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CPS Budget Cuts: Bucktown Montessori Lays Off Its Only Spanish Teacher

By Alisa Hauser | July 11, 2013 12:09pm
 Drummond School, a CPS magnet Montessori School at 1845 W. Cortland St. in Bucktown
Drummond School, a CPS magnet Montessori School at 1845 W. Cortland St. in Bucktown
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

BUCKTOWN —  When students return to a top-rated Bucktown elementary school in the fall, they won't be learning how to speak or write Spanish and they will be spending less time in the library and in music and writing classes.

Facing a budget shortfall, members of Thomas Drummond Montessori School's LSC laid off their school's only Spanish teacher, as well as a full-time teacher's assistant, while three library, writing and music instructors will have their jobs slashed from full to part-time when school's back in session.

Drummond's LSC voted in late June to approve a budget for the coming year of $3,199,452 but to prevent layoffs, the school needed $3,423,933, leaving it with a 7 percent deficit, outgoing LSC chair Jonathan Goldman said.

About a week after passing the budget, the council fired off a three page letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. 

The letter calls on Emanuel and CPS leadership to provide additional funding to all schools that are being hit with cuts and invited them to a meeting to discuss "a plan for long-term financial sustainability" for the top rated 'Level 1' school at 1845 W. Cortland St. in Bucktown. 

Drummond is one of only three Montessori schools in the Chicago Public School system and the first to offer a "whole-school" Montessori program for grades K-8, according to the CPS Office of Access and Enrollment.

"Drummond's funding is being reduced despite an increase in enrollment for the coming year, and with our class sizes hitting all-time highs," Goldman wrote.

"It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to find the resources to operate the schools, not a school's LSC," Goldman wrote.

As a result of the loss of what Goldman called "ancillary positions," teachers who are contractually obligated to have three prep periods each week will have less prep time because they used the time when their students were in library, Spanish, music or writing to plan, Goldman said.

Goldman said the LSC voted to eliminate the Spanish language program that all the students in the school had in a once weekly class taught by a part-time instructor.

Goldman said he did not anticipate Thursday's announcement that CPS is releasing $36 million of funding early to ease cuts as making much of an impact on the school.

"It's not additional money, it's just changing the timing of when they are releasing the money. It does help but this is not a lot more money. I did the math and the average school will get an additional $50,000, however, the money is tied to low-income students and we don't have as many as other schools, so it may give us $10,000 or $20,000 more but it's still not enough to pay for another teaching position," Goldman said.

According to a CPS listing, just under 25 percent of Drummond's 354 students are considered low-income.

Goldman said Drummond as a magnet school is "in demand," with enrollment up 4 percent and the school at capacity, with "a lengthy waiting list, in the hundreds."

As of Thursday, almost two weeks after the June 30 letter was mailed, Goldman said he had not heard from Emanuel or Byrd-Bennett, though he got a reply from some of the folks who received copies of the letter, such as Fullerton network chief Lynda Williams, who thanked him for sharing the letter with her.

Goldman said he also got a response from Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who was "sympathetic and commiserating" with the school's plight.

"The deficit we are facing is a lot less than other schools are seeing, we recognize that, but we've come a long way in improving the schools in Bucktown and elsewhere in the city and it's a tragedy to see CPS approaching the school level budgeting in the way that's having a negative impact on the kids," Goldman said.

Goldman is the parent of two daughters who just finished fourth and second grades at Drummond. While he was the LSC chairman when the letter was written, a recent election has Melissa Sterne taking the reins for the 2013-14 school year, he said.