News and stuff about Lake Forest and Lake Bluff

LF Schools Put Nearly 100 Teachers On Notice

By Adrienne Fawcett

Lake Forest School District 67 is not renewing the contracts of 61 teachers, aids and other certified positions for the 2010-11 school year, and District 115 is not renewing about 40 contracts.
Thirteen of the District 67 jobs are held by by part-time staff members and the remaining 48 are positions held by first through third year, full-time, non-tenured staff. District 115, meanwhile, is not renewing 27 full-time, non-tenured teachers and aids and about a dozen part-time teachers and aids.

The reasons are similar to the issues next door in Lake Bluff District 65: declining revenues and declining enrollment. At the same time, District 67 has 18 tenured teachers on leave who have not yet informed the District about their plans to return to work.

Class sizes at Lake Forest High School are expected to increase slightly from an average of 19.3 students to 20.1 students, and classes with fewer than 12 students will be canceled and/or offered every other year rather than yearly. Classes with 12 to 15 students also may get cut, depending on how things shake out. 

GazeboNews talked with District 67 and District 115 Superintendent Harry Griffith at length to get the story, and the back story. 

Dr. Griffith said the number of non-renewed contracts at District 67 is significantly higher than last year’s 10, but it doesn’t mean the positions are being eliminated or that the non-tenured professionals won’t have jobs in the District come fall. He also said this isn’t a new scenario for District 67.  

Up until about four years ago, District 67 usually did not renew contracts of probationary staff as a matter of course. “This was the normal process for many years,” he said. “We would select which teachers we wanted to invite back, or we would open up other positions for teachers to re-apply, and we would open to recruiting. That became less and less of an issue because we significantly improved the recruiting process over last several years.” 

He conceded that this year’s non-renewal process is different from that of previous years. It’s driven in part by enrollment, which in District 67 is expected to decline about 7.5% over the next five years. Enrollment at LFHS over the next five years is expected to decline 5.5%. 

To illustrate the enrollment issues, Dr. Griffith cited next year’s fifth grade class at Deerpath Middle School; based on current enrollment it’s expected to be 38 students less than this year’s fifth grade. “Now, we have 12 fifth grade teachers, and next year we will have 11. That’s a reduction of a position to fit the enrollment. There has to be a reshuffling of the staff,” he said.

Another factor behind the non-renewed contracts is that there are fewer vacancies. Whereas District 67 for many years had 25 to 30 new hires every year, last year it had only 17 vacancies and there likely will be even fewer this year. Factor in the 18 tenured teachers out on leave; if

they come back, the schools need to find an appropriate job for them. “Because tenured teachers have first rights, that’s the way it works. So we want to make sure tenured staff fits in properly, and we’ll back-fill with non-tenured people. That’s why all the districts throughout the state are making sure the non-renewing probationaries go first–to account for the tenured staff and manage reduction of services or enrollment.” 

Dr. Griffith said District 67 expects to re-hire the majority of the teachers and aids. “We hope to have this finished in April. We know that six weeks from now we are going to invite more than a majority of non-renewed staff to come back, and we hope they do come back.”

GazeboNews asked if administrative jobs would also be affected. He said District 67 reduced its total staff last year by eight positions, two of which were full-time administrative positions. The board also agreed to freeze administrative salaries with the exception of retiring administrators. And he said that in 2010-11, the administration will lose one full-time position.

He also pointed out that the administration’s shared services with District 115 have resulted in close to $2 million cost savings in the past five years. The two districts share several administrative personnel, including the superintendent as well as the payroll clerk, personnel director, communications manager, comptroller and other posts. The staff members who accepted duel responsibilities received wage increases of 8% to 12%, he said, to compensate for the extra work load.

“I know that in my case, I am paid above average for my peers, but each school board is paying far less in actual costs because my compensation is divided in half,” he said. “They are paying less today for one superintendent than they did 10 years ago for two.”


  1. I did some research and District 67 spends nearly $13,000 per student. District 115 spends over $17,600 per student. This is out of control. There must be a way to deliver a quality education without breaking the taxpayers. Cut administration expenses first and then cut back on classroom teachers.

  2. I see that censorship is alive and well here at Gazebo News. What is the relationship with King Harry and why do the postings keep disappearing?

