• Teachers union president urges district to lead by example
Rockford Education Association President Molly Phalen, head of the teachers union for the Rockford School District (RSD), believes the $15 million in recent budget cuts would probably be more accepted by teachers, parents and the community if the new superintendent and the board closely examined how efficiently the districts central office is operating, and cut any unnecessary positions. In other words, Phalen wants the district to lead by example.
When the board made its cuts from next years budget to head off a possible state takeover of the districts finances, three upper-level administrators were eliminated from the equivalency of about 270 full-time positions. The board eliminated the positions of deputy superintendent, human resources director and communications director on Feb. 24, which saved $339,160.
Phalen, urges the next superintendent and the school board to Look at the entire organizational structure of the central office and examine how efficiently they are run. Board member Jay Nellis said the board hasnt placed any restrictions on how many upper-level administrators the new superintendent may eliminate or recommend hiring. The organizational structure and numbers of high-ranking administrators and cabinet members will be the decision of the new superintendent, Nellis said.
In addition to the three upper-level positions that were cut last week, cabinet member salaries were frozen for a savings of $127,008.
Even with the $15 million budget cut, the district is still $11 million from balancing its budget next fiscal year, Nellis said.
As a result, Barb Dent, president of Rockford Educating All Children, and Nellis have publicly urged the districts employee unions to renegotiate their contracts for wage concessions. Dent called for the wage concessions in a guest column in last weeks issue of The Rock River Times.
All of these challenges will confront the incoming school superintendent. The leading candidate for the districts new superintendent is Dennis Thompson, who is currently the curriculum director for the Metropolitan Nashville Public School District in Tennessee. Thompson has been in that position since 2001.
Thompson visited Rockford last week and toured several schools. Should Thompson accept the position, Phalen speculated Thompson may begin work as early as May.
Thompson will face community input when he arrives on the job. Rockford Mayor Doug Scott announced several weeks ago that a panel consisting of up to six business leaders and the citys finance director would advise the district on how to address its financial problems.
The district faces an anticipated $30 million deficit next year, which is in addition to state-reported deficits of $9.5 million in 2001 and $13.6 million in 2002.
To view the districts financial information that was submitted to the state, visit www.isbe.state.il.us. Click on School Finances, School District Financial Profiles, enter information for School District Profile Search in 2003, click on district to download.