Budget cuts affecting number of teachers for classes at Taft




by BRIAN NADIG

The recent budget cuts at Taft High School mean that teachers may not be available for classes that would be half-filled.

"We scheduled really tight," principal Mark Grishaber said at the July 19 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. "’AP Music Theory’ can’t run with 15 (students)." In the past that class may have been kept, Grishaber said.

The school lost eight teachers and one clerk through attrition, and except for the hiring of two new teachers, those positions will not be filled due to a projected loss of about $600,000 in the school budget from last year, Grishaber said. Some teachers will be paid extra to teach an additional class because it is less expensive than hiring a full-time teacher, he said.

The typical class at Taft this fall will have about 28 students, according to Grishaber.

The school’s budget is $21,341,507, but about an additional $250,000 may become available if Taft’s enrollment is higher than projected, and those extra funds will be allocated for capital improvements, Grishaber said. The school system is projecting an enrollment of about 3,210, but Taft officials have estimated enrollment of about 3,260.

The school system has cut the per pupil spending for all schools from a year ago, and Taft’s discretionary budget lost about $150,000 because fewer families registered for the federal free and reduced-cost lunch program. Schools are allocated funds for each student who qualifies for the program.

Grishaber said that there may be less incentive for parents to register their child for the program since free lunches are now available to all students and that fewer families in the area may qualify due to the relative affluence of the Far Northwest Side. Students who qualify for the program pay $18 for an AP exam, compared to the standard $90 fee, he said.

Parent LSC member Joe McFeely questioned the need for the school to maintain its director of school climate and culture with teaching positions being left unfilled.

Staff LSC member Mary Kay Cobb said that the director, Kat Hindmand, coordinates security efforts at the school and works with those students who would "fall through the cracks" if she did not give them guidance and support.

"I see it every day," Cobb said. "We have kids with huge, huge issues."

Grishaber said that under Hindmand’s leadership, teachers are being encouraged to resolve issues by talking to the student, and in some instances involving a parent, instead of seeking punishment. "No more are we saying ‘go to the dean,’" Grishaber said.

A student who is sent to the dean’s office will have a negative feeling about that class for the rest of the school year, and problems are more likely to persist, Grishaber said.

"There’s no longer a disconnect" between students and the administration, resulting in a positive atmosphere in the school and fewer disciplinary problems, Grishaber said. "We have no graffiti in he school," he said.

Grishaber said that students today are different from when he was in high school, when he "would have run through a wall" if a coach demanded. He said that getting a promise from student and shaking hands on the agreement can be much more effective than a detention or suspension.

Some LSC members asked Grishaber to provide the council statistics on the number of instances of student misconduct, such as fighting, that are reported each month.

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