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DECATUR – Teachers who have had extra-duty assignments, such as coaching sports, advising extra-curricular activities or working as department heads, will have to re-apply for those positions for next year in Decatur schools.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Decatur school board approved the elimination of those assignments, known as Schedule B, which come with extra pay, as part of the consolidation of several school buildings. In August, the following changes will take place:

  • Thomas Jefferson and Stephen Decatur middle schools will combine and occupy the Stephen Decatur building;
  • Harris School will become the alternative education center;
  • current Harris students will move to Hope Academy.

In the coming two years, there will be more changes:

  • Johns Hill Magnet School will have a new building,
  • Garfield and Enterprise's Montessori programs will move to Thomas Jefferson's building after it has been renovated;
  • Muffley, Parsons and Franklin will get new additions and students from Baum, Stevenson and Oak Grove will be relocated to those buildings;
  • Durfee Magnet School will close and those students will be sent back to their home buildings or another magnet school;
  • Dennis School will expand to two sites, taking over French Academy's building, while French will take over Enterprise's building.

All these moves mean that the number of department heads, coaches and other extra duties is higher than will be needed.

“So they will all be able to reapply for their schedule B positions,” said Decatur Education Association President Chrissy Petitt. “Then, they will more than likely be interviewed and the principal will make the decision on who is qualified for that job.”

Doing it this way is more fair to the teachers who want those assignments, especially when there could be multiple applicants for the positions, Petitt said.

The board also approved the honorable dismissal of several retired teachers who had been serving in vacancies; a part-time certified employee; the non-renewal of a first-year certified employee; the honorable dismissals of educational support personnel, which includes both teaching assistants and school secretaries; an athletic coach; and the reduction in hours and/or pay of an extensive list of educational support personnel.

In many of the cases, the reason behind the decisions is the consolidation and transitions that are underway. In some, the decisions are due to the annual Reduction in Force layoffs the district does annually to fulfill an Illinois School Code requirement that personnel must be notified by a certain date if they won't be rehired for the following school year. If enrollment is adequate, the district could hire those employees back.

A similar set of honorable dismissals were approved for the Macon-Piatt Special Education District.

Also during the meeting, NAACP Decatur Branch President Jeanelle Norman said during public comments that the organization was unhappy with how black employees were being treated by the district. 

She said several had asked for the NAACP to be present at disciplinary hearings, but the organization was only allowed at one.

“The NAACP is disgusted with how people of color are treated in this district,” she said, adding, “Be it known, you shall not stifle our voices.”

Board members do not respond immediately to remarks made during public comments. After the meeting, Superintendent Paul Fregeau said he had no comment about Norman's remarks. Board President Dan Oakes said he had none, either, but plans to contact Norman to discuss her concerns. 

In other action, the board authorized the administration to seek bids for the renovations and improvements at Stephen Decatur Middle School in preparation for combining the two middle schools next year. The project will include three project-based learning areas for the three academies: agriculture, STEM and community service.

During the month of February, students and teachers from both Stephen Decatur and Thomas Jefferson had a chance to view and use some “hack spaces,” which were models of possible project-based learning spaces, and provide feedback to BLDD Architects on what worked and what they would change.

Most of the construction work will be done by Decatur School District's Buildings and Grounds Department, except the planned circular drive and visitor parking lot. Those will be put out for bids. Projected cost for the renovations is $95,000, paid from the working cash fund.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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