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On June 17, the District 65 School Board unanimously approved adding six new assistant principal positions. The assistant principals will be added at Bessie Rhodes, Dewey, Kingsley, Lincoln, Nichols and Willard schools.

At a June 10 Finance Committee meeting, Board members spent more than an hour discussing the rationale for adding six new positions, the net annual cost, and whether the District would be able to sustain the positions in light of the deficits projected for the school year 2015-16 (FY’16) and ensuing years. 

Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz said the assistant principals will work in partnership with the principal to provide instructional leadership to staff, to create a climate of learning and respect through the implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), to support inclusion and participate in Individualized Education Program (IEP)meetings,  to engage families, and to contribute to the effective and efficient running of the schools.

Board member Katie Bailey said while the District can afford six new assistant principals in FY’14 and FY’15, the District is projecting a deficit of $2.5 million in FY’16. “I’d hate to add all of these positions, and a year from now ask which of these positions do we take away from,” she said.

Finance Committee Chair Richard Rykhus asked administrators if they would keep the assistant principals if the District was faced with cutting $2.5 million in expenses in FY’16, or if those positions would be cut.

“When it came time to look at that,” Ms. Schultz said,  “we would need to look at everything. Assistant principals wouldn’t be the only thing; we would need to look at everything  and then make some tough decisions about how we would manage the budget.”

Ms. Bailey asked administrators to present, in writing, the criteria used to select the schools that would be getting assistant principals, and to explain why it was so important to go forward next year with assistant principals at several of the schools, knowing that in two years the Board would be looking at cuts during any budget reduction discussions.

As part of the packet of materials presented to the Board for its June 17 meeting, administrators listed four criteria that were used to determine if a school should have an assistant principal: “the size of the school: the grade levels served in the school; special programs requiring increased leadership and supervision; and special circumstances (e.g., interim principal status, principal on leave).”

Ms. Schultz and Assistant Superintendent Ellen Fogelberg said the rationale for adding assistant principals at Willard, Dewey and Lincoln is that they are each projected to have enrollments exceeding 500 students, and Lincoln has special education classrooms requiring additional principal time. Nichols is projected to reach 635 students in the 2014-15 school year, and it houses the middle school autism program. Bessie Rhodes serves students in grades K-8. Kingsley has a special education program requiring additional time.

Ms. Schultz said that by adding these positions, the District would be able to reduce two PBIS coordinators. The net cost for the six new assistant principals is about $500,000 said Kathy Zalewski, comptroller.