O’Fallon school board makes cuts to teaching staff to trim budget

One high school teacher will be laid off at the end of the school year and five others will see their hours cut, the O’Fallon District 203 School Board decided Thursday night.

The board is trying to cut an estimated $610,000 from next year’s budget to help address a $2.3 million deficit. It previously committed to making about $1 million in cuts, with more teachers on the chopping block, but revised its plan two days later in an emergency meeting.

During the meeting Thursday, board members voted to honorably dismiss Bradley Copelin, a math teacher and the freshman boys basketball coach. His last day will be May 19.

Mike Day, the O’Fallon teachers union president, said it was exciting when Copelin was hired a few years ago because he is a former OTHS student and athlete who wanted to return to his hometown to teach and coach.

You’re never happy when anybody loses a job or a part of a job because it makes it hard on their families and them.

Mike Day, O’Fallon teachers’ union president

Day said Copelin was hired to fill in for two teachers, both of whom were new parents and wanted to move to part-time. But now, those teachers want to return to full-time hours.

“Unfortunately, there’s not enough classrooms for everybody,” Day said.

The board also decided that four full-time teachers will become part-time staff members in the 2017-18 school year:

▪  Family and consumer science teacher Jessica Day

▪  Social studies teacher William Robert Garrison

▪  Math teacher Olivia Walters

▪  English teacher Katherine Wolf

Art teacher Nicole Witty’s part-time position will also be reduced to a lesser part-time position.

Class sizes will see an increase as a result of the staff cuts. In the math department, for example, there could be as many as 30 students in a class, according to a report that was presented during the meeting.

Mike Day said the school board was willing to work with department heads and other administrative staff, such as the principal, to come to an agreement on making cuts based on teachers’ class enrollment.

“You’re never happy when anybody loses a job or a part of a job because it makes it hard on their families and them,” he said.

I wish we didn’t have to make them.

Darcy Benway, O’Fallon District 203 superintendent, on teaching cuts

Mike Day, for example, said he and his wife, Jessica Day, recently decided to sign their daughters up for horse-riding lessons. When Jessica Day’s paychecks are reduced next year, the family might have to cut back, Mike Day said.

“They’ve been wanting to do it for years,” he said of the lessons. “That will be something we’ll have to consider in the fall.”

Benway apologized during Thursday’s meeting to the teachers affected by the cuts.

“I wish we didn’t have to make them,” she said.

Benway explained that the board wanted to cut the staff by the equivalent of four full-time certified teaching positions. About half of those cuts were achieved through attrition, or not replacing retiring teachers, for example, and other means, Benway said.

An education support staff member, Leann Riebold, will also be honorably dismissed at the end of the school year as part of the staff reductions. Two more support staff members, Rachel Hopper and Annette Turner, were dismissed by the board for reasons that were not specified during the meeting.

Board member Keith Richter was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes