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Schools may leave some teaching positions unfilled

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Of the 31 teachers who have announced their retirements so far this year, the Duneland Schools will probably leave about one-third of their positions unfilled as part of the ongoing budget cuts prompted by state reductions in funding.

Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer made the projection at Monday’s school board meeting that after next year’s enrollments are more finalized, it is likely that nine to 13 teaching positions will remain vacant.

He also announced that the three 6th grade sports that now compete interscholastically -- track, cross country and wrestling --- will return to the intramural level and that some “C” team coaching positions may be eliminated.

Baer issued a warning Monday that no one should think that the school system can keep operating exactly as it has been, when it must cut about $1.6 million from its operating budget.

He also requested patience from those who want answers on what, exactly, might be cut. He said his recommendations on which positions will be filled and which will not will come from him to the school board. “I don’t do that through the newspaper,” he said.

Baer was responding to the latest inquiry from the Chesterton Tribune last week, about the possibility that the 8th grade industrial arts class might be eliminated in the coming school year. The two industrial arts teachers are retiring this year and Baer confirmed that their positions might not be filled.

Baer said some of the staffing decisions will not get finalized until the summer months, when the school system has a better handle on the enrollments and what positions must be filled. But he also emphasized that the budget cuts are significant and that, while Duneland still doesn’t intend to cut full programs, the community should expect to see components of programs scaled back or eliminated.

“It would be naive to think otherwise,” he said.

Duneland School Board President Michael Trout echoed Baer’s sentiments about the seriousness of the budget cuts and said that there are many rumors in the community about what might, and what might not, get eliminated even though not all of the decisions have been finalized. “It’s not going to get any easier,” he said.

With another teacher retirement accepted Monday, a total of 31 teachers so far have announced their plans to retire at the end of the school year. Baer projected that of those, nine to 13 will go unfilled, which he said could likely impact class sizes.

The school board earlier agreed to shut down the Duneland Alternative School and transfer the program to Chesterton High School, as well as to shift the Positive Life Program to other administrators. Those changes will save Duneland $112,000 during the rest of this current budget year and $330,000 next year, Baer said.

Other budget cuts that have already been announced have included administrative and staff furloughs, reduced wages, the closure of the Instructional Materials Center, and the elimination of four non-teaching positions.

On Monday, the school board approved a number of staff transfers, most of which were related to the closure of the Duneland Alternative Learning Center. They were as follows:

Alternative School Director Estelle Chaddock will now teach social studies at Chesterton Middle School. Alternative School teachers Linda Peele, Craig McCarron and Diana Alger were also transferred to other positions; Peele will teach language arts at CMS, McCarron will teach math at CHS, and Alger will serve as guidance counselor at CMS.

In addition, Gloria Horn, the director of the High Ability Program (also known as Gifted and Talented), will now move to a teaching position at the elementary level.

Other Personnel

In other personnel matters, the school board accepted the retirement of Elaine M. Shumway, a sixth grade Liberty Intermediate teacher. She has taught in Duneland since 1973, beginning as a third grade teacher at Jackson Elementary before moving to Liberty Elementary and then Liberty Intermediate.

With her retirement, the retiring teachers have spent a total of 969 years at Duneland and 1,070 overall in education.

The school board also accepted the following resignations: Sarah Pavlovic, an instructional aide in the GT program; Madge Kollar, a Title I aide at Yost; Pamela Hodgson, an instructional aide at Jackson; Melissa Jewett, a CHS language arts teacher; and Julie Christensen, a Bailly kindergarten teacher.

In addition, the school board appointed Linda Eleftheri, as a Jackson Elementary media specialist.


Posted 4/13/2010




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