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Lincoln Park HS Community Scrambling to Prevent Cuts

By Paul Biasco | June 19, 2013 9:35am
 Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St.
Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — Teachers, administrators and parents of Lincoln Park High School are scrambling to prevent imminent budget cuts they say will lower the school's quality of education.

On Tuesday night, the school's principal presented a series of options to cut $921,000 from last year's budget include getting rid of a dean, a number of teachers and possible non-classroom positions. Parents and staff could not agree on a solution.

There's less than a week to submit a balanced budget and things are getting frantic.

Teachers have agreed to stay after school to tutor students for free if it meant saving the position of a colleague, but that won't be enough.

Parents are calling for fundraising drives, some are calling for Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) to push for community support, and others are asking principal Michael Boraz to consider raising student fees to $300 per year.

Even if the fees were raised to $300 per year, the high school would still need to make changes to its school day, including removing workshops from freshmen schedules and eliminating a number of elective courses for seniors.

At Tuesday's LSC meeting, parents argued those two programs set the school apart and are a part of why Lincoln Park was named the 11th best high school in the state by U.S. News and World Report.

"The leadership of the city and the state are really reneging on every promise that’s ever been made to us and our kids," said local school council member Erica Wax. "There's a lot of talk about keeping middle class families in the city."

Dropping freshmen workshops and creating "senior seminars" with class-sizes of up to 100 students that would replace a number of senior year electives would mean five teachers would lose their jobs, according to Boraz.

Those changes, along with losing a second dean, would save the school $485,000. Proposed cuts to non-salary and overtime funds for expenses such as copiers, computers, sports equipment and afterschool tutoring amount to $314,200. But Boraz and the LSC would still need to cut another $121,800 to reach a balance.

"[The proposed cuts] make it about as real as it possibly can be," Ald. Smith said at Tuesday's meeting. "Some of these retard the progress of the school."

The freshmen workshops that are on the chopping block would be instrumental in the implementation of the wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate Program, according to Mary Enda Tookey, the high school's IB coordinator.

The highly touted move to a wall-to-wall IB program will be a slow three-year process, but Tookey said the school was banking on getting students started on their "personal projects" during the research classes during their freshman year.

As part of the program, students must submit their proposals by the end of their freshmen year.

CPS has agreed to cover fees associated with signing students up for the IB program, but is not providing any additional classroom support.

"Where is the support for that?" said Eileen Kavin, a parent representative on the LSC. "That was very exciting, to come out and announce, 'We are having an amazing middle-years program.'"

Additional cuts that Boraz and the LSC are considering to chop the remaining $120,000 (if the previous mentioned proposals are approved) include firing a combination of one of two librarians, one of three clerks, one of six counselors, a dean or a security guard.

Firing a librarian would mean library hours would be cut by three hours a day and the library wouldn't be open after school.

Firing a guidance counselor would mean each counselor would take on even more than the 366 students that each currently sees.

"How seriously are we taking the students' education?" said Tom Jauch, a teacher representative on the LSC. "It's a joke."

Both Jauch and parents in the audience at the meeting Tuesday night questioned the city's use of Tax Increment Financing dollars.

The topic has also been raised by the parent and citizen-lead Raise Your Hand public education advocacy group.

"Another conversation that needs to be had is TIF funding," Jauch said. "Where is that going?"

Smith laid the blame on state legislators' inability to fix Illinois' pension woes.

"The single biggest change in the budget was this pension ramp of $400 million and that's because we haven't come to a fair resolution of that issue," she said.

The school's LSC is holding a second emergency budget meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to vote on the final budget proposal.