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A few talented young teachers have decided to leave Riverside-Brookfield High School and take jobs elsewhere as the district cuts staff and faces a difficult and uncertain financial future. The teachers could have continued to work at RBHS next year, some on a part-time basis and others full-time, but chose to leave for apparently greener pastures.
Leaving the school will be Fine Arts Department Chairman Nick Gehl, social studies teacher Cara Gallagher, math teacher Jennifer Waldock, and English teachers Kirstin Bacon and Cherise Lopez.
Gallagher, who taught American government and United States history, was awarded a fellowship this summer from C-SPAN, the public affairs cable television network. She will be teaching at Evanston Township High School next year.
"She challenged our political beliefs, whether liberal or conservative, by playing devil's advocate and questioning the reasoning behind our opinions," said former student Elliot Louthen, who had Gallagher for American government in 2011. "This distinct approach set her apart as a truly special teacher in the sense that she never inundated students with her views, but rather fostered an understanding as to why we believe what we believe."
Gehl and Bacon are headed to Lyons Township High School where Gehl will be Fine Arts Division chairman. Two years ago, Gehl came to RBHS to replace Jon Grice, who left RB to go to Stevenson High School.
Waldock, who was part of the School of Environmental Education or SEE Team, is moving on to Elk Grove High School. Lopez, who taught English and journalism and was the yearbook advisor, has been hired to teach English at Hinsdale Central High School next year.
Gehl and Bacon would have only been part-time employees at RBHS next year, because of budget cuts and their low position of the seniority list. Lopez received a layoff notice in March.
Gallagher and Waldock were scheduled to teach full time at RB next year but decided to leave for other opportunities in more financially stable districts. They were more junior teachers at RBHS, and their jobs could possibly have been in jeopardy if the school had to cut more faculty in future years.
"Some of the teachers were lower on the seniority list and had to plan accordingly, that if there were ever future cuts they would be next, and I'm sure that impacted some decisions," said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. "I'm sure there's some concern relating to the future."
The teachers leaving are all going to respected schools, and Skinkis said he was concerned about losing talented teachers.
"I think it speaks to the quality of teachers that we employ in District 208 that other school districts are being quick to scoop them up and provide them with opportunities for employment, and it is a little concerning," Skinkis. "However, people have to make decisions on what's best for their families and their lives, and we'll have to make decisions going forward to find great candidates to replace them."
None of the departing teachers responded to requests for comment that were emailed to them by the Landmark before the school year ended.
Skinkis said most of the vacancies created by the teachers leaving unexpectedly will be filled by calling back teachers who received layoff notices in March or had their hours for next year reduced. He said RBHS will do some limited hiring this summer, perhaps as little as just one full-time position.
Next year RBHS is expected to have 86.3 full time equivalent teaching positions at the school, compared to 95.5 FTE positions this year, at a projected savings of about $925,000.
It appears that RBHS will end the fiscal year on June 30 with an operating deficit of about $900,000. Next year's operating deficit is projected to be between $200,000 and $400,000, down from the $1.6 million operating deficit that was originally forecast for fiscal year 2012-13.
But, based on current trends, deficits are projected to increase after 2013.
"By 2014, we need to figure out what we're going to do for revenue for the district," Skinkis said.