Taft LSC discusses potential budget cuts to sports funding for feeder schools, possible 45-minute delay to school day


Taft principal Mark Grishaber hopes the school can help its feeder elementary schools fund their sports programs if they fall victim to the latest budget crisis facing the Chicago Public Schools. 

"I think it is incumbent upon us to help our grammar schools," Grishaber said at the July 2 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.

The school system is looking to save $3.2 million next school year by eliminating athletic team funding for grammar schools as part of an overall effort to save $200 million due to its pension obligation and cutbacks in state funding. The measure would eliminate stipends for 5,300 coaches.

Grishaber said that between $40,000 and $50,000 would be needed to keep sports going at Taft’s feeder schools and that he would want Taft to hold fundraisers for the elementary schools and perhaps give some of its discretionary funds to those schools. “If were’ going to be the ‘big brother’ on the block, we may want to sell ice cream in the cafeteria to help them,” he said.

Helping to fund the sports programs “gives us a better feeder school” and a better quality athlete when their students enroll at Taft, Grishaber said. The assistance would be well received and serve as a positive public relations move for Taft, he said.

LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said that she is not convinced that funding athletics at the feeder schools would result in good publicity and that Taft may need those funds for itself. “People won’t know Taft is helping,” she said.

Some LSC members expressed doubt that the school system would carry through with its plan to cut sports funding for the grammar schools because similar recommendations in the past have proven to be too controversial.

It also was reported that proposed system-wide budget cuts would change the school day at Taft from 7:45 a.m. – 3 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. The school system would save $9.2 million in transportation costs by delaying the start of high schools 45 minutes, allowing for fewer buses to cover more routes.

Taft has six buses which transport Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center students and three buses for special needs students.

Plans also are being made to change how elementary school students in magnet programs are transported. In the past these students were picked up at their neighborhood school, but under a proposed plan bus stops would be consolidated within two miles of students’ homes, saving $2.3 million.

Also at the meeting, the council allocated about $115,000 for plumbing, electrical and handicapped accessible improvements to the boys’ locker room in the main gym, where the showers often do not work. An additional $100,000 may be needed to complete all of the needed repairs and renovations, Grishaber said.

The LSC also voted to increase the amount of discretionary spending power for the principal from $2,500 to $5,000. In recent years the amount has been as high as $10,000, but it was reduced to $2,500 when Taft had an acting principal in the 2013-14 school year.

LSC community member Goran Davidovac was the only member to vote against the motion. He said that the council “got burned once” when a previous administration made a poor spending decision.

LSC staff representative Mary Kay Cobb said that the spending limit for the principal should be $10,000 because several routine purchases, include a recent $7,091 purchase for student locks, should not have to come before the council. “How do we operate a school of this size and handcuff him?” Cobb said.

Expenditures of more than $5,000 will require a purchase order that the council must approve. Grishaber said that information on purchases under $5,000 will be made available to council members when requested and that the council’s Budget Finance Committee chairman Nick Savich regularly reviews the school’s budget and expenditures.

The school also plans to purchase about $125,000 of additional Chrome tablets next school year. Grishaber said that the tablets would reduce the amount of time spent on administrating standardized tests from six to two weeks and that the tablets would be made available for classrooms when there is no testing.

The council also set its meeting agenda for 2015-16. Meetings will be held starting in September at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, with no meeting in January and the April meeting on the second Tuesday, April 12, due to spring break.

The council also re-elected Schwieger as chairwoman, parent member Joe McFeely as vice chairman, faculty representative Les Plewa as secretary and parent member Anita Bernacchi as freedom of information officer.

Agendas for the LSC meetings are posted on www.tafths.org.