ROGERS PARK — A retired Chicago Public Schools administrator serving as interim principal at Sullivan High School said the millions cut from school budgets next year "will make school closings look like a walk in the park."
Sullivan High's Local School Council met Tuesday night to go over its projected budget for the next school year, which could be cut by $748,000.
"There will be staff reductions," said former administrator Richard Smith, who came out of retirement to lead the Rogers Park high school at 6631 N. Bosworth Ave.
At the meeting, the LSC also approved the contract for the school's new principal, Chad Adams, who, over the coming weeks, will have to make the tough decisions on what programs, teachers or school counselors will have to be let go.
The school could lose as many as seven full-time positions.
The cuts, which are happening across CPS, are largely due to a new system in which CPS allocates funds to schools on a per-student basis. For each high school student enrolled, for example, the schools receives about $5,000.
But now schools are also responsible for paying for substitute teachers, cleaning supplies and even toilet paper, which public school advocates say puts an unnecessary burden on already struggling schools.
The new budget scheme also pressures schools to retain students and recruit new ones.
Sullivan LSC members worried UNO's new charter high school approved for the former St. Scholastica campus could pull even more students away, further depressing next year's budget.
CPS' projection for the school, in fact, is based on 764 students attending next year, yet only 691 are enrolled now, and that number is dropping, one LSC member added.
The budget for another neighborhood school, Gale Math and Science Academy, also known as Gale Elementary School, was slashed by $448,000, LSC members learned Tuesday.
"There are a lot more minus signs than plus signs," said Cassandra Washington, principal of the school at 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace.
Washington said she had 10 days to decide where to make cuts. Most of savings came from not filling two positions vacated by retiring teachers and by laying off the school's part-time art teacher.
"It's just so sad what they're doing to the kids," said teacher Roberta Kaiser, who fought alongside other parents and teachers to save Gale from closure only months ago.
The LSC grudgingly approved a modified budget to pass along to CPS
LSC member Kyle Hillman said the new budgeting scheme was unfair to poorer communities in Chicago which struggle to raise money to supplement school programs.
"It's not going to happen here in Rogers Park; this is not Lincoln Park," Hillman said. "I do not believe this is a fair way to educate our children."
But Josh Hartwell, chairman of Gale's LSC, found a silver lining around the budget cuts.
Referring to the schools CPS decided to shutter, Hartwell said: "At least we have a budget to approve, because 50 schools don't."