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Dist. 54 opts to not renew seven contracts

Dismissal of special education teacher draws ire from parent

The Morris Elementary School Dist. 54 board voted Monday to approve the nonrenewal of several staff contracts, drawing ire from some audience members who accused the board of not listening to their concerns.

The board also unanimously approved the measure to share buses with Saratoga Dist. 60C and Morris Community High School Dist. 101 in an effort to save money.

Every year, the board approves certified staff movements, as well as non-renewal of contracts. This year, seven contracts were not renewed, including that of a special education teacher.

Morris resident Amy Callahan voiced disapproval of the move before the vote, but was told to wait until the public comment at the end of the meeting.

Several audience members took exception because the vote would come before public comment.

The motion passed, with one dissenting vote in Board Member Dave Obrochta.

In an emotional public comment, Callahan said she was upset the teacher would not be back next year and expressed concern about potential overcrowding in special education classes.

“It takes a long time for a teacher to get to know my son,” Callahan said. “It’s just upsetting to me.”

Board President Carol Narvick sympathized with Callahan and said the teacher would be replaced, keeping the student-to-teacher ratio in special education the same.

“My heart goes out to you,” Narvick said. “I know it isn’t easy.”

One audience member, Bonnie Cap, asked if the nonrenewal was based on budgetary concerns or employee performance.

Dist. 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw said the board could not publicly comment on employee performance, but stated earlier that funding cuts to education in Gov. Pat Quinn’s new budget will force the school district to reduce the number of staff members for next year.

But, Shaw said, initiatives by the district to save money -- like the new shared busing program -- could help to keep budget cuts “as far away from the classroom as possible.”

“All the decisions we’re making are made with the thought process of how to keep as many teachers in front of kids as possible,” Shaw said.

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