Board’s Plan Calls for Cuts in Classes and Teachers

By Nick Goldwyn

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At the board meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, the Niles Township school board unanimously passed a restructuring plan, which would affect physical welfare classes as well as certain courses in the applied sciences and technology department.

The board, as it has done for the last three years, plans to cut teaching positions as well as some elective courses to prepare students for education after high school.

“The District tends to focus its efforts and resources on college readiness for every student,” as stated in the board’s 2011-12 restructuring plan.

The board’s plan for restructuring calls for health to be dropped as a stand-alone semester course and instead worked into the year-long curriculum of sophomore Physical Education.

“Embed health in the sophomore PE course, i.e., in lieu of in addition to the PE requirement,” as stated in the boards 2011-12 restructuring plan.

In the English department, juniors class choice will be cut from seven to four classes (only AlCUSH, honors AlC, GAW, and intro to ALCUSH will be offered).

The board also discussed downsizing Drivers Ed by 240 kids per year, and cutting certain applied science courses. Some of the courses being cut are Fashion Workshop 2, Interior Design (1 and 2), Consumer Auto, and Residential Wiring and Electronics.

The cuts the board discussed that caused the most controversy at the meeting pertained to child development. The board discussed cutting Child Development B-3 (the class in which students are taught to take care of children from birth to three years of age), and changing the double period of child development to a single period.

Although the Board approved all these changes already, there is still room for negotiation, according to Pankaj Sharma, who is the president of the Niles Township Federation of Teachers (the teachers’ union) and a social studies teacher at Niles North.

“This is not a done deal,” Sharma answered in an email.  “This is the Board’s proposal. Now the NTFT leadership will negotiate with the administration to protect what is best for our students, especially programs that help inspire our students to succeed in school. Sometimes it is an elective course that captures the imagination of a student, and we cannot lose sight of that.”

Principal Kaine Osburn said the Board’s intent is to ultimately help all students.

“The board’s primary purpose was not to cut or alter programs, per se,” Osburn wrote in an email.  “The board is continuing to fulfill its mission, which is its promise to the community that elected it.  The board’s mission is to create a student centered learning environment where every student can succeed, and its primary goal is to improve the academic achievement of every student.  The board must fulfill its mission in a fiscally responsible manner.  Thus, it is eliminating or de-emphasizing courses or programs that do not best fulfill the district mission. Then, the board is using much of the savings from those decisions to re-invest in courses and programs that better fulfill its mission.  This restructuring process must ultimately enable the district to remain solvent over the long term.  I am certain that the current re-structuring will result in long-term academic benefit for students and improved fiscal health for the district.”