Disagreements arose over the hiring of an additional elementary school teacher and aide during a special called meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education on Monday. After the action was approved, board member Will Miller voted no for the hiring and no again to the hiring of a full-time language arts teacher for the middle/high school.
“Currently we have a projected enrollment for kindergarten up to 74 students and that is more than what we projected last spring,” said Johnson. “We’ve had students coming in the last few days and registering. With that number and it being higher than we projected we have the option of adding one kindergarten teaching position. With that, there will be a need for an instructional assistant as well.”
Elementary principal Mary Lou McCarthy said she would “like to have someone in place by Wednesday so that parents and students, who attend their Jump Start program, will be able to meet the new teacher.” She said with the number of kindergarten students they are expecting for this school year, she sees a “great need for an additional teacher.”
Miller, who expressed his desire not to hire another kindergarten teacher, inquired about the student/teacher ratio in the elementary school saying he felt it was “generous.” He said the student/teacher ratios at the Harlan Independent School system are “lower than the surrounding schools and state.”
McCarthy told Miller the student/teacher ratio in the third grade is 17 to 1, the fourth grade is 21 to 1, and the cumulative ratio for kindergarten through fourth grade is 20 to 1.
“So, what we have is a big if — if they show up,” said Miller. “The ratio is the difference of hiring a teacher today, versus not, is a difference of one student per classroom. That if still may not show up.”
Johnson responded by saying the difference at the kindergarten level is six students per classroom. He said their student/teacher ratios are “close to the state and region averages.”
Currently there are 325 elementary school students and 484 middle/high school students enrolled in the Harlan Independent School system. Johnson said the student/teacher ratios in the middle/high school are about 18 to 1.
Miller then expressed concern that other public schools were offering Algebra I and Algebra II to their middle school students while Harlan Middle School offers only Algebra I to their eighth grade students. He asked if it were possible to add Algebra II to the middle school curriculum.
“At this point we don’t offer Algebra II at the middle school level,” said Johnson. “At this point in our curriculum our students would not be prepared to take Algebra II at the middle school level.”
Going back to the ratio discussion, Johnson said, “What we are taking about at the Kindergarten level is if we have 75 students, we’re talking about 18 to 19 to 1 ratio, which generally is what we have had in the past several years. In many ways one of the many things we have tried to do, especially at the youngest grade, is to maintain a lower student/teacher ratio because of the basic foundational skills they are learning at that age.”
Johnson said the state mandates the student/teacher ratio for kindergarten be no more than 24 to 1, but that the council can approve going above that cap level. He said there is no penalty from the state for going above cap level, but he feels parents would be dissatisfied and academic performance could be affected.
“Through the discipline and actions of the board and the district we have been able to significantly reduce expenses with limited direct impact on the classroom,” said Johnson. “By reassigning duties and reorganizing the administrative staff, we’ll be able to continue to provide a strong academic program for our students.”
Also taking part in the discussion, board member Cindy Allison said she feels kindergarten is the “gateway to the school’s district.” She said if families are happy when they first enroll their students in kindergarten they are more than likely to keep their students at Harlan Independent for the rest of their academic career.
After the board approved the hiring of a part-time math teacher and a full-time language arts teacher for the middle/high school, where Miller voted no, Miller said he’d rather see a part-time language arts teacher hired instead of a full-time one.
In other action, the board approved:
* Cutting an IDEA teacher at the middle/high school;
* The creation of a girls cross country and girls golf coaches for the middle/high school at a salary of $940 per year;
*Johnson notified board members of a change in duties for districtwide services director C.D. Morton. He said his duties at the middle school will now be to assist high school principal Stacey Noah with supervisory responsibilities. Morton will spend a half-day at the middle school in accomplishing his new duties. Johnson said most of Morton’s transportation duties will now be assumed by him. He noted school counselors will remain in the middle school office while Morton is not there so there is always an administrator in that office;
* The part-time pre-school instructional assistant’s hours be increased to four and one-half hours on Monday through Thursday with Fridays remaining full-time;
* Carryover allocations for the elementary school council of $1,894 and the middle/high school council of $1,302;
* The unaudited annual financial report for 2011-12;
* Student fees remaining at the same rate as last year and the middle school athletic ticket prices remaining the same. The high school athletic ticket prices will be discussed at a later date;
* A facility request from the Hope Center to use the school’s track at the football field. A different date will have to be selected rather than the one requested because of a home football game;
*Contracts and agreements with Xerox and Smiling School Oral Health Program for the upcoming school year.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com