‘We’re waiting for the ball to drop’Published 12:32am Saturday, March 6, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
In Sacramento, reports are that class sizes will increase and 430 jobs will be cut throughout the Sacramento Unified School District.
In Santa Cruz, news outlets reported that the public took the streets in a public protest of cuts that are threatening their public school system.
And in New York, protests are also expected as New York City faces a proposed $1.4 billion cut in funding for schools.
For teachers and administrators their world of educating students seems to be a fairly uncertain and therefore uncomfortable one these days, especially since the Niles Community Schools Board of Education received a proverbial menu of options when it comes to cuts that will need to be made to manage their budget in the 2010-11 school year.
“For the students it’s pretty much business as usual,” said Jim Knoll, Niles High School principal.
There have been questions about scheduling, Knoll said. Included in the cost analysis submitted by Superintendent Doug Law, switching from an eight-period day to a six-period day and refocusing on the core classes would save the district more than $500,000.
But with no decisions yet made, teachers and administrators are unsure of what kind of schedule they’ll be following.
So they’re preparing for both.
“We are scheduling both schedules,” Knoll said. “This process starts the first couple months in of school. We did our process a little different this year to be sure we could adjust to both schedules.”
Knoll said uncertainty seems to be underlining the general mood of the building.
“It’s just uncertainty and they (staff and teachers) are concerned about the economy and just the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next year.”
There is no indication whether or not the board will decide to make changes to how the school runs its scheduling, but Knoll said the school is still facing a much different year ahead. A change in scheduling especially would trickle down to changes in lunch periods, classes and even transportation.
Still, teachers are doing whatever it takes not to let the pressures and the worry make its way into the classroom.
“Instruction is carrying on as normal, obviously we’re trying to keep those kinds of decisions and the weight of those decisions away from the classroom as much as possible,” said Michelle Ausmus, principal at Howard-Ellis Elementary School.
Closing the Ellis Elementary school building and moving classes to various buildings was one of the options proposed in saving the district money.
Andy Roberts, president of the Niles Teachers Union and teacher at Niles High School, seemed to see the information presented to the board and the inevitable cuts to come a piece of a bigger problem.
“I’m looking at the big picture,” he said. “Our state’s economy is just not in a great situation.”
Still, he said, “there is not a teacher who doesn’t understand we’re going to have to tighten our belt and we’re going to have to do without some things. Not one of us doesn’t understand cuts are needed across the board.”
That doesn’t mean that the news is any less unsettling and as the year winds down, many are wondering what’s in store.
It’s a waiting game for teachers and administrators as well as parents and students in the community.
“That was really the first concrete information we’ve seen,” said Steve Gruver, Niles High School band director.
“We’re waiting for something to happen,” he said. “We’re waiting for the ball to drop.”