can we take those savings and hire some additional teachers?”
At the conclusion of the board’s discussion Tuesday, the superintendent asked Barbara Germany, the district’s business manager, to prepare a revised budget and financial plan in the next couple of weeks that include the hiring of five additional teachers for next year.
The revised budget would be examined by the district’s financial committee, then sent to the ISBE for comparison to District 113A’s financial plan, and ultimately, state board approval.
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