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School board splits on hiring more staff : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
School board splits on hiring more staff
Approve 19.1 more teachers; defeat motion for additional hires

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Oswego School District Board members voted unanimously Monday evening to hire 19.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers and two nurses, as recommended previously by the school district administration.

But in a separate 4-3 vote, the board rejected a motion to hire the equivalent of 4.5 full-time teachers for the district's academically talented (AT) program, a .6 FTE speech pathologist and 1.4 FTE elementary school assistant principals, as recommended by the administration.

On May 7, board members heard a detailed request from John Sparlin, Executive Director for Administrative Services, for the board to hire 19 additional teachers for the 2013-14 school year at an estimated cost of $1,049,120.

At that time there were few questions from the board, but when the request came up for a board vote Monday, it started a discussion that went on more than an hour before finally being divided into two motions and two divided votes.

In addition to hiring the 19 teachers, Sparlin recommended the board approve hiring 3.6 general education teachers at a cost of $190,800; three English Language Learners-English as a Second Language (ELL-ESL) teachers for $159,000; 4.5 FTE academically talented teachers for $238,500; for special education teachers for $212,000; .6 FTE speech pathologist for $31,800; two nurses for $106,000; and 1.4 FTE elementary assistant principals for $111,020.

Sparlin noted the administration is recommending the additional hires to help keep up with district's increasing enrollment. A consultant for the district has estimated the district will gain an additional 412 students for the 2013-14 school year.

He told board members at the May 7 meeting that the hiring plan was a collaborative effort between central office personnel, principals, department chairs and guidance counselors.

"They evaluated the staffing needs through meetings with principals and directors of special programming areas. Also, additional group level staffing meetings were held with principals to balance staff needs and class sizes," Sparlin said, adding, "Our goal was to maximize the use of the current staff, be more efficient and balance class sizes throughout the district to provide the best learning environment for the students."

During the board's discussion there was a question about the addition of AT teachers.

Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt said the district's 8.5 FTE AT teachers presently have more than 700 students, giving the district a ratio of one teacher for every 85 students. Based on the projected increased enrollment for next year, he said the ratio will climb to one teacher for every 990 students.

Adding 4.5 teachers would give the district 13 for next year, allowing them to have one AT teacher in each elementary school.

Wendt noted they also wanted to hire 12.5 FTE custodial employees for $425,000; four maintenance/grounds employees for $208,000; and two other full-time employees for $130,000, but agreed to hold off on those hires until next month.

However, board member Greg O'Neil questioned the amount being spent and also asked how they could hire a "partial" teacher. Wendt said partial hires are part-time teachers who do not work full-time in any school. Some of them spend only a small amount of time at more than one school, he added.

O'Neil also said he noticed teachers were being hired for crowded classrooms in some schools while other schools had space for additional students in the same grade levels.

When O'Neil asked about hiring more teacher's aides in place of full-time teachers, Wendt noted the district presently spends about $3 million on teacher's aides district-wide, adding that many of them are for special needs students.

O'Neil said they should not divide classes of 30 or so students into two classes, but they could increase class sizes into the mid-30s by assigning aides to help the full-time teachers.

There was talk of delaying the hiring of the teachers, but Board President Bill Walsh said, "I think we have to vote on it tonight because those teachers are getting other jobs."

Board member Brent Lightfoot agreed they need to proceed with hiring teachers, but said he was "not fully convinced on some of these areas and I am adamantly opposed to adding the additional assistant principals to bring each school up to having a full-time assistant. I'm totally against it."

Lightfoot noted other positions on the list could be delayed and said he would make a motion to divide the positions into two motions.

He then made a motion to approve the general education, ELL-ESL and special education teachers. He said they should postpone action on the other hires until a later date.

O'Neil made a motion to approve the three groups outlined by Lightfoot and table action on the other positions to a later date, but was told they would have to modify the original motion to approve all the new jobs.

Walsh said there already was a motion to modify the original motion and he said it was "ridiculous to do this."

Walsh noted that by waiting the district will lose talented people to other districts.

"That's why the timing stinks. If we don't have the money then we cut a sports program," he said.

Board member Mike McDowell said he was not opposed to the 4.5 FTE academically talented teachers. He said he does not know what their workday entailed.

Board member Ali Swanson asked if tabling the motion for two weeks would give the board enough to talk to the administration. But her suggestion met resistance from other board members who said they should go ahead and vote on the motion.

A motion to modify the original motion to hire all 19.1 FTE teachers, passed by a 6-1 vote with Walsh casting the dissenting vote.

After more discussion, another motion was made to approve hiring the general education teachers, ELL-ESL teachers, special education teachers, and the nurses. It passed unanimously.

The last motion was to table the motion to hire the AT teachers, the speech pathologists and the elementary assistant principals. It lost by a 4-3 vote with O'Neil, Swanson, Walsh and Mike McDowell voting no. Matt Bauman, Lightfoot and Danielle Paul voted in favor.

A motion by Lightfoot to table hiring of the AT teachers, speech pathologists and elementary assistant principals lost by a 4-3 vote with O'Neil, Swanson, Walsh and McDowell voting no.

A motion to have a vote on the hiring of these employees lost by a 5-2 vote, so the issue will be placed on the agenda for a board meeting in June.

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