Layoff of 363 teachers draws D300 students’ outrage
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com March 24, 2011 7:04PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — “I just lost my job,” one woman said afterward, stunned.
Many in the crowd of 1,000-plus sobbed and held each other Wednesday night. Others shouted that incumbent school board members would not be re-elected this spring. Several students vowed to “continue the riots” every day in protest.
But several board members’ voices sounded no less tremulous that night as they explained their reasons for voting for or against the layoff of 363 teachers.
“I am very honored and very pleased at the crowd we have here tonight,” said board member Anne Miller before voting against the layoffs.
“I love seeing students take part in the democratic process.”
Four resolutions to lay off teachers narrowly passed 4-3 Wednesday and will clear the way for Community Unit School District 300 to restructure its middle and high schools.
And students at the district’s three high schools made good on their vow to continue protesting those cuts Thursday as pink slips were handed out to teachers. Tenured teachers must receive notice of release by today, and teachers who did not receive their pink slips in person will be sent them by certified mail, District 300 spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said.
“It’s been an extremely emotional day for everyone — our students, our teachers, our administrators, our board and our community,” Strupeck said Thursday.
“These are very painful and difficult times here. We still hope we will be able to avoid enacting the layoffs by coming to a collaborative agreement to make other savings.”
At Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, several hundred students walked out during their advisory period Thursday, several marching around the school and refusing to return to class afterward, Strupeck confirmed. Strupeck put the number of protesters at 400 to 500, while junior Sarah Sedola claimed about 1,200.
The 17-year-old Algonquin resident also claimed the support of Dundee-Crown Principal Lynn McCarthy.
“She told us it wouldn’t be tolerated,” she said. “But she handed us a bullhorn.”
Sedola said she polled 15 Dundee-Crown graduates who have gone on to college, and all said they hadn’t gotten into college based on the core courses they’d taken but on electives and extracurricular activities. And that’s why she started organizing students last year when the school board started making cuts: She wants to become a secondary school teacher, and she wants to study at either Hope College in Michigan or the University of Buffalo in New York.
“I feel like if they’re going to take away our teachers and our electives and our sports, we’re not going to get into college,” she said.
Sedola said she made a Facebook event for the walkouts. By Thursday, more than 3,000 students had responded, and both Hampshire and Jacobs high schools had organized their own events.
At Hampshire High School, about 300 students dressed in pink and handed out mock pink slips to 800 of their classmates during their advisory period in the school commons, according to senior Elly Jakubowski, 18, of Pingree Grove.
Jakubowski and her friends had pulled the pink pages from a receipt book and written “Fired” on them. They’d planned to take the protest outside the school to end the period, and that’s when things got “a little out of hand.” Several students drove or ran home, she said.
She plans to start a petition at Hampshire to ask state legislators to pay up the $11 million in categorical payments the state currently owes District 300.
And about 1,000 students at Jacobs High School in Algonquin also did not report to their advisory period, Strupeck said. Instead, they walked the halls, chanting and waving signs in support of teachers for about 30 minutes before returning to class.
Earlier this week, students at both Jacobs and Dundee-Crown had walked out in protest of the looming cuts during advisory periods. Dundee-Crown’s was a repeat of a similar walkout almost exactly one year ago at the school.
“We’re extremely excited to see the passion the students have shown for the education over the past few days,” Strupeck said.
And the spokeswoman said that momentum made the Carpentersville area school district “optimistic” it will reach a collaborative agreement with its unions. That would make the 363 teacher layoffs and proposed restructuring of the district’s secondary schools unnecessary.
The District 300 school board already has slashed more than $3 million on its way to $8.3 million to balance its budget for the coming school year. It is counting on about $5 million in wage, benefit and insurance concessions from its unions to reach that number; layoffs and restructuring are Plan B if an agreement can’t be reached.