Balancing class sizes and staff a difficult task in Hinsdale District 86

<p>Sonia Gecker speaks in her group during a District 86 orientation workshop for new teachers on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, at Hinsdale South High School in Darien. | Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

Sonia Gecker speaks in her group during a District 86 orientation workshop for new teachers on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, at Hinsdale South High School in Darien. | Sun-Times Media file photo

Hinsdale High School District 86 officials report staffing for next school year is not being cut districtwide, but some residents still are concerned.

The School Board recently approved a staffing report that shows a reduction across the district of the equivalent of 6.4 full-time certified positions, but that does not mean there will be six fewer teachers in the classrooms, officials say.

The figure includes 4.4 positions that were allocated on paper to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, but those positions have not been filled for the past five years, said Domenico Maniscalco, director of human resources. Maniscalco consequently deducted those positions from the employee count.

Maniscalco also deducted the certified school nurse position at each school. District officials are considering replacing the two school nurses who are retiring this year with nurses who do not have a school certification, believing the change could save the district money.

Maniscalco reported in March that the salaries and benefits for the two school nurses totaled about $300,000. At the April 7 meeting, Maniscalco corrected that mistake. The total compensation for the two nurses combined is $238,908, he said.

If nurses are hired without the school certification, they technically would not count as certified staff.

Maniscalco determines the number of certified staff per school, he said, based on having equitable course offerings at both schools, student enrollment, the findings of a residency check and attrition among the staff. District administrators at each school then choose how the staff will be distributed.

Hinsdale Central High School will gain no new certified staff, despite an enrollment increase of an estimated 67 students next year.

The average class size in all departments, except technical education, would climb at Central. The increase would range from 0.1 student in the mathematics and driver’s education departments to 4.2 in the physical education and 5.1 in English Language Learners/English as a Second Language departments.

“Specifics subjects are a little tight,” Maniscalco acknowledged.

The administrators at Central who worked on staff allocations would have liked two more teachers, Maniscalco said.

With two more teachers, more sections of a course could be offered, he said.

Some parents want more sections, otherwise, class sizes will increase and classes will be capped, said Hinsdale Central parents Matthew & Michelle Vranicar in a letter to the Hinsdale Doings.

“These recent decisions and proposals do not seem to be in the best interest of the students,” they said.

Still, the average class size at Central as proposed would be below 27 in all departments, except health, music and physical education, where the average class sizes would be 28.2, 31.5 and 46 respectively.

At Hinsdale South, where enrollment is projected to fall by 41 students, a decrease of 1.4 certified staff positions is planned. Class size is projected to rise in only seven of the 17 different departments. The only departments with average class sizes of more than 25 students would be music with 25.1 and physical education with 35.6.

“It’s no secret South has lower class sizes. They have 1,200 less kids,” Maniscalco said.

Despite the difference in size, the School Board has said they want the same variety of courses offered at both schools.

“You can have either equality in class sizes or you can have equality in programming; you can’t have both,” South Principal Brian Waterman said.

If enrollment significantly increases, the district can increase staff for the next school year, but it cannot decrease it. Maniscalco said if he needs more full-time equivalents, he will come back to the board.

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