Teacher stipends, transfer of $45,000 to school discussed
by BRIAN NADIG
The transfer of a $45,000 donation to a local elementary school and the allocation of teacher stipends for large class sizes were discussed at the April 13 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
Late last summer the Norwood Park School Educational Foundation gave $45,000 to the Taft High School Foundation, sparking objections from some Norwood Park parents. They contended that the funds should be allocated to Norwood Park instead of Taft since the money had been initially raised years ago for improvements at the grammar school.
Taft foundation president Richard Winge said that the foundation recently gave the $45,000 to Norwood Park after "dealing with attorneys" in an effort to sort out the matter.
"We were confused as to why we were used as the conduit instead of making (the donation) directly to Taft," Winge told the LSC. The Taft foundation has raised funds for the resurfacing of gym floors and other renovations at the high school.
"Thank you for getting us the money. There’s no animosity," Norwood Park LSC community representative Jim Murphy told Winge at the meeting.
In 2010, the Norwood Park foundation announced that it would no longer "target the NPS parent community" for donations since the school wanted to change its fund-raising model. The nonprofit foundation had raised about $1 million between 2005 and 2010.
Following a reported disagreement between the Norwood Park foundation and school officials on how to spend the foundation’s funds, the Chicago Public Schools Law Department recommended that the foundation’s remaining $300,000 be distributed to the school in accordance with a 7-year payment schedule.
The last payment was scheduled for 2017, when the foundation split its final $90,000 between Norwood Park School and the Taft foundation. In recent years an increasing number of Norwood Park graduates have enrolled at Taft, which is the home high school for the Norwood Park community.
Several Taft council members have said that they were surprised to learn of the donation to the Taft foundation when it was announced last year, and that the council had not solicited the donation.
Also at the meeting, it was reported that about $140,000 has been allocated for stipends to teachers who have overcrowded classrooms.
The teachers are being given $91 for each student if they teach 140 or more students in five core academic classes, while the stipend kicks in at 170 or more students for music classes and 200 or more students for gym classes. Meanwhile, teachers who have six classes can be eligible for a 20-percent pay bump in salary.
The current standard for core academic courses at high schools is 28 students per classroom, but the school system has informed Taft that it is changing to 31 for the next school year.
In other news, LSC Safety and Security Committee chairwoman Deanna Shoss reported that a March 31 random metal detector screening at the school "went well." The detectors are stored at the school but are no longer on display at the entrance on a daily basis.
Shoss said that the committee is looking at ways to better secure all of the school’s exterior doorways and that the school’s anonymous tip hotline has been restored.
The committee also is seeking to make sure more parents are aware of the ways they can electronically receive alerts from the school. Shoss said that a recent alert gave helpful tips on what students should eat for breakfast before taking a college entrance exam.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber reported that all of Taft’s graduates were accepted to a college last year and that most enroll at a 4-year school, while others went to a junior college, enrolled in the military or took a "gap year" before making a final decision. He said one of the school’s priorities over the next 2 years would focus on "college and career access" for Taft’s students.
It also was reported that about 1,500 students participated in a national walkout in protest of gun violence and to honor the victims of the recent killing of 17 students at a high school in Florida. The students were allowed to return to their classes after the walkout.
Also, Taft Academic Center seventh-grader Sarah Strezecki won the state championship in gymnastics, Grishaber announced.