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Highlights of the Feb. 25 Board of Education Meeting

Interim Superintendent Joe Porto presented a budget reduction plan designed by the District 73 administrators at the direction of the school board. He said the district began this school year with a structural yearly deficit in the education fund of $1.5 million. Additionally, since the referendum that asked for $1.5 million to pay for the operation of the new school and building expansion did not pass, the district is now facing an annual budget deficit of more than $3 million in the next few years. 

Director of Finance and Business Operations Abe Singh reviewed the current deficit. He said that while enrollment has grown, revenue has not increased in proportion to enrollment growth. He said that in 2007, Hawthorn’s average revenue per pupil of $10,574 was in line with the average revenue per pupil of its peer districts (such as Libertyville District 70 and Fremont District 79). However, by 2017, Hawthorn’s average revenue per pupil of $11,611 was significantly lower than the average revenue per pupil as compared to all other Lake County elementary districts, which was $15,731. Despite less revenue, Hawthorn has continued to provide comprehensive programming similar to its peer schools. 

Dr. Porto said the budget reduction plan was a collaborative process that took place over several months. All areas were reviewed. Administrative team members were asked to put aside their allegiances to their own buildings and focus on making reductions as far removed from teaching and learning as possible. Options in the plan include: 

  • Elimination of a central office admin position in 2018-2019 (via attrition)
  • Reduction of contract services, supplies and materials in 2018-2019
  • Reduction in custodial contract hours/services in 2019-2020
  • Elimination of a maintenance inventory control position in 2019-2020
  • Further reduction of supplies and materials, utility contract changes and building rental fee adjustments in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021
  • Subcontracting all custodial services in 2020-2021
  • Reduction of eight clerk positions in 2019-2020
  • Reduction of 14 assistant teaching positions via attrition in 2019-2020
  • Reduction in supplies and materials in 2019-2020

Regarding the clerk positions, Dr. Porto explained that all school offices are currently staffed with two secretaries and two or three office clerks, a generous staff level compared with most schools in the area. The plan calls for reducing the office staff to two secretaries and one clerk. He also said that the number of assistant positions has grown from 49 in 2013 to 86 in 2019. The plan recommends that, through attrition, the number be reduced to the 2017 level of 72. The priority of needs is ranked as follows: 

  • Assistants who work one to one with special education students
  • Assistants who provide self-contained special education programming
  • Assistants in programmatic areas (library, health, ELL, safety)

Dr. Porto emphasized that this is an ongoing process. The new superintendent, Dr. Peter Hannigan, will continue the search for more savings with the least impact on teaching and learning when he joins the district in July. The board will vote on the options in the plan at the next board meeting on March 11.

In his Superintendent Report, Interim Superintendent Mark Friedman provided an update on the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. He said that the Administrative Team is putting a plan in place to address the fact that the building has not formally been named. The district is open to discussing naming rights with community entities at the discretion of the board. The Administrative Team plans to present the board with a name in the near future. 

Mr. Singh provided a report on the preliminary bids for construction of the kindergarten center. He said the bids were competitive and favorable. Overall, the bids came in within the budget of the $13.5 million in bonds that were recently sold to fund the kindergarten center. Contract approval will be an action item at the March 11th board meeting. Mr. Singh said that wetland credits have been fully secured and executed, and construction is projected to begin in April or May.