CPS to cut positions to free up cash for principals

April 27, 2012

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Chicago Public Schools leaders plan to give school principals more spending money next year, but it may come at a cost.

The idea is to allow principals to spend more of their budget as they see fit.

But the financial freedom may not mean a bigger budget overall at CPS.

To free up the extra discretionary money, the district plans to cut more than 100 positions from popular specialty programs like Freshman Connection, International Baccalaureate and Culture of Calm.

“It’s not about a position. It’s about ensuring that the services get to students,” said Marcey Sorensen, principal at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Instead of money to have a coordinator for the anti-violence initiative, Culture of Calm, Sorensen got a couple hundred thousand extra in discretionary funds.

“If I choose to keep the coordinator, then it is up to my discretion.... It’s not whether the district's going to give me that position or not,” Sorensen added.

Currently, 38 high schools operate Culture of Calm programs with 64 employees dedicated to running the initiative. Hundreds of community organizations help with mentoring and other student services aimed at keeping schools safe.

Next year, all 64 employees will be eliminated, and CPS plans to narrow the number of organizations providing services to just two or three in order to save $7.7 million.

The cuts come a day after the district unveiled plans to increase the number of security cameras at schools and require a “more holistic” training for security guards.

CPS officials also plan to eliminate 14 International Baccalaureate coordinators, despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to expand IB programs across the district. 

An additional $4.1 million will be shifted from magnet cluster positions and schools that used to be designated as Autonomous Management Performance Schools, or AMPS. 

More cuts may be announced in the weeks to come, said CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.

Ziegler also said, on the whole, individual school budgets are set to increase because of savings at the district's central office. But officials have said the district is facing a deficit between $600 million and $700 million.

Principals must submit their school budgets by the end of May, and CPS is expected to release its full budget sometime in June.