Taft Local School Council Nov. 15 meeting


Taft High School principal Mark Grishaber wonders if opening a small cafe inside Taft High School would encourage students to arrive on time for school.

Grishaber said at the Nov. 15 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council that he sees too many students with Dunkin’ Donut coffee cups enter school late. He said that he has discussed the possibility of selling coffee at the school in an effort to get students to arrive earlier with a local cafe owner.

Taft director of climate and culture Kat Hindmand said that curtailing tardiness is not an easy task. "There is a ‘I don’t care attitude,’" Hindmand said. "This is a nationwide problem. We’ve done a lot of research."

Hindmand said that tardy students have been required to perform community service work and to write reflection papers. She said that detentions have been issued but that they are ineffective in changing student behavior.

This school year, seniors with poor attendance and tardy records will not be allowed to attend prom or the senior lunch, Hindmand said. "I think a lot of seniors are going to be unhappy," she said.

The school’s attendance rate is about 93 percent, about 5 percentage points higher than the school system’s average for high schools, Grishaber said. Figures on the number of students who are tardy were not available.

Also at the meeting, it was reported that Taft teachers are receiving a stipend if the number of students in their classes exceeds 140 for a school day. Under the terms of the last Chicago Teachers Union contract, full-time teachers are supposed to have five classes a day with a recommended cap of 28 students per class.

The school council’s Professional Personnel Leadership Committee has expressed concern about increasing class sizes at Taft. "When you cut a $20 million budget by 7 percent, I don’t care what people say, it affects classrooms," Grishaber said.

Grishaber said that the school averages 28.85 students per class. Academic classes range from 12 to 36 students, while some fitness classes, which count as a physical education credit, have 48 students.

The teacher stipends will range from $150 to $6,000, as class size totals vary by teacher, Grishaber said. "Instead of 140, 160 is 20 more papers to grade each week," he said. "It’s a lot on our teachers."

The stipends are being paid out of $346,000 additional student-based budget funds that Taft received due to its increasing enrollment, which is 3,274. The school system projected an enrollment of 3,208 students at Taft before the school year.

The school should have $80,000 to $100,000 in student-based funds left over at the end of the school year, and they will be allocated to infrastructure projects, such as bathroom improvements, Grishaber said.

LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said after the meeting that the additional funds could have been used to hire additional teachers this fall but that doing so would have required changing the schedules of some students weeks after the semester had started. Schwieger said that confusion created by delays in this year’s budget already had forced some students to experience multiple changes in their teachers.

If schools can receive their budget earlier next year, principals will have more time to plan and to begin the hiring process earlier, Schwieger said. In some instances principals need to hire teachers who are certified in more than one subject, and that is especially difficult to do once the school year has started, she said.

It also was reported that some members of the personnel leadership committee have expressed concern about the way students are enrolled in advance-level classes.

"The teachers have some concerns that some students have been misplaced," LSC faculty member Barbara Lynch said. In the past students needed a teacher’s recommendation to sign up for an honors class, but that decision now is being made by the student and his or her counselor, Lynch said.

Grishaber has said that expectation levels for students should be high and that they should take a challenging schedule.

A group of parents are asking area aldermen for their help in securing funding to lengthen the Taft pool from 19 yards to 25 yards, which is standard for high school competition, Grishaber said. The parents reportedly have said that the school could be a top swim program if the pool were regulation size.

That fact that about 3,000 people recently attended an open house at Taft and information sessions on the school’s International Baccalaureate Program curriculum demonstrates Taft’s increasing popularity, Grishaber said. "We are no longer the fallback school," Grishaber said. "We are the first choice."

The next LSC meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20.