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More assistant principals for D65?

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The budget season for the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board got off to a rocky start this week with persistent questioning by board members over the need for six additional assistant principals.

It happened at a meeting of the board’s Finance Committee as it took a first look at the administration’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The preliminary budget draft calls for a salary increase of 2 percent, which includes raises negotiated in the teachers contract, plus additional costs related to eight additional teaching positions, six additional assistant principal positions, and 1.5 Information Services support positions.

The effect is to add about $1 million to the $89 million Education Fund budget for salaries and benefits.

Years ago, the assistant principal was essentially the disciplinarian for the school. When kids misbehaved and teachers sent them to “the office,” that office was typically the assistant principal’s office, where approved disciplinary measures were performed, including calling the kid’s parents.

These measures today are referred to by the acronym, PBIS, which stands for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports.

The administration contends there are additional demands today on the job of the principal and assistants in terms of dealing with disabled students, parents, and now the observation of teachers in the classroom that become part of the teacher evaluation equation.

Board member Katie Bailey raised the question of the advisability of adding assistant principal positions on the grounds that once they are authorized, they are nearly impossible to get rid of as conditions change.

Board President Tracy Quattrocki suggested that creative thinking might come up with less expensive ways to deal with the issues facing the administration of the district’s schools.

Another suggestion made by board members was to have assistant principals serve more than one school.

Otherwise, the first pass at the proposed budget dealt with concerns about state and federal funding and incremental expense increases from inflation and the usual expenses required for dealing with the effects of anticipated higher enrollments.

The bottom line sees a revenue increase of 3 percent, to $105.2 million, and a 2 percent increase in operating expenditures to $104.3 million.

The budget also includes four non-operating funds: Life Safety, Debt Service, Capital Improvement, and Technology Projects.

The largest capital projects scheduled for next year include building additions and renovation work, including secure entrances at Haven and Nichols middle schools, site improvements at Orrington Elementary and Haven Middle School, roof and masonry replacement, facility projects, and Life Safety projects. These projects, for the most part, are funded with bond proceeds sold this year that supplement the district’s cash balances.

At the same time that District 65’s Finance Committee was looking at the first draft of its budget for FY 14, the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board was meeting three blocks away and examining the tentative budget for operating the high school next year.

The District 202 Board approved the tentative FY14 budget of $77.5 million in expenditures, which is 2.9 percent more than the FY 2013 budget, including an operating budget of $68 million, which is 3.3 percent more than the current year.

Even though the new fiscal year begins July 1, both boards will be working on their respective budgets during the summer before voting on final approval in late September, as required by state law.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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