Washington Elementary School. (Google Maps)

The superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 says “there will be some administrative cuts” for the next school year.

Devon Horton told the Board of Education Monday night that he is not at liberty to disclose those cuts now, but he is “looking to do some reorganization” for the coming school year in the financially strapped district.

Finance Committee Chair Joey Hailpern had pointed out that cutting the administration was one of the more popular responses in a recent “thought exchange” with district residents.

Horton’s response came as board members discussed $1.9 million in proposed budget cuts for the next school year. Those cuts include layoffs for two cafeteria workers, and several library assistants. (The equivalent of three full-time employees).

One of the most controversial changes would “reorganize interventionist supports,” and would impact the equivalent of four full time literacy instruction employees. Individual reading help would be given by classroom teachers or teams rather than through one-on-one “pull out” instruction.

Union representative John Gallagher said, “I don’t see how we can provide more support with less staff.”

However, Deputy Superintendent Stacy Beardsley said there are ways to do the work differently, even though the new structure is budget-driven. “We went into this with the clear understanding of the financial limitations of the district,” she said.

The impacted literacy specialists can either apply for a different interventionist position, or, if they do not get that or do not want it, they will be transferred to a classroom teaching position instead of being let go.

There was also concern over the apparent end of a District 65 tradition, the 5th grade overnight trip to Camp Timber-lee in Wisconsin. Several board members described the trip as a cherished chance for children to bond, and to learn about being away from home, often for the first time. The plan is to find a day camp option which has more academic enrichment than did the time in the Wisconsin woods. Savings: $50,000.

The biggest individual savings, $415,000, will come from shifting starting times of some schools, so buses can be used on two different routes instead of just one. The three middle schools will begin at 8 a.m. rather than 8:30 next fall if this idea is approved.

The District 65 Board will vote on the budget cuts later this month. Approval is expected. Board President Anya Tanyavutti summed up the process this way: “Change is challenging and uncomfortable, but we have to be honest about the change.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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