BATAVIA – Declining student enrollment in Batavia School District 101 is producing casualties in the faculty ranks.
The Batavia School Board on March 19 approved the honorable dismissal of 21 teachers, along with a social worker and a speech pathologist, effective May 31.
Every year at about this time, the district dismisses some faculty members while sorting through enrollment figures and trying to match staff levels to classroom needs. Those employees will continue to receive salary and benefits through August, and many are likely to be rehired, district communications manager Sue Gillerlain said.
“To fulfill our contractual and legal obligations, we honorably dismiss teachers in overstaffed areas in March each year,” a statement issued by the school district said. “As in prior years, several teachers from the most current honorable dismissal will be rehired after enrollments and schedules have been finalized,” the statement continued.
The list of dismissals affects teachers from Batavia High School, Rotolo Middle School and all six of the district’s elementary schools, cutting across grade levels and specialties.
Last year, 70 percent of faculty members who received dismissal notices were hired back, Gillerlain said.
However, for some teachers it is clear they will lose their positions with Batavia schools permanently, and more are likely to follow in the future as student enrollment trends downward at a rate of about 2 percent a year.
The district’s enrollment stands at 5,754, down from a high of nearly 6,300 students just five years ago. Enrollment is projected to be 5,688 when classes get underway in the fall and to drop to 5,261 by the start of the 2023 school year.
The dismissal of Rotolo orchestra director Chris Griffith has provoked outrage from some parents and district students, who say they already have more than 1,600 signatures on a petition seeking Griffith’s reinstatement.
District officials described current staffing levels for the Rotolo music program in terms of full-time equivalents, with three for the band, one for the chorus and one for the orchestra.
There are 306 students enrolled in Rotolo’s band, 172 in the chorus and 181 in the orchestra.
“We remain committed to maintaining our strong programs in our district, including our outstanding orchestra at Rotolo Middle School,” the school district statement read.
The district is working on a plan for music and other electives at Rotolo in the coming year, an email from the district stated.
“Batavia Public Schools 101 has seen significant declines in enrollment, and our staffing must change accordingly,” the school district statement read.
More than a year ago, district Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese warned that declining birth rates in Kane County are producing smaller kindergarten enrollments each year.
The school district’s strong academic reputation has attracted move-ins, but this has only partially mitigated the effects of smaller kindergarten classes entering the system, Inglese said.
At the school board meeting, Chief Human Resources Officer Steve Pearce told board members that 21 of the 23 faculty members on the dismissal list have been working under temporary one-year contracts.
Pearce noted that last year’s list also consisted of 23 names and that some of those staff members were rehired and appear on the list again this year.