Archived Story

Some Niles teachers to get jobs back

Published 11:16pm Monday, May 17, 2010

Niles Daily Star

In its first meeting since announcing teacher layoffs and facing parents, teachers and students who expressed disappointment and even in some cases outrage at the move to close Eastside Elementary School, the Niles Community Schools Board of Education faced another good-sized crowd Monday night.

Made up mostly of teachers and staff, the board listened to comments regarding those layoffs and were even given words of encouragement about closing the oldest school in the district.

Former board president Pat Brandstatter told board members they should be “commended” for their decision, a 5 to 2 vote that took place May 3.

“The job that you’re being asked to do is difficult,” Brandstatter said, drawing on personal experience from his time serving on the board.

Brandstatter added he was saddened to hear the “number of people” who had “disappointing things” to say to board members during the May 3 meeting, during which many citizens expressed their frustration, sadness and desire to see the school kept open.

Hearing talk of possible recalls of board members, Brandstatter said, “I don’t think they appreciate what you do … the reality of it is, it was time for Eastside to go.”

Also heard Monday night, Niles High School teacher Ryan Bigelow, who was notified he would be laid off due to budget cuts last month, asked the board to remember the district’s central focus.

“It’s the kids first,” he said.

Bigelow began by thanking the board and administration within the district for “taking a chance on me five years ago” and thanked principal Jim Knoll and assistant principal Molly Brawley for their support.

“The leadership at the high school is amazing,” Bigelow said, adding that when he started teaching in Niles he’d come from a district that regularly experienced fights between students in the hallways. At Niles, he said, students are behaved and politely move through the hallways.

“I absolutely love this community,” Bigelow said, thanking his fellow teachers for their support.

He added he hopes the district can “squash the beef that’s going on here” and note there are children “just craving opportunities.”

Following news that the state had passed legislation creating an incentive for teachers interested in retiring, Superintendent Doug Law announced that it opened up the opportunity for the district to hire back four of the nine teachers it laid off last month.

Bigelow, he said, was not included in those teachers coming back, but Law said the district was hoping to be able to call him back in the future.

The high school’s media specialist, Jerry Holtgren, who will see his job change next year as well, advised the board of the work done by a media specialist, instilling encouragement for reading and developing research skills in students, with the hope that the position will someday return to the high school.

“By the time they’re in 10th grade,” Holtgren said, “they’re doing what college kids are doing.”

He told the board, “I’m not lobbying for my position,” but said he hopes when money comes back to the district the board will find a way to reinstate the position.

Niles School Foundation forms
Also Monday night, trustee Jeff Curry announced the official formation of the Niles School Foundation, a group of people interested in the future of the district. The organization has become organized, Curry said, adopted bylaws and have their 501(c)(3) corporation status.

A 12-member board has “really hit the ground running,” Curry said.

Board members donated their own funds to the foundation along with an $11,000 anonymous gift and following submissions of innovation grants, the foundation has already decided upon seven grants to be awarded totaling $7,100.

“This is very exciting,” Curry said. “To have this kind of positive reinforcement” during such tough economic times, he added, “it’s pretty exciting.”

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