District 203 Parents Concerned

Parents, members of the community, and District 203 staff filled the administration building Monday to voice their concerns about the district’s plan to eliminate 31 full-time and 40 part-time staff members currently working with kindergarten, first and second grades.

The board was scheduled to vote on proposed lay offs, impacting reading assistants, enrichment assistants, and early literacy intervention assistants for the LEAP & K-LEAP programs, but postponed the vote to gather more information.

The new proposed learning model will put support staff in the classroom to collaborate with teachers, instead of having them pull both enrichment and LEAP students out of class for one on one instruction.

“Transitioning a first grader in and out of a classroom, even with the help of this wonderful staff is tough,” said assistant superintendent for elementary education, Kitty Ryan. “To bring that first grader who is looking for every excuse to stop for a drink of water and look at pictures, back into the classroom seamlessly, is tough.”

Integrated support in the classroom is the ultimate goal of the proposal that opens up 48 full-time assistant positions, who will spend 5 hours per day in the classroom. District officials said the current full-time staffers would be rehired for those positions, based on seniority.

Although the district worked on the plan with the Naperville Educational Support Personnel Association, the district notified employees and the community about the plan on March 28, the Friday before spring break. Leaving many questioning the district’s transparency.

“Please, know that was not our intent, but pausing and stepping back we realized that for some, it might have communicated a message that we do not value our communities’ input,” said Superintendent, Dan Bridges. “When in fact it is encouraged.”

Ten members of the public addressed the board to express concerns. Some parent’s worry enrichment students may not be challenged enough strictly in the classroom setting, others asked the board to reconsider keeping LEAP, while others requested more data to back up the district’s big decision.

“Enrichment is nowhere near perfect, but for these students it gave them a little bit of footing,” said parent, Jennifer Hajer. “It gave them a little bit of confidence to be themselves, for a little part of the day.”

“I fail to see how canceling Title I reading and math programs and now LEAP and enrichment makes District 203 a world class institution,” added Naperville resident, Laurie Sterling.

The board asked for more data about the new model from the administration so they can make an informed decision, but some were also open minded of what the new model could be.

“I am supportive,” said board president, Jackie Romberg. “What if, as much as we love the LEAP program, that board of education wasn’t open minded and allowed that program to come in. We need to open our eyes and trust the educators that are in these classrooms and see how education looks differently.”

The board will now have until the April 21 meeting to assess the data and will then vote at that meeting.


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