The longer school day isn’t being implemented district-wide within CPS until the 2012-13 school year, but it’s already creating shock waves at McPherson Elementary, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave., where a number of highly-regarded teachers are losing their jobs due to changing instructional requirements.
The official term is “displaced,” which is almost as clever as the euphemism “involuntary separation,” but the result is the same: a number of teachers won’t be returning to McPherson next year. Parents, students and remaining faculty members crowded the school’s auditorium at Tuesday’s marathon LSC meeting to express their opposition to the cuts.
“If parents don’t come in and show support for the school and the teachers, we’re not going to win this fight,” said LSC president Michael Carlson, who was later seen offering his handkerchief to a distraught teacher.
The battle was likely over before it had begun.
Principal Carmen Mendoza meticulously explained every factor determining staffing levels, which largely centered on enrollment numbers, teacher certification and ramifications of the longer school day. For example, she noted that more instructional periods for math and science have been built into the lengthened school day. Teachers with those certifications, regardless of tenure, were given priority over colleagues in other subject areas. Similarly, a bump in students with a need for bilingual instruction gave precedence to teachers with bilingual certification.
“They try to cut every year, and we find a way,” said Mendoza. “This year, there are too many changes. We try to do the best to save everyone we can–that’s not going to happen this year. Certain teachers are going to be displaced. That doesn’t mean they’re not good teachers, they’re great teachers.”
Perhaps the most contentious point: At the same time that current teachers are being let go, many of them active in developing extracurricular programs, McPherson will be hiring new math, science and art instructors. Couldn’t existing teachers continue to cover art, some wondered, while others questioned whether ESL endorsements would allow teachers to work in bilingual classrooms. No to the latter, responded Mendoza, and the art teacher, she pointed out, is needed to cover the increased number of teacher prep periods mandated by the longer school day. (During a teacher’s prep period, students will be sent to art, music, gym, library or computer class once a week.)
More than anything, the forum at McPherson highlighted the byzantine ways in which CPS handles staffing and the lack of available dollars to pay for education initiatives.
“Talk to your legislator,” said Mendoza. “Get the funding in here.”