Only hours after Summit Hill School District 161 board members voted to close for the 2012-13 school year, Principal Kathy Klein was holding an assembly for students, teachers and staff Thursday explaining what that decision would mean for them.
Klein--sometimes through tears, according to those in attendance--told the children that the closing was an example of adults having to occasionally make adult decisions, and despite that, everyone was still determined to have a good year, especially with Illinois Standard Achievement Tests scheduled next week.
"She did a wonderful job of setting the tone in the morning," said D161 Supt. Barb Rains, who spent much of the day talking with Mary Drew teachers and staff about the closing, which was done by the board in order to chip away at the district's $3 million deficit over three years. The board wants to cut at least $1.4 million of that this year.
Now that the board has made its decision to close Mary Drew, Rains said her next step is to figure out the staffing details for the district with one less school. Mary Drew eachers expressed curiosity more than fear Thursday on what district schools they might end up teaching at next school year. Some board members Wednesday said the 16 Mary Drew classroom teachers would not be let go with the school closing, and they would "follow the students" to the other schools in the district.
Although she wouldn't guarantee that no Mary Drew teachers would be eliminated, Rains said it was likely that most would stay on because most of them were tenured, meaning they would be found other spots in the district. As part of the board's cost-cutting model, nine teaching positions are to be dropped district-wide, and Rains said she wasn't sure specifically how many more would be cut because of the closing. The financial model involving closing a school states that there would be a 5 percent staff reduction, but that would be spread throughout the other district schools. Teachers must be informed if they are being let go by the end of March, Rains said, adding that the board will need to address that at its March 28 meeting.
Board members also indicated Wednesday night that Klein would be retained by the district in a new position. Rains said she agreed with that statement, but she didn't know specifically what Klein's future role would be. Principal Jan Zevkovich announced she was retiring after the school year Wednesday, meaning there would be a principal opening in the district for 2012-13.
As for Mary Drew support staff, Rains said an effort would be made to try to find other positions for them in the district. Those employees, such as clerical workers and janitorial staff, are not guarantee spots at other schools.