Extra! Extra! MHS teachers add to workload next year because of limited staff

By Mary ZuHone, Reporter

Due to Illinois’ budget issues, the results will be felt at Mattoon High School, with most teachers taking on an overloaded schedule next school year. Some teachers have already experienced a busier schedule, while others who have not must adjust to a new way of managing their time.

“The state of Illinois hasn’t been paying its bills and has been prorating what we should be receiving for general state aid. In other words, we’re supposed to get $6,119 per year per student, but over the last several years the state has actually not paid us $5.8 million,” MHS Principal Michele Sinclair said. “The vast majority of our school district budget, over 80 percent, is people… If our upper-level administrators had not been trying to look at every position and determine ‘Is it a necessity to fill this position,’ ‘Can we fill this with overloads’ we would have been having to RIF people, [reduction in force].”

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When adding overloads because of budget cuts, a class replaces with a teacher’s preparation period. Teachers have been understanding, yet worried about keeping up with the extra work with less prep time.

“Most teachers understand the financial constraints that we’re under; however, many are still concerned with being able to do everything they’ve currently done and keep up with the workload,” Michele Sinclair said

Many teachers in the science department have experienced an overload schedule before and are not planning for much to change.

“I think four or five years ago, I used to teach overload…Because I’m already teaching those classes, it really doesn’t change a whole lot. The only thing it takes away is another prep hour, which I typically do before school or after school anyway,” MHS science teacher Michael Carter said.

Because MHS science teacher Bob Lockhart is retiring after this school year, class size in the science department is expected to be larger than normal, since his position will not be refilled, instead meeting the needs with overloads.

“In science…the big concern would be lab space for everybody. When we’re using gas jets, if I wanted to put everybody in a group of two, not everybody would have a gas jet, so I’ll have to reconfigure groups as far as putting three or four to a group instead of having them paired up as two. As far as classroom instruction, it’s no big deal,” Carter said.

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While science might struggle with resources for hands-on lab activities because of more students, in other subjects, it may make it tougher to meet the needs of all students.

“In general, larger class sizes can make it tougher to manage the class and make sure that everybody’s on focus,” English teacher Eric Sinclair said.

Not only does size affect the students staying on task, but it could also affect the type of homework given to students.

“I think in the English Department, where they have so much more grading than everyone else, the teachers are going to have to be more selective about the kinds of writing assignments they assign,” Michele Sinclair said.

Although the overload schedule may pose challenges regarding assignments and time management, it also comes with a silver lining.

“Whenever I have down time in the middle of the day, it’s kind of tough to pick back up in the afternoon. So just for me, speaking from experience of having an overload, it gets me through the day…I like the overload schedule in that regard because I’m so busy and before I know it, the day’s over, and it’s onto practice typically after that,” Carter said.

Regarding his teaching and coaching, Carter looks at the overload schedule in another positive way.

“I really don’t look at either one as work, so if you like what you’re doing, it’s easy to come do your job and do what you’ve got to do,” Carter said.

While there are advantageous outlooks that can be taken, there is still hope for the future regarding education budgeting.

“I’ve been around long enough to have seen what things were like in the 80s and early 90s when we had absolutely no money…Things were bad, really really bad. And they turned around. And I truly have hope that this too shall pass, that one day the state of Illinois will get things figured out, and we’ll see a better day,” Michele Sinclair said.

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