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Walter Payton Prep Officials Vote to Cut Teachers in Face of Tighter Budget

By David Matthews | July 24, 2015 8:51am | Updated on July 25, 2015 8:36am

NEAR NORTH SIDE — Walter Payton College Prep is set to cut the equivalent of nearly five full-time teachers next school year in the face of more budget cuts delivered by Chicago Public Schools.

The local school council governing the prestigious selective-enrollment high school at 1034 N. Wells St. on Thursday unanimously approved the cuts, which would save nearly $435,000 but increase class sizes.

The decision arrived a little more than a week after CPS told Payton to lop about $362,000 off its budget for next school year. Payton, which is regarded among the best public high schools in the state, will maintain its enrollment at 902 students.

Payton's LSC voted to get rid of one assistant principal, one math teacher, and a special education instructor whose removal had already been decided by CPS.

The approved plan also calls to reduce or eliminate courses in the science, social studies, English, and music departments to arrive at the equivalent of 4.8 fulltime teachers cut. Teachers are paid based on how many courses they teach, with three courses equivalent to half a full-time position.

Payton Principal Tim Devine said he had a "very good idea" which teachers would be affected by the cuts, but did not disclose names. He lamented that in the last four years Payton has cut many staff and courses, giving Payton what he called the "leanest administration" for a stand-alone high school in Chicago's school district. He also said the continued financial malaise of CPS, which faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit, has affected his own family.

"The No. 1 debate in my household is 'should we send my eighth-grader to a CPS high school,'" Devine said, adding he will.

The school is also prepared to slash funds for drama, substitute teachers and ACT prep for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The LSC granted the Friends of Payton booster club permission to start its fundraising campaign earlier than usual in an effort to offset some of those cuts.

"We have to cross our fingers that our teachers don't come down with the flu this year," Devine said.

Devine did offer one glimmer of hope: an appeal he is attempting to schedule with CPS in an effort to recoup some funds. A meeting has not been set, and Devine admitted he'll be forced proceed with the cuts the LSC approved if nothing is scheduled by the end of Tuesday. Classes start Sept. 8.

"Time is short," he said.

A CPS spokesman did not immediately return a message left late Thursday.

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