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Budget Cuts are 'Nightmarish' for Wildwood Elementary School

  District officials rejected Principal Mary Beth Cunat's offer to cut her salary to make up for the cuts.
Budget Cuts are 'Nightmarish' for Wildwood Elementary School
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EDGEBROOK — Wildwood Principal Mary Beth Cunat said Friday the cuts to next year's budget are a "nightmarish scenario" for the Edgebrook school, which is among the most overcrowded in the city.

Class sizes are almost certain to increase, and teachers may lose their positions, because of the cuts, which will be between $70,000 and $200,000, Cunat said.

"It is going to be really, really tough," Cunat said. "I am worried we are going to lose some rock-star teachers who would give their arms and legs for their students."

For the first time, CPS is allotting funds to the schools on a per-student basis. In previous years, schools received per-position, not per-student, funding from the district.

The new method of budgeting will give principals more flexibility and replace an outdated formula, CPS officials said.

Schools will receive $4,429 for every student in kindergarten through third grade and $4,140 for students in fourth through eighth grade.

Wildwood's situation is so dire Cunat asked district officials if the school at 6950 N. Hiawatha Ave. could avoid the cuts if she gave up a third of her salary, she said.

"I was told that money wouldn't go back to the school but just back into the district's administrative overhead fund," Cunat said. "That's not a solution."

The cuts mean the school has no money next year for textbooks, toilet paper or new technology, Cunat said. In addition, the school will no longer be able to hire retired teachers and parents to work with students who need extra attention or help, she said.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Cunat said. "I'm trying to rob Peter to pay Paul."

The cuts, which must be finalized by June 21, are "heart sickening" because there is no way they won't hurt the education students receive, Cunat said. Wildwood is ranked among the best public schools in Chicago by district officials.

"Our efforts at innovative teaching will be compromised," Cunat said.

Some teachers with less seniority may be bumped from their positions once the cuts are implemented, Cunat said.

In addition, rather than having two small second-grade classes, the school will likely be forced to keep all of the students together, Cunat said.

"I just don't think I can justify the expense with all of the other cuts," Cunat said.

On top of the budget crunch, Wildwood is also facing a space crunch. The school's "ideal capacity" is 240 students, but 420 students are enrolled, giving the school a utilization rate of 175 percent, according to CPS data.

Although Cunat was looking for space to move kindergarten students off campus, a short-term solution to turn Wildwood's library into three partitioned classrooms means that won't be necessary, she said.