  3. LFCaresAboutSchools says:

    Dr. Griffith,
    I think we all owe CK true appreciation for raising the bar of this discussion to the respectful level it deserves. CK’s positive and thoughtful words are most inspiring and I look forward to hearing much more from whoever he/she is.
    That being said, Dr. Griffith, there is an issue that needs your utmost and swift attention. You seem to have gotten a lot of parents angry over the years; that sentiment is clearly reflected in these posts. Your public reaction will certainly be tempered and likely suggest that negative comments are always expected whenever bad news is delivered. However, D65 delivered the same bad news and, while opinions were expressed, not one single comment suggested the Super in Lake Bluff be fired.
    I have been listening a lot lately and, sadly, many people feel very strongly about you, and were quite angry well before your announcement was made. I don’t think anyone opposes the staff cuts per se. The anger from so many different parents speaks to a much bigger issue of transparency and straight talk, or, more specifically, the lack thereof. You seem to have developed a widespread reputation as a deft deflector and smooth talking politician–which characterizes much of your rhetoric toward D67 parents. You must not use those same tactics with the Board of Ed members as you still have a job. So we know you have the capability to enamor us all—we just wish you would do it!
    You have attempted to orally communicate random pieces of your vision and strategy through Board presentations and nifty videos. We don’t need or want Show and Tell, Dr. Griffith. You constantly tout the test scores as the definitive reflection of “world class” when we all know that measure falls way short of demonstrating same; certainly with your education and background you know better than that too. You also must know this is wholly inadequate and not acceptable when there is so much at stake here. Members of this community desperately want and frankly deserve thoughtful and substantial answers and the assurance that those at the helm have our children’s best interests at heart and are carefully spending our hard earned money.
    The bottom line, Dr. Griffith, is this community is looking for good, keen leadership willing to face our weaknesses and strengths head-on and carry our schools into the future. Leadership that has a clear and focused vision and that is complemented by a coherent action plan informing all its decisions. The ball is in your court to prove you are willing and able to do what’s right by our community and our children. In return, once our confidence is restored, we parents will provide overwhelming support to your team and work tirelessly to get the resources to fulfill the vision and plan for our schools.
    We all eagerly look forward to hearing your comprehensive plan for greatness to back up your “world class” claims and hope you are able to launch our schools in that direction as soon as possible. And remember above all else, transparency breeds trust!

  4. I think it is too general to state that “younger” teachers are by nature better teachers than the older ones. I believe that there are some excellent teachers in our schools who are not “young”. Some of these teachers are tenured and some are not.
    The point is that with the current tenure system, many teachers become complacent. When your job is that secure, you do not have to strive for excellence. Some teachers, by nature, continue to do so, but there aren’t any consequences for the teachers who do little more than show up for work. I say thank you to the excellent teachers, tenured and non tenured. You know who you are. You ask our children to reach higher and to think broadly. You approach lessons from multiple directions and ask the students to do the same. You find ways to hook the children into the learning process. You demand excellence and recognize that excellence looks different on every child. You recognize that learning doesn’t only happen sitting down, with pencil and paper. You come to school prepared to teach, prepared to listen and prepared to learn. You embrace technology and all of the opportunities it presents. You are flexible and take advantage of unexpected learning opportunities. You are dedicated to turning the light on these students minds. You are developing thinkers and problem solvers.
    Just think of how great it would be if all of our teachers were compelled to strive for excellence.

  5. I would love to know more specifics about the cost per student in this district vs. other districts in the area.

  6. Chris Clifford says:

    This district is the most irresponsibly run district in the area. The cost per student when you add in fees, extra charges, books, buses ect is not only the highest in the state, but one of the highest in the country.

  7. Brenda, gotta be more realistic than that! Harry’s hands are tied by the union contract. What everyone knows and noone talks about is the fact that noone can touch tenured teachers–anywhere across the country. It takes several years through a painful and tedious process for admins to try and get rid of a tenured teacher–so painful and long especially for the parents of the students in their classes that the admins don’t pursue it unless the teachers actions are truly egregious. All they can do is “mentor” and offer advice. This is a longstanding problem with the whole teacher union situation–look at what’s happening in Rhode Island this week–they can’t even fire the worst teachers in the worst failing schools in the state. Harry’s already burned the bridge to our union. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to actually sit down and have a heart to heart with the LF union reps to figure out how to fix this?? It would take an honest person.
    What other job in the country offers zero oversight and feedback, no consequences? There is no motivation for the employee to change or get with the new program in this scenario and you see the result of that. Thank god for those terrifically talented teachers who get it and do such amazing things for our children! Shame on the others!

  8. Where do you all get your info from? Kids? An upset parent who says something and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon? Really? Sad. BTW – your children are getting an incredible education from new and veteran teachers alike.

  9. I agree with CK. Harry doesn’t want you to know the fiber optic cables did not fix the huge internet connection problems—teachers can’t waste class time letting the kids do online research bec connection is so very slow. Last year, he said the connection would be “blazing fast” for 2009-10 school year. Last week he said the connection will be “blazing fast” sometime in 2011. So when is it going to be? He already spent the referendum money.

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