Tax relief is best accomplished by reducing expenses via staff attrition. Approximately 80% of the school district's expenses is made up of staff salaries, benefits and pensions. The number of teaching and staff positions is set during the annual budget process. But when back-office staff positions are vacated due to attrition, it should be used as an opportunity to “stress the system”. Specifically, the department in which the attrition occurred should be made to wait 3-6 months before filling the vacated position. Department heads should then be made to justify why the work formerly handled by the departed employee could not be distributed among the remaining staff members within the department. If then justified, the position can be filled. When this practice was instituted by the City during the recent economic downturn, a 15% headcount reduction was achieved (160 out of 1070 positions). The same can be accomplished in District 203.
College preparation, while important to many students, should not be the default for all students, particularly for those who aren’t suited to indoor desk jobs. Vocational programs abound in our community, such as:
- College of DuPage’s culinary and homeland security programs;
- Technical schools with programs for developing skills in computer software and hardware design and installation, computer numeric control machinery and additive manufacturing (3D printing) programs;
- Union apprenticeship programs for professional training in electrical, plumbing and pipe fitting, construction;
- Programs in website design and coding, photography, visual arts, landscape design, and dozens of other career pursuits are available within reasonable distances from Naperville.
To introduce students to these vocational opportunities, community colleges and technical schools should be encouraged to visit junior and senior high schools, perhaps in a career-fair setting during the school day, and visit with students who may not have yet decided to be on a college preparation track.
Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental illnesses, affect a large portion of families with students in the schools. Families need to know that there are Naperville-based organizations like KidsMatter and its affiliate ParentsMatterToo that equip parents to step in at the right time before their student is in crisis. Recent student suicides underscore the need to be better aware of student mental health conditions and how to handle delicate and potentially dangerous incidents involving students whose mental health has been compromised.
Junior and senior high school students are exposed daily to recreational drugs and partake frequently. Every weekday afternoon, students can find a home in which no parent is present, and at-risk students will troll the medicine cabinets for opioids, other pain medications, and psychotropic drugs. Adults need to make use of the prescription drug drop-off boxes at all ten of Naperville’s fire stations to rid their homes of opioids. Study drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, readily available from students already diagnosed with attention disorders, are also rampant among junior and senior high school students. Up to now, student drug use has not been adequately addressed by the Board. The recent incident at Naperville North High School, in which more than a dozen students ingested THC-infused Gummy Bears, is only one sign of many that drug usage in the schools during the school day should be a top priority for Board consideration and action.