PEORIA -- The Peoria District 150 School Board is laying off 53 teachers next year for financial reasons, but the list, so far is 'secret.'
That led to confusion at the April 10 board meeting, as the district is required to hold a public hearing on the layoffs, and offer the teachers affected a chance to speak out. Only no one knows who is being laid off.
"Am I on the list?" a teacher asked, adding, "I probably am now."
The letters have not yet been sent to the teachers, the board's attorney said.
Teachers union president Bob Darling indicated he didn't have the list yet. In fact, he thought 70 were being laid off, when he referred to them during the public comment session.
But that didn't stop him from questioning what is going on. The district has purchased "new initiatives," he said including new books and professional development. "Were they considered before cutting teachers?" he asked.
Unless enrollment drops drastically, the same number of teachers will be needed next year, he said, as classes are already overcrowded. That's what occurred last fall, when the same number of teachers laid off last spring had to be rehired.
Meanwhile the better ones find jobs in other school districts, leaving District 150 with teachers who have been laid off elsewhere.
Hedy Elliott Gardner said the district has "layers of bureaucracy," paid with "6-figure salaries."
"Why are we getting rid of teachers?" she asked. "I have 34 kids in my home room class. Next year there will be more. When is it going to stop? How do you expect me to be an excellent teacher next year, with more kids in the classroom?"
She suggested she will be ranked only 'satisfactory,' but "it's not my fault."
Teachers are "tired of being blamed" in these situations, she said.
Activist Terry Knapp predicted 8 to 10 tenured teachers are on the list, and not being allowed remediation as the law requires. "They're not going to take this lying down," he said.
The district's lawyers will make loads of money handling the lawsuits, he said.
Earlier during the public comment session, Knapp said the board is not treating the unions with respect, as negotiations drag on and lawyers continue to make more and more money with the delays. "The attitude toward union groups is pathetic," he said.
Teacher Brian Devine asked why the board has not taken steps to broadcast or televise board meetings, as was promised a year ago. There was no response from board members or the administration.
Here's a recording of the public comments:
-- Elaine Hopkins