LEMONT – After disagreements regarding spending priorities within Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A, members of the Board of Education reached a compromise during a workshop meeting April 2.
District administrators recommended last Tuesday that the board approve a five-year strategic plan that included hiring 7.5 certified staff members for the 2013-14 school year.
Board President Dave Molitor, Vice President Kevin Doherty and board member Lisa Wright spoke in favor of the recommendation, while board members Al Malley, Mike Aurelio and Karen Siston believed the district would benefit from two additional staff members. Secretary Cindy Kelly was not in attendance.
The district has been developing its strategic plan since fall 2012. The plan budgets for the addition of 16.1 certified staff members during the next five years, with all classroom teachers entering the district in the 2013-14 school year.
One factor in last week's discussion was concern regarding whether spending district funds on staff salary in the coming months would permanently reallocate money necessary for initial purchases in technology and curriculum.
The board eventually settled on Siston's suggestion of adjusting the strategic plan to budget for 8.6 new hires in 2013-14 instead of the original 7.5.
“We all want the same things,” said Superintendent Susan Birkenmaier. “The question is timing.”
Class sizes in the district range from an average of 27 to 36 students per class, Birkenmaier said. With 8.6 additional staff members next year, 4.5 of whom will be classroom teachers, class sizes are projected to drop to 24 to 36 students per class, although the district would eventually like to lower them to 21 to 30.
Hiring these additional certified staff will cost the district about $430,000 in the coming year, by the calculations of Business Manager Barbara Germany. The projected salary and benefits for each new staff member is $50,000.
The administration's initial recommendation would have cost $375,000, Germany said. The funds needed to hire the additional 1.1 staff members will be allocated from the technology and curriculum budgets as well as from district reserves.
District 113A has not invested in technology, curriculum or facilities since 2010, Birkenmaier said. The average district computer is between nine and 11 years old.
The strategic plan projected operating fund budget for 2013-14 sees the district spending $21.5 million, Germany said, with a surplus of $700,000.
In the wake of Tuesday's meeting, some board members have expressed concern about the reallocation of funds.
“The administration hasn't come back and told us we need more teachers,” said Molitor. “We are very much behind in technology.”
Also included in the strategic plan is $1.7 million districtwide technology upgrade, Germany said, which consists of a $1.5 million lease to be paid over five years as well as supplementary costs; $25,000 per year will be taken from that supplementary funding to cover the salaries of the 1.1 additional staff members, who will likely work in special education, reading, Encore or as a counselor.
Aurelio believes that new computers, laptops and projectors shouldn't be prioritized over smaller classes.
“We need to address those class sizes,” he said.
The board is scheduled to approve both the strategic plan and a financial update that will allow for the execution of the plan during its meeting on April 16. District administrators hope to begin the hiring process in the coming months pending the financial update's approval from the Illinois State Board of Education.