School Board and NTFT Meet with Student Government

By Rozy Kanjee

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In an attempt to clear rumors regarding the restructuring plan, the School Board called an impromptu breakfast with the student government at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16. In response, the Niles Township Federation of Teachers met with student government representatives as well.

According to board president Bob Silverman, the board’s main goal is to make classes as efficient as possible by embedding necessary curriculum from the cut courses into existing courses. The first area Silverman spoke about was the Physical Welfare courses.

“No elective is being taken away from the curriculum but being improved to the highest level,” he said.

Silverman informed the students that instead of the current nine semester requirements for P.E., Health–as a stand alone course–will be eliminated and embedded into the sophomore P.E. curriculum. He said, this change would lead to more options in taking a P.E. elective such as dance or martial arts.

The Board also discussed the changes to the AS&T courses. Silverman explained that the board wants to embed classes that don’t have a dire need to be a sole class. This applies to child development birth to age 3, Business Management, S&E Marketing 2 other classes. According to Silverman, other eliminated classes had little to no enrollment and were decided to be cut from the curriculum. As a result, some AS&T classes will be discontinued because of low or no enrollment, while others, like a course in the Child Development sequence, will be discontinued and the content embedded in another child development course.

As a result of these changes, some teachers would be laid off, Silverman said because otherwise they would “sit around do nothing.” According to Silverman, the teachers who were released were not let go based on merit; instead these teachers were chosen based on least seniority per the NTFT union contract.

However, according to NTFT former president Steve Grossman, this explanation is inaccurate.

“It is based on school code,” he said.  “It says that if there is a riff of tenured teachers and, they are being let go not based on performance, non-tenured teachers are let go first and then tenured teachers, by seniority, are let go.”

According to Silverman, District 219 has the opportunity to academically exceed its neighboring schools. Niles schools’ ACT average is 21 while the neighboring schools’ avg is 23, he said. This also concurs with the OEPP (the amount of money the district spends per student), he said.

Seeing this statistic, Silverman said some of  the community does not agree with the fact that the OEPP is high (ranked 2nd in the state) and the ACT scores do not compare.

“To them it would not be compatible,” he said. “[They say] ‘why is this much amount of money being given when this is the result?’ It is the board’s responsibility to make decisions bases on efficiency.”

Grossman, however, said that the Board’s emphasis on the ACT and OEPP is a “misplaced concern.”

“As teachers, we take great pride in our schools, but the ACT is not a good measure of us,” he said. “The opportunities our students get, the quality of the people, not only teachers but students and staff, that’s what makes a good school.”

Grossman said he believes that the changes that the board wants can be made without losing tenured teachers. Even with the elimination of certain classes there are still teachers who don’t have to “sit around doing nothing.”

When the NTFT union met with the student government their main priority, according to Joe Edwards (NTFT vice president), was to answer remaining questions and help students understand where the union stands.

Edwards said he believes that electives help shape students’ career paths.

“[Electives] keep them in in high school and give incentive for them to go to post secondary school in an areas such as art, music, or design,” he said.

Senior class co-president Nicole Moy said, “We understand where the board is coming from, but then again we are really trying fight for the teachers’ jobs we really care for.”

Students have created the Facebook group called “To Save Coach LOU METALLO[‘s] JOB.” The union has been informed of this group, but Edwards said he believes that it will not do much to prevent the teachers from being laid off.