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New Faculty Spots Sought In Claremont

Claremont — Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin told the School Board Wednesday night that his proposal to hire three student services coordinator for the elementary schools next year at a cost of $345,000 is critical to student needs at that grade level.

“This is not just a nice thing to have,” McGoodwin said. “These positions are essential for the elementary schools. “

The role of the coordinators would include overseeing behavior plans, serving as an “agency” representative at special education meetings, investigating behavior issues such as bullying, maintaining communications with the home, overseeing professional development plans and managing student discipline issues.

Presently those duties are the responsibility of the building principals and McGoodwin said they detract too much time from their instructional demands.

Disnard Elementary Principal Melissa Lewis told the board the addition of student services coordinators would have a direct impact on improving student learning.

Board member David Putnam said the new positions, which would be paid for by cutting five, full-time positions at Stevens, mostly through retirement or attrition, would help the district identify student needs before bigger problems emerge in the higher grades.

“I wonder how many students enter middle school with special needs that weren’t identified,” Putnam said. “If we don’t make the investment at this level, we won’t get caught up in middle school or high school.”

But board member Heather Irish, while not completely opposed to the idea, said the district should consider making the positions part-time to start.

“Thirty hours or less would be enough time and also help us with the budget figures,” said Irish.

She thought the $115,000 cost for each coordinator could be reduced by $15,000 for a total reduction of $45,000 that could be used elsewhere in the budget.

“That is not an unreasonable request,” she said. “It will give us the opportunity to see if it is viable and helps our principal and our students.”

McGoodwin did not want to go the part-time route.

“This position is about much more than the principal,” he said. “It is about students and teachers.”

As for the reductions in teaching positions at Stevens, McGoodwin said he consulted with Stevens Principal Frank Sprague, and though he did not mention any specific courses, he said some have an enrollment that is half of what they could be.

“That is a teacher-pupil ratio you just can’t justify,” he said.

The board took no votes on the elementary school budgets and scheduled its next budget meeting for Jan. 2.

The overall proposed budget of $34.2 million is $1.4 million more than this year’s budget of $32.8 million. The current proposed tax rate increase of $1.91 per $1,000 of assessed valuation includes $1.44 for the bond payment for the Stevens High School renovation project approved last March.

The board also heard from several residents about McGoodwin’s proposal to end the Early Child Care Education Program at the Sugar River Valley Technical Center and replace it with a Childhood Education Program for slightly older children in kindergarten and first grade.

That recommendation will be the subject of a special board meeting on Jan. 7 but feelings were aired Wednesday night, with many speaking of the program’s positive influence on children and students.

“You will find this is a model program,” said resident Tom Brothers, who has a child enrolled in the early child care program. “It plays a huge role in reducing cost to the district in the long run.”

Terry Zullo, who said the program helped her in pursuing her education and career and “it would be a disservice to this community to take this program away.”

Others, like former Mayor Deb Cutts, urged the board to reach out to the community to form partnerships as a way to maintain the program.

“The community has a problem if this program goes away,” she said

McGoodwin’s claim that the program’s $120,000 cost is being subsidized by the taxpayers was something many disagreed with Wednesday night.

“You’ll find the program basically funds itself,” said Brothers.

Student Owen Ritondo asked that the board provide residents with a full financial picture on the program’s cost, revenues and enrollment.

McGoodwin said he realized he “kicked a hornet’s nest” on ending the program but welcomes the opportunity to discuss the challenge of how to best allocate resources for the greatest benefit to students.

Earlier Wednesday, the SAU 6 board approved a $1.8 million budget, which represents a $220,000 increase from this year.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.

Related

Letter: Those ‘Critical’ Positions in Claremont

Thursday, January 2, 2014

To the Editor: I am writing in response to the Dec. 18 Valley News article concerning the hiring of “three student services coordinator” (“New Faculty Spots Sought In Claremont.”) I was puzzled as to what such a position en tails. Are there three students who require services coordinating, or are three students coordinated at the same time? I read a …