CPS principals warn parents of big budget cuts

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools principals are bracing for big budget cuts that will devastate many educational programs.

The cuts could range between 20 and 30 percent of the budget for each of the district's 600-plus schools. One South Side principal is concerned that parents do not understand the severity of the cuts.

During test week, Coles Language Academy principal Jeff Dase dyes his hair to inspire students to score at or above grade level.

"I'm a symbolic leader so I dye my hair green to keep it on the kids' minds and motivate them," said Dase.

But Dase, an award-winning principal for nine improving years at Coles, is worried about a projected $400,000 in additional cuts to his budget. He said he will have to lay off as many as seven of his school's 34 teachers.

"You're going to lose some quality teachers that come here and sacrifice for these kids daily," he said.

Tamara Everett, who teaches 24 first graders at Coles, said she fears layoffs could lead to a virtually unteachable 30 to 40 kids per classroom. She said Coles parents should beware of what's to come.

"I think they don't see it because their children are excelling this year and doing well," Everett said. "If they saw the class sizes grow, it would have such a negative impact."

Monday night, Principal Dase convened a town hall meeting of parents and community residents--but only five people showed up.

Dase vows never to give up. While the test scores say he's been successful reaching children, he now understands the bigger challenge is to engage their parents.

"I know a lot of people do not want to get into the politics but this is not a time to sit back," Dase said. "We have to get involved."

Dase is urging parents at Coles and throughout the CPS system to contact their state lawmakers and to get involved. He said complaining after the cuts are made just won't cut it.
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