LINCOLN SQUARE — Amundsen High School's Local School Council voted to approve Principal Anna Pavichevich's proposed budget Saturday, which included the likely elimination of 11 positions: seven classroom teachers and four staff members.
With a new per-pupil budget system in place for the 2013-14 school year, Amundsen's funding from Chicago Public Schools is $780,000 short of last year's budget.
"Our focus was to match the need to the [enrollment] numbers. We did everything we could to save positions where they were needed," Pavichevich said.
"For me, this was baptism by fire," said the principal, who's in her first year at the high school's helm. "It has required us to pull together, it has required us to be creative, it has required us to be objective in terms of what our needs are.
"We've had to make very hard decisions about people who have dedicated their time and energy and love to students," she continued. "Will we feel the loss of those individuals? Unquestionably. Losing even one staff member is a net loss for everyone."
Minh Nguyen, Amundsen's programmer and International Baccalaureate coordinator, was on hand to crunch the numbers as they related to class size, which range from a low of 25.5 for science classes to 40 for physical education, he said. Most fall under 30 students per class.
As concerned as she was with retaining positions, Pavichevich, a former special education teacher herself, added that maintaining programs was equally important.
"We could have kept all our staff and had no field trips, no athletics," she said. "We started from what the numbers are, what students need and backed into a budget from there."
Though the LSC unanimously approved Pavichevich's budget, they did so with a caveat.
"We're managing [the budget] with a protested hand up," said Steve Johnson, a parent representative on the council, who called for the group to craft an official response to CPS expressing opposition to the cuts.
"Everyone is feeling this in CPS. We are managing...but we will continue to fight for equity," he said.
"We don't want to just roll over," said Darinka D'Alessio, parent representative. "This isn't appropriate."
As Amundsen works to lift itself off probation, "This is doing a disservice to our students, our community, our faculty," D'Alessio said.
Community representative Jeffrey Newman summed up the school's plight succinctly: "We need capital."
To that end, Pavichevich has recruited a faculty member to serve as an ad hoc grant writing coordinator.
"People have really stepped up to say I will take on more, I will multi-task," she said. "The staff gets what's going on."
Pavichevich is also exploring other funding sources at all levels, from corporate partnerships to a school garage sale being planned for August — whatever it takes to achieve her goal of "making Amundsen competitive with any school in the country."
"We're going to attack this strategically from the bottom up," she said.
In spite of the budget crisis and ongoing uncertainty within CPS, Pavichevich remains as enthused about Amundsen's potential as she was on the day she was hired in June 2012, when she pulled out a pair of gym shoes to demonstrate her commitment to a pledge to "hit the ground running."
"I've never worked with a more talented staff. I've never met a dearer group of students — they are dear to me," she said.
"For me ... this is about our students having the value and the right to have access to resources and materials that others have."