Delavan-Darien says yes to referendum and cuts, maybe to dual language

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DELAVAN—Teacher cuts, the future of the dual language program and talk of another referendum made for a long Delavan-Darien School Board meeting Monday night.

But the more than 50 teachers and residents who came to the meeting stayed put in the muggy board room, waiting for the board's decisions.

None of the choices were made easily, said Board President Jeff Scherer.

In April, a referendum to exceed the revenue cap by $2.1 million failed 1,727 votes to 1,163. That forced the school board to cut more than $1.5 million.

On Monday, the board voted unanimously to cut 19 positions.

Of those, nine are certified teachers, eight are support staff, two are administrative staff.

"We do this with great sadness," said Board President Jeff Scherer. "It's not the kind of job we like to do."

Other cuts include $110,000 to phones, utility costs and distance learning; and $204,000 in savings from having staff pay more of their health insurance.

The reductions come to $1.55 million.

The cuts, especially of teaching positions, added to the debate about staffing for the dual language program. The program, which would provide dual Spanish-English instruction starting with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, is new to the district. So far, 182 students have signed up the program.

Board member Joe Peyer said he supported the program, but absolutely could not see hiring any more staff for the dual language program when teachers in other parts of the district were being laid off.

Other board members agreed, but wondered if the dual language program could be reduced from three grades to two.

Dual language coordinator Ron Sandoval said that even without the dual language program teachers would have to be hired to serve students who speak English as a second language. In fact, more bilingual teachers might be needed for a traditional classroom setting than in a dual-language classroom.

That didn't make sense to many board members.

A heated discussion followed about how many teachers could be brought back from laid-off status if the program didn't go forward—or went forward on a limited basis. Would limiting it to two grades make a difference?

Peyer said he had serious problems choosing one program—dual language—over another.

"Why not bring back the automotive program?" Peyer said.

Funding for hiring three new teachers was voted down.

Board member Sharon Gonzalez then made a motion to fund staff for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, but rescinded it after board members said they wanted more information about how many teachers would be needed if the program wasn't put in place.

"We've heard six, we've heard three," Peyer said. "I want some numbers on paper."

A special meeting on the issue has been tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 19.

One of the final items on the agenda was discussion of holding another referendum in August. Board members stressed that they wanted a better handle on what programs and positions that money would be used for.

"I want a list," Peyer said. "I won't support another referendum without that."

At next Monday's special meeting, the board will consider wording for the referendum question.

Last updated: 6:05 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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