Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dist. 214 cuts take their toll

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald and on Students First. Hmmm how will this play out is the school district really trying to balance the budget or are they starting to board the threat train on the way to thefterendumville?

Dist. 214 cuts take their toll
By Erin Holmes
Daily Herald

For weeks, it's been about the numbers. The amount that has to be cut. The amount that can be saved. The budget.

On Thursday night, backed up by dozens of his co-workers, Tom Wiedemann stepped to the microphone and gave the whole scenario a human face.

Wiedemann, a Buffalo Grove High graduate who's worked at the school for more than two decades, is one of nearly three dozen Northwest Suburban High School District 214 staff members who got notices of possible termination this week - part of an ongoing effort to trim nearly $3 million from the still-pending 2006-07 budget.

In his role, Wiedemann does locker room security, works as a physical education assistant, bellows from the stands at football games as the "Voice of the Bison," is licensed to repair high-tech equipment in the weight room - he was there the night that room was dedicated; he helped raise the cash - and has done a plethora of other things at the school.

He's not sure how all those jobs can be eliminated, he says, but, beyond that, "I'm part of the family," he says simply.

His words drew a standing ovation from others in the district's support staff union - clerical staff, tech assistants, security personnel and others - who pushed the board to rescind any planned staff cuts and find different savings.

"Without these quality workers, some of whom have been with the district for over 25 years, the quality of education will suffer at our schools," union President Bob Kramer said.

The nearly 30 support staff notices represent the latest wave of a district-wide cost-cutting that Superintendent David Schuler said will impact all categories of employees.

The board in March OK'd 13 teacher layoff notices; the custodial maintenance union is next up for consideration. The administrative staff also has shrunk its ranks, in part by choosing not to fill positions that will be vacated in June.

But there will not be a full 30 support staffers laid off, Schuler insisted, saying that sum really represents "three or four times" the actual number of positions that will be officially nixed.

He could not say how many spots truly will be eliminated. Kramer put that figure around 13; Schuler said it most likely would be between six and 13.

Language in the support staff contract calls for those with high seniority whose jobs are terminated to bump those with less seniority out of their slots.

Since that has the makings of a domino effect, anyone who could potentially be affected is handed a so-called pink slip -the reason, officials say, for the larger number of layoff notices.

Schuler said a "vast, vast majority" of those who got the notices still will have jobs next year - just not necessarily the positions they're holding now.

No matter how many people get offered jobs again, though, Kramer pointed out some roles still will be lost, asking, "Who's going to do all this work?"

Beyond that, there's the sad reality of the bumping process: It's not exactly a great feeling to know you've pushed someone else out of a job, employees say.

Weidemann should know.

With so many years under his belt, he's got top billing.

But "How does that make me feel?" he said. "Pretty crappy."

Kramer and others will meet today with district leaders to go over some contract language and discuss the situation.

